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Jeep Wrangler - Restoration & Custom Outfitting
All photos, diagrams, and text on this page Copyright 2013 - David Todeschini - all rights reserved - see Copyright Terms

 

Tactical Defensive Driving

 

Not many people have the opportunity to take a Tactical Driver's Course. I took such a course from the US Military (USAF SAC) before going to Vietnam in 1970. It was more like a course for stunt drivers than a driver safety course, and I attribute almost 2 million miles on the road with no accidents (and no tickets) to what I learned in that course.

 

If you have a teenager who is just starting to drive, send him to the One-Day Advanced Driver Training and Crash Avoidance Course (ADECA) then let him teach you what he learned. He will have a lot of fun taking the course, and you'll have peace-of-mind that he will be safe on the road.

 

Everyone should take a driver's safety course periodically. The Improv Driver's Education Course is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it. It isn't nearly as comprehensive as a military combat driver's course, and you won't even have to get in your car, but you'll benefit from the information nonetheless.

 

Most driver training courses have the added benefit of saving you considerable money on your car insurance (check with your insurance company).

 

First and foremost, the Military Driver's Course I took taught me that ALL HABITS are potentially deadly.... any habit, such as the habit of signaling turns when there is nobody behind you to signal to. Habits lead to assumptions; and in this case the subconscious assumption is that the driver behind you sees your signal, is courteous enough to let you switch lanes or make the intended turn, and you are therefore "good-to-go".

 

Habits and noisy environments like radios and simple road noise also lead to things like leaving a turn signal engaged well after you make the turn or lane change. For the "signal left engaged" problem, there is a simple solution.

 

The first tactic to safe driving is to be aware of your environment, and to be prepared to react instantly if that environment changes. Proper training and practice gives you the "muscle memory" to react without thinking. Fast reflexes because of this training can be the difference between life and death.

 

Situations on the road happen almost instantaneously. You will never anticipate potential hazardous situations if your brain is engaged in tweets or texting, or bullshitting on a cell phone. You cannot be aware of anything that happens instantaneously (like a LP tank falling off a motor home in front of you)if you are engaged in performing ritual habits, or are distracted by "attention-intensive" tasks. Although we didn't have cell phones and all the other electronic crap they put in cars today in 1970, we did have distractions enemy combatants shooting at us  so we couldn't be "distracted" with anything but the task at hand (driving), and getting out of the line-of-fire.

 

Secondly, if you are a safe driver, your attitude behind the wheel should be something like this: "Everybody on the road is an Asshole but me. There are Assholes Among Us; hence the Web site of the same name. These people are unpredictable, and are likely to do something totally irrational for absolutely no reason". People who are Assholes are not usually courteous, and you cannot count on courtesy to take the place of your common sense..

 

Thirdly, modern cars are designed to self-destruct in an collision. Although this is supposed to protect the occupants, I feel more comfortable in a vehicle that won't disintegrate around me. Shrapnel whether it be plastic or metal, is something I instinctively avoid.

 

Fortunately, most everyone who drives a Jeep Wrangler are friendly (and therefore, courteous) one has to be in order to do the "Jeep Wave" thing.  There are exceptions, but not many.

 

People who drive big cars usually own those cars because it gives them a false sense of security to compensate for their shitty driving skills.

 

I like big-ass, heavy bumpers that scare the shit out of someone just looking at them. That's why I have a WARN 61853 Rock Crawler Front Bumper and a  WARN 65509 Rock Crawler Rear Bumper on my Jeep. They came installed on the Jeep when I bought it. It was one of the factors that sold me on this particular Jeep. Even the late model Jeeps have flimsy, crap bumpers.

 

A human being would survive a crash that generates a force of 50 G's or more if he is properly belted in, and the front airbags deploy. Even without the airbags, I would rather be in my '97 Jeep Wrangler than a 2014 Cadillac CTS in a serious collision. Cars that crumple like Bavarian accordions in a minor fender-bender cannot be safer than a sturdy vehicle that survives in one, albeit dented, piece.

 

At night, it is wise to never out-drive your headlights. In other words, you should be able to bring your vehicle to a complete stop at the point on the road where your headlights fade into the darkness. If you cannot, you need to slow down or get new, more powerful headlights, or at least install Spot / Fog lamps.

 

The danger with not being able to stop within your headlight viewing distance is colliding with unseen or unanticipated obstacles such as a moose or a deer (or even a stray dog) not to mention the occasional jackknifed tractor-trailer that has turned on its side blocking all the lanes. You might not think there are such hazards where you're driving, and so did the thousands of other drivers every year that ended up with a thrashing animal in their front seat, or were suddenly decapitated by driving under an 18-wheeler.

 

A good investment is a "Deer Whistle" (typically $5 to $10). Such a device won't scare a stalled or crashed vehicle out of the road, but it will send deer and other animals back into the bushes and out of your way. The best part is that drivers following you will also benefit from your foresight.

 

Installing dashboard cameras would help you in a court case where you are suing "the other guy" who is at fault in a collision, but the flip-side is that your screw-ups will also be recorded. Dash cams will keep you "on point" about your driving habits. The nice part about dashboard cameras is that you can record all those unanticipated muddy trail mud splashes, without worrying about having a "steady hand" to hold the camera, or a passenger to do the filming.

 

Of course, distractions to the driver cause more "accidents" than we are led to believe. In point of fact, there is no such thing as an "accident" except for a rock falling off a cliff onto the roadway because every single collision could have been avoided by a vigilant driver.

 

When possible, keep your path clear of all other vehicles on each side, and DO NOT TAILGATE. In New Jersey, tailgating is considered reckless driving and gets you 5 points on your license (see: N.J.S.A. 39:4-89) and / or a pretty hefty fine.

 

Many Defensive Driver courses say that you should "....drive like you have no brakes". This sounds like good advice, but driving like you have no brakes might save you money at the gas pump, but it will get you honked at a bit more often than you would like. I would amend that advice and tell you to "Drive as if you're sitting on the hood".

 

Constantly check your vehicle for potential safety problems. One of the most commonly overlooked problems in older cars is worn out or non-functional seat belts. This problem usually manifests itself as a seat belt that won't fully retract when let go. If your seat belt does not fully retract, or does not stop when pulled fast, it should be replaced. If you replace your seat belts, consider replacing them with a Four-Point Restraint system, which is much more comfortable and easier to use than standard seat belts. The nice part is, a 4-Point restraint will cost you about 1/3 of what it would cost for a "stock" replacement.

 

Never text or try to dial a cell phone while driving. If you get into a collision, the police can pull your cell phone records, and if you've been bullshitting on the phone, it is possible that your insurance company will not cover you, and if you hurt or killed someone by being distracted, they'll sue your ass personally while you sit in prison for vehicular homicide.

 

NEVER EVER DRIVE WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN DRINKING. Even ONE drink can "buzz" you enough to get you arrested for "buzzed driving" if you become what Long-Haul Truckers refer to as a "Harvey Wallbanger".

 

Americans are unfortunate (and drunk drivers are fortunate) that I am not the judge in DUI cases. If it were up to me, FIRST OFFENSE DUI would get you LIFE IN PRISON without the possibility of parole. If you caused injury while DUI, you would lose your ass in my court, and if you killed someone, I would sentence you to death by strapping you in your car and pushing it off a cliff.

 

Only incorrigible sociopaths who don't give a rat's ass about other people's lives get behind the wheel of a car while drunk or stoned, and "therapy", 12-step programs, AA, and all of that other "Mea Culpa" psycho-babble bullshit has proven itself time and again to be entirely ineffective. If you're drunk / stoned and driving, stay the hell out of MY way, because if I get you on my dashboard cameras, I will call 9-1-1, file a formal complaint with the State Police, and have High-Definition video to prove my allegations. If I feel you are a menace on the road and are about to kill somebody with your car, I certainly don't have a problem with Pitt-maneuver bumping you into a ditch.... and I have the skills and the bumpers to do it.

 

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