Safer City Driving in Six Steps

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Navigating the concrete jungle in a car can be a beast. Here’s how to cope.

  1. Undivide your attention. Urban driving demands concentration. Imagine: on your left, bumper-to-bumper cars, buses, taxis and motorcycles. On your right, cyclists. Add to that pedestrians crossing, trucks honking and signs and signals at every turn. Why would you involve distraction as a contributing factor to that mix? One in three collisions are caused by distraction; plus, if you’re caught driving distracted, it’s a $288 ticket.
  2. Watch for flashing lights. When emergency-response vehicles such as ambulances and tow trucks are stopped with their lights on, you must slow down to 60 km/h or the posted speed limit, to pass – whichever is slower. This also applies to the lane of traffic next to where the emergency vehicle is stopped. Traffic fines are double in these areas. Give these vehicles room to work.
  3. Stay sober. Don’t drive after consuming alcohol or drugs. In addition to serious risk and increasing your chance of being involved in a fatal collision, impaired driving comes with hefty penalties: licence suspension and vehicle seizure starting at blood alcohol levels of .05 and criminal charges starting at levels of .08.
  4. Obey speed limits. Posted limits are intended for ideal conditions. If it’s raining, foggy or icy, for instance, you need to slow down accordingly.
  5. Keep your distance. It can be challenging not to ride other drivers’ bumpers in city traffic, but tailgating diminishes your ability to react to hazards, reduces your visibility, and raises the risk of collision. Maintain a minimum three-second distance when following another vehicle. And signal your intention to turn or change lanes well in advance.
  6. Respect school zones. Think it’s not a big deal to rip past a school at 50 or 60 km/h? Pedestrian-collision survival rates improve by more than double when a vehicle is going 30 km/h versus 50 km/h. School parking lots warrant extra caution too – keep your eyes peeled for school patrollers, and avoid stopping in school-bus zones. If you’re picking up kids, park a block away from the school to reduce risk and congestion.