Thursday, February 5, 2004

Drive the limit and enjoy the ride

Your voice

If you enjoy driving, Columbia Parkway can be a delight. Starting just outside Fairfax, the four to six lanes are smooth and, with changes from Delta to Tusculum in place, well designed and engineered. The posted speed limits start with 50 mph changing to 45 mph at the bridge over Beechmont Avenue.

Driving at a posted 45 mph ala Monk/USA, I wasn't surprised when four SUVs passed me at the Taft Center. Two drivers were using car phones. When they reached the sharp curve on Columbia Parkway - posted at 25 mph - they all had to put on their brakes. There was a red light at Tusculum which we reached together. Again, they sped up, were stopped by a light at Delta and again at William Howard Taft.

That raised a question. In a 10-mile trip, the difference between driving 45 mph and 50 mph is 1.5 minutes - 90 seconds. What can anyone do in 90 seconds that would make a difference in their lives? Unfortunately, for too many drivers speed limits are something to be ignored as "sissy" stuff or "I'm in a hurry!" If they are driving an SUV, it's "Get out of my way!"

Driving is conducted through our brain's visual/motor system, i.e. how you see is what you get. Speed and power have surpassed our visual aptitudes. Figure that even a good driver has only four seconds or less to see and recognize that something's wrong and turn the vehicle to avoid a crash. In four seconds, a driver can be visually and mentally distracted by talking on a cell phone, lighting a cigarette, tuning a radio, picking up and sipping a cup of coffee, bawling out kids, etc., etc.

For those four seconds - about a football field in length - a driver's eyes and brain are distracted, off the road and out of action. So what happens when out of nowhere comes a driver running a red light; a vehicle crosses a median; a bicyclist moves into your lane; or a kid runs into the street after a ball? Don't call them accidents; they are crashes and someone usually gets hurt or dies.

There are two basic rules for safe driving: First, never put your car or truck in a situation where your eyes and brain didn't get there first. Speeding just raises the ante. Second, figure that every other driver on the road is either a perceptually dysfunctional idiot or has a bad attitude - and drive accordingly.

David Pannkuk of Columbia Township calls himself an "eye/brain coach." He has developed such products as a software program to help relieve computer users' eyestrain.

Want your voice to be heard? Send your column or proposed topic to assistant editorial editor Ray Cooklis at rcooklis@enquirer.com; (513) 768-8525.

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Drive the limit and enjoy the ride