In case you failed driver's ed.

by Leonard Cachola

Whine and bitch all you want -- driving in any major city sucks. Let's face it, the only way most of us will be satisfied is if we're the only soul out on the road. Unfortunately, reality has a way of reminding us we aren't alone out there. However, here are some ways to keep your sanity and arrive at your destination safe and sound:

Take extra care at intersections and places where traffic merges. Sadly, this is where the majority of accidents occur, most of the time due to driver error. Slow down and keep in mind the lesson taught us in kindergarten: Look both ways before crossing the street.

However, intersections aren't the only places drivers should slow down. Hills, overpasses, blind turns, streets with slowed or stopped traffic, parking lots, and streets where cars are parked off to the side also deserve caution. The first three because it's not known what might be hidden: either an accident or some other road hazard. The other four because of the possibility of other cars pulling out and the presence of pedestrians.

On a related note, watch the brake lights of cars ahead. These are a good indicator of possible hazards. A couple of brake lights coming on indicates a small problem, while multiple brakelights signify a major hazard. Tailgating diminishes the effectiveness of this strategy, though, so avoid doing it. Also, don't follow 18-wheelers, pick-up trucks or mini-vans too closely if driving a smaller vehicle because they drastically cut visibility. If you can't see the road ahead, you can't react to any problems until it's too late.

Other places where drivers should slow down are neighborhoods and school zones. The possibility of killing a child is all too real in these areas. A couple of weeks ago, a child was killed in Southeast Houston when she ran out in front of a car that was going the speed limit, which was 30 mph, proving even the speed limit is too fast in these areas at times.

Check rear- and side-view mirrors frequently and don't forget to also look over the shoulder at the blind spots when changing lanes. It's a good idea to make it a point to know where other drivers are on the road, especially when changing lanes or in case of an emergency. Avoid driving in another driver's blind spot, because they might not bother checking when changing lanes.

Drive with headlights on at all times. This is something told to motorcyclists in order to make them more visible on the road to other drivers. Why not do the same in a car? I've been doing this for almost two years, and I'm amazed how much less likely other drivers are to cut me off while driving.

Either pull off the road or turn on emergency lights when lost. It's less annoying to others and a good way to indicate you're having trouble. Good places to find directions when lost are nearby gas stations or pizza delivery units.

Finally, stay alert. All the tips in the world won't do any good if you aren't paying attention.

Cachola is a senior English major who wears his seat belt.

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