Category: Safe Driving Habits

Cars driving on a snowy highway.

Defensive Driving for Winter Weather

Some days, it seems like a lot of the drivers we share the road with are getting more and more “unpredictable”.

From parking on sidewalks and stopping for pedestrians in the pedestrian crosswalk to weaving all over the road in high-speed traffic (and any other example you can think of), it seems like we sometimes commute alongside some fairly erratic drivers.

And that’s not even taking the weather into account!

Bring in some cold and snowy weather, and these erratic drivers become even worse. What was an everyday danger on the road now becomes a veritable hazard.

That driver up ahead who drifted into the middle of 2 lanes while looking at his phone? He’s now in an uncontrolled slide across your path, headed straight into the vehicle driving to your far right. You and every other vehicle nearby are at risk of a serious collision.

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A Brief History of Seatbelts

The original seatbelt was invented in 1885 as a way to keep people being raised or lowered off the ground safe.  In 1911, Benjamin Fouilous attached one to his saddle while riding his horse.  If you’re thinking “that seems like it might backfire”, you may be right, but innovation has to start somewhere.  Things really picked up in the 1950s when Dr. Hunter Shelden helped create the retractable seatbelt.  This technology was debuted in cars by the Swedish company Saab.  I know, quite the Saab Story.

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Seatbelt Use Around the World

seatbeltSeatbelt use is more popular in some countries than others.  It is hard to pin down the exact reasons for this difference.  Some people think the differences might have to do with education. Some people think different attitudes to safety or driving cause the issue. Some people think there is a difference in the number of seatbelts in vehicles that create the difference. A lack of education might be a good bet though.  It seems as though some people have assumptions about wearing seat belts that do not hold up to the facts.
One myth is that it isn’t necessary to wear a seatbelt if you are sitting in the back seat.  This is not true and a dangerous assumption according to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In fact, more people are injured who sit in the backseat for the sole reason that they are less likely to wear a seatbelt.  Countries like Japan and Italy see a significant drop off when comparing front seatbelt usage and backseat.  Japan’s drops from 98% to 68%, and Italy drops from 64% to 10%.   Canadians, on the other hand, should be proud! Canada and Germany are the countries who do best with seatbelt compliance.  In Canada, 92% wear their seatbelt in the front seat and 85% in the backseat.  In Germany, 94% of people wear seatbelts in the front seat, and 90% of the time in the backseat.


Maybe an education campaign about backseat seatbelt use would be helpful in the countries that have poor compliance.  Or maybe the law should step in and make it illegal to travel in a vehicle without a seatbelt.

Deal with Rage before it Occurs

Road Rage

Road Rage 3

Most people seldom rage against the actual road. Usually it is other drivers, the police, construction work; and, occasionally, back-seat drivers that make us glower with rage.

Indeed, there are roads that induce rage. A typical example is Calgary’s Blackfoot Trail where it merges with Deerfoot Trail. Where else in the world is it necessary to post signs reading: All Drivers Have Equal Right to the Road; Get Ready to Merge; Leave a Space for Cars to Merge, etc. But these are directed primarily at discourteous drivers refusing to make room for merging traffic, not the road itself. Yes, these trails could have been better designed, but that’s the government’s fault, isn’t it. But, if you let yourself stew over bad government you’ll be in a rage 24/7.

The best thing to do is to deal with rage before it occurs. When you get into your car think for a moment about what could happen as you drive. Someone is likely to cut you off; you may cut someone else off when you almost miss your exit; you could receive a at single finger salute; and, you might be tempted to give one yourself. Decide that you are not going to respond in kind and, more important, that you won’t initiate the action. Be calm, relax and drive accepting whatever happens as part of life on the road.

You will arrive cool and collected perhaps able to have a chuckle over what fools some people are.

Another way to prevent road rage is to go to a driving school and learn how to deal calmly with all driving situations.

Derek Brown’s Academy of Driving is a Calgary Driving School.