A Racer’s Guide to Avoiding Accidents

  • By Sean

Fender-benders – and worse — are common in the world of racing. It is not unusual to see racers “trading paint” now and then as competitors jockey for position.  And doing the “bump” is sometimes part of the art of passing, especially in short track racing.

But even the most skillful racers know that they are taking a risk when they hit another vehicle. Avoiding contact is almost always the best policy for even the most aggressive race driver because he could get the worst of the wreck he triggers.

That’s why Tim O’Neil, who teaches road rally driving for Ford Racing, emphasizes techniques that will help race drivers — and ordinary street drivers — avoid crashes. Even the average drivers commuting to and from work, picking up the kids or traveling to the big football game can learn a few tips that will keep the integrity of their vehicles intact. Here’s what he suggests to help achieve safer, smarter driving:

Watch the weather

Before you leave the garage or the parking lot, get a weather report. If there has been a change in temperature, you can almost always count on encountering some lousy driving conditions. Adjust your route and give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going safely. If your windshield is freezing, turn off the wipers and turn on the defroster. Drive cautiously and patiently.

Have a Plan B

If the route you usually take involves traversing an area where there are frequent accidents, look for a way around the problem spot. There is almost always an alternative route. If you absolutely can’t avoid the problem area, look for a way to stay out of the fray.

If you get stuck in an unexpected tough spot, look for a way out

Ask yourself some what-ifs. What if the driver in front of you slams on his brakes? How will you respond? What if a deer jumps out in front of you? Where will you go? If you plan what you would do, when and if the problem happens, you’ll respond automatically.

Try not to freeze

Many accidents happen because inexperienced drivers waste the seconds between seeing a problem – for instance, a car that pulls out in front of them — and doing something to avoid it. Practice reacting to tough situations. The trick is to keep your eyes on where you want to go, not on what you want to avoid hitting. The car will go where your eyes go. Consider building your skills and confidence by using a simulator. Computer games aren’t just for kids.

Don’t fly over the top of a hill

Lots of accidents happen in hilly areas when a driver is giving it all he’s got going up a hill. When the car hits the peak, the driver is unable to see what’s on the other side, but the car starts down the hill anyway, still going top speed. Or, the driver hits the brakes when heading down the other side and loses control.

A better approach is to slow down as you crest the hill and see what’s ahead of you. If there are impediments, like slow traffic or slippery road conditions, don’t just rely on the brake. Shift the vehicle into a lower gear if you’re traveling at a lower speed – even if you are driving an automatic.

Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel

Too many people drive when they are distracted, stressed out and not paying attention to what’s going on around them. Don’t be that driver.

When all else fails

Sometimes you just can’t avoid a fender-bender. Make sure that when you are behind the wheel, you always carry your driver’s license, registration and your insurance card.


Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force photo by Larry McTighe via Wikimedia Commons
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