Evolution has shaped us to process visual information perceived at a walking speed of 5 or 6 km/h. This means that looking ahead for 3 to 6 seconds of travel time is plenty to keep from running into objects in our path. However, this natural tendency is insufficient for reliable driving decisions and collision avoidance.
Rather than 3 to 6 seconds, an eye lead time of at least 15 seconds is more appropriate when driving. Eye lead time means looking at the space that your vehicle will occupy 15 seconds or more into the future. This will give you the time that you need to see what is happening on the highway, decide what you need to do and react to hazards to maximize your safety and the safety of others around your vehicle.
Failing to allow sufficient eye lead time often results in making last second lane changes and braking more often than would otherwise be necessary. Tailgating is another outcome of this tendency. We will focus most on the nearest vehicles and will be prevented from seeing into our future.
So, set your sights high and recognize potential road hazards in plenty of time to plan and evade smoothly. Pacing yourself in this manner maintains a more constant speed that saves fuel, wear and tear on your vehicle and often travel time. Other drivers well ahead will telegraph problems by movement or use of brake lights. Think of this as your own early warning system!
The author is a retired constable with many years of traffic enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit www.drivesmartbc.ca.