Study Guide: Responsible Driving

Responsible Driving

Responsible driving is driving to anticipate possible hazards and take action to reduce, minimize or avoid danger before it can occur.

Proactive or defensive driving means that you think about, plan for, and anticipate possible dangers on the road to lessen and avoid hazards before they occur.

Never assume that other drivers are always going to drive carefully or respond correctly at all times. Anticipating what might happen can help you to avoid collisions caused by the driving errors of others. This section describes the skills and techniques you can use to drive proactively.

Always assume other drivers will make mistakes and not drive perfectly or carefully. Think about what a bad driver might do and prepare for that scenario. The following paragraphs will help you do that.

Planning Ahead

You should constantly look forward and scan for hazards when you are driving. When you are driving in an urban area, look at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead of your vehicle. This is about one to one and a half blocks. Look at least 20 to 25 seconds ahead of your vehicle when you are driving in rural areas. This is your visual lead time, which gives you enough time to respond to hazards ahead of you.

Check behind you by glancing in your rearview mirrors every eight to 12 seconds (about every block in an urban area). Check your rearview mirrors when you anticipate slowing or stopping. Be aware of vehicles on both sides and in your blind spots. Do not forget to glance at your speedometer to monitor your speed. You should check your rear-view mirrors every 10 seconds. This will help you to spot hazards or problematic drivers behind you.

Proactive driving involves a continuous process of watching your surroundings and thinking about whether hazards are developing and then taking action to reduce risks. Two types of hazards should be recognized. These are fixed (those that do not change) and variable (those that do change).

Always be on the lookout for hazards. If you see one developing, you’ll have to take action. Here are two types of hazards (fixed and variable)

Fixed hazards are things that are always there and are part of the roadway:

• Restricted vision areas such as curves, hills, and hidden driveways
• Intersections
• Merging roadways

Variable hazards change through the day, including:

• Children playing or people crossing the street
• Cars turning left
• Weather conditions like rain, snow, or ice
• Green lights that are about to turn yellow
• Emergency vehicles

Be prepared to take action to avoid a problem as the situation changes. Expect the unexpected and always plan an escape route.

It is best to prepare for the worst and to give yourself an out in case the worst happens.

Space Cushion

Leave enough space between yourself and the vehicles ahead, behind, and to either side to stop safely or steer around a possible hazard. If someone is following too closely, and if it is safe, reduce your speed just enough to encourage them to pass. If the person does not pass, create a wider space cushion between you and the vehicle ahead. This gives other vehicles enough space behind you, in front of you, and to the sides of you.

Tailgating occurs when you are driving too closely behind a vehicle. This is dangerous as you may not have enough time to stop if the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly. To prevent tailgating, give a 2-second difference between you and the car in front of you. If you have an even larger vehicle like a motor home, 4 seconds is recommended. If someone is tailgating you, try reducing your speed to encourage them to pass. Don’t slam your brakes. If the person still doesn’t pass you, find a safe space to pull over until they have passed.

Give yourself enough room when stopped at a light to be able to change lanes without going in reverse.

It’s important to think of things in advance when on the road. Plan your route before you start driving. Change lanes well in advance of your turn. Planning will prevent you from making stressful split-second decisions that might distract you.

Avoiding Collisions

A general rule about avoiding collisions is just being aware of what’s going on in front of you. If you have to swerve to avoid a collision, try to swerve while staying on your side of the road.

You might also want to take a defensive driving course from licensed Calgary driving schools.

It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving in Alberta. Do not use your cell phone while driving. Texting is extremely dangerous as it takes away all your attention from the road. Approximately 400 deaths are caused by texting while driving every year in Canada. If you want to use your cell phone, a hands-free headset is necessary.

Driving is a dangerous activity that requires all of your attention. Do not do other things like eat, read, touch up your make-up, etc. while driving. You need to pay attention to the road in front of you.

Seatbelt Safety

Everyone needs to be safely secured in your vehicle. That means seatbelts for all the adults and older children. Booster seats and child safety seats are required for young children. Children aged 0 to two years old must be in a rear-facing child safety seat. Rear-facing safety seats will keep your child in the safest position. Please consult the instruction manual of your safety seat to learn how to safely secure it before usage.

Children who are over the age of 2 and weigh in between 22-40 pounds need a front-facing safety seat. Children should be in a front-facing safety seat until they are at least 6 years old and weigh over 40 pounds.

Children who are over the age of 6 and weigh more than 40 pounds may use a booster seat.  They may use the booster seat until they have exceeded the weight limit for the booster seat. Children who have exceeded the weight limit of the booster seat and are over the age of 8 may be ready to use a seatbelt. They must be over the minimum height requirement of 145 cms (4’9″) and between 8 to 12 years of age. Their knees should bend comfortably over the seat. The seat belt should go across their hips and not their stomach. The shoulder belt must go across their chest and stay between their neck and shoulder. It must not go in between their neck and chin. Children are safest in the back seat of a vehicle. They should not go in the front seat until they are at least 13 years old.

How Do You Save Fuel on the Road?

When buying a vehicle, consider fuel-efficient models. Generally, the smaller the engine, the less fuel it will use. When shopping for a new vehicle, look for its EnerGuide label. This identifies the vehicle fuel usage in terms of liters used for every 100 kilometers driven (liters/100 km) and estimated annual fuel cost. First off, try to buy a fuel-efficient vehicle. Look for a vehicle’s EnerGuide label. This will tell you how much fuel usage the car has per 100 kilometers.

Traveling at higher speeds increases fuel use. Every 10 km/hour above 90 km/hour burns about 10 percent more fuel.

Avoid quick acceleration. It is safer and more fuel-efficient to gradually increase your speed. Try to maintain a steady speed. Rapid acceleration and speed changes can increase fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent. Cruise control can help maintain a fuel-efficient steady speed on the highway.

Try building your speed at a more steady pace. Quickly accelerating wastes fuel, and can cause a 40 percent increase in fuel usage. Cruise control can help you use fuel efficiently.

Idling wastes fuel. Ten seconds of idling can consume more fuel than turning off your engine and restarting it. Turn off your engine if you are parking for more than 10 seconds. The average vehicle uses about one-third of a liter of fuel during 10 minutes of idling. A vehicle with a larger engine can use up to one-half of a liter. Try not to idle. Turn off your engine if you have to stop and it’s not too cold.

Try using a block heater to heat your engine oils so that your vehicle will start more quickly in the winter. This can save 10 percent of your fuel.

Properly maintaining your vehicle will save you a lot of money. Your vehicle becomes less fuel-efficient if you have a poorly tuned engine, clogged air filters, and under-inflated tires.

Fueling Safety Tips

• DO NOT smoke while fueling up. It’s extremely dangerous and illegal because it may cause an explosion.
• Believe it or not, cell phone lights may also give off enough of a spark to light gasoline vapors and cause a fire or explosion.
• Turn off your engine.
• Turn off your pilot lights if you have an RV.
• Tell the attendant about a fuel spill.
• Don’t overfill your tank because it can cause spills.

Miscellaneous Laws

• Don’t tow people (like for skiing or sledding) with your vehicle.
• Riding in a trailer being towed is illegal.
• You can’t operate a tractor or similar vehicle on the highway if you’re under the age of 14.
• If your rear-view mirror is blocked then you must add one to the sides of your vehicle.
• You can’t operate a vehicle that disturbs residents in residential areas between 10 pm and 7 am.
• It’s illegal to let people ride in the bed of your truck.

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