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What Kind of Driver Are You—Daredevil or Defensive?

When you’re confronted with unusual road, traffic or weather conditions, do you feel confident in making safe driving decisions? Do you know how to prevent needless accidents when other drivers seem to be violating the rules of the road?

In this brief article, you’ll find a series of statements about driving beginning on the next page. Some statements are true; others are false. Read through the statements, judge each either “true” or “false,” and then turn to page 74 to find out how well you did.

1. Your headlights must be in proper alignment to fully illuminate the road.

True / False

2. Pedestrians or other drivers who appear frantic to “beat the traffic” should be given the right-of-way.

True / False

3. The horn should primarily be used as an alerting or warning device.

True / False

4. You should always stay with the flow of traffic, even if this means driving faster than the posted speed limit.

True / False

5. Roads are more hazardous at the height of a storm than the beginning of a storm.

True / False

6. When you confront a hazardous situation on the road, the best way to alert other drivers of the problem is to use hand signals.

True / False

7. You’ll increase the probability of a collision if you make a lane change without looking over each shoulder first.

True / False

8. The best way to reduce the probability of an accident when your car slides or skids is to apply the brake and horn as quickly as possible.

True / False

9. When the temperature hovers around the freezing mark, bridges are more hazardous than roads.

True / False

10. When approaching intersections, you should inch up to the car ahead of you as closely as possible in order to view the traffic pattern ahead.

True / False

11. When blinded by high beams at night, you should slow down your car and stop.

True / False

12. When traveling down dark country roads, always use your high beams.

True / False

13. Backing a car into a parking space in a lot helps prevent collisions.

True / False

14. A poorly functioning exhaust system can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

True / False

15. Deer and other animals will generally not enter the road when your high beams are on.

True / False

16. The greatest safety danger posed by heavy rainfall is decreased visibility.

True / False

17. Car telephones and dashboard attachments, such as coffee cups and reminder pads, were a leading cause of collisions in the 1990s.

True / False

18. You can safely attempt to pass another car if you’re traveling at 50 miles per hour, if you accelerate when the other car is no closer than five car lengths in front of you, and if the passing line is clear for a quarter of a mile ahead.

True / False

19. Improperly inflated tires can cause a car to hydroplane on slick roads.

True / False

20. Older persons can generally drive more safely at night than younger persons.

True / False

21. When an emergency vehicle is heading down the road, the appropriate response is to slow down and, if necessary, change lanes as the vehicle approaches.

True / False

22. Three light taps on the horn signals the driver of a slow-moving farm vehicle that he should pull to the side of the road and allow you to pass.

True / False

23. High beams help overcome the visibility problems caused by fog.

True / False

24. If you encounter mechanical difficulty on a high-speed expressway, you should pull as far off the road as possible and walk along the shoulder to the nearest aid station or exit for help.

True / False

25. If you drink two beers (or the equivalent) within the hour before you drive, you can handle your vehicle safely.

True / False


1. True. Headlights, of course, can never illuminate 100 percent of the road, but when properly aligned, they help maintain optimum visibility when it’s dark.

2. True. Pedestrians who dart out in the middle of a busy street and drivers who speed in and out of traffic are acting unsafely—probably even illegally. Nevertheless, the safest way to handle these pedestrians and drivers is to give them the right-of-way.

3. True. Although the horn is often used to signal frustration or anger, it’s used appropriately to alert other drivers of your presence or the presence of a road hazard.

4. False. Staying with the flow of traffic is a good idea—if the flow of traffic is moving at or below the posted speed limit. The willingness of other drivers to violate the speed limit does not give you the right to do so as well.

5. False. Roads are usually more hazardous at the beginning of a storm, when road grease mixes with precipitation and surfaces become slippery.

6. False. When confronting a hazardous situation, slow down, be aware of what’s going around you and, if necessary, flash your hazard lights.

7. True. Be alert to the “blind spots” not visible through your rearview or side mirrors.

8. False. If you start to skid, steer gently into the skid. When you feel yourself regaining control of the car, pump your brakes gently.

9. True. Bridges are usually higher than the surrounding terrain and more exposed to wind. When temperatures hover around freezing, bridges might be covered with a thin, but slick, coating of ice while nearby roads are still wet.

10. False. Drivers following too closely risk accidents. When approaching an intersection, wait until you’re first in line before inching out and viewing the traffic pattern.

11. False. High beams are annoying, and can even be dangerous. The best way to overcome “high beam blindness” is to redirect your eyes toward the edge of the road.

12. False. Not always. When other cars approach, turn your high beams off.

13. True. In busy parking lots, especially in dense urban areas, it’s far easier—and safer—to back into a parking space than it is to back out.

14. True. Check your exhaust system at regular intervals—and anytime trouble is suspected. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless poison, and can affect you and your passengers within a short time if your windows are closed.

15. False. In fact, some animals may become so confused in the presence of bright headlights that they’ll “freeze” in the middle of the road.

16. False. While decreased visibility is a potential hazard, the greatest hazard is usually slick, wet roads.

17. False. There’s no data on this issue available yet. Still, forewarned is forearmed: if you use dashboard attachments or a car phone, be careful.

18. False. Although safety experts do offer mathematical passing formulas, conservative judgment and experience is the best guide to safe passing.

19. True. Improperly inflated tires can literally cause your car to glide along wet or icy roads.

20. False. In fact, visual acuity decreases with age.

21. False. If you see an emergency vehicle approaching, do slow down—and then carefully move to the right shoulder.

22. False. Pass a slow-moving farm vehicle the same as you’d pass any other vehicle.

23. False. Dense fog will reflect the light from high beams back to you.

24. False. Generally, you should not attempt to walk along the shoulder of a high-speed expressway. If you encounter mechanical difficulties, tie a white rag or cloth on your antenna and wait in your car until help arrives.

25. False. Alcohol impairment is influenced by the amount of alcohol consumed, the amount of food consumed, and body weight. The rule of thumb: alcohol and driving don’t mix. Period.

About the Author

Richard G. Ensman Jr. is a free-lance writer based in Rochester, N.Y.

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