In any community that deals with any kind of driving, we often hear of people talking about ‘distracted driving’, and while they’re most often speaking of smart phones, there are other devices that can cause a distraction, and i’d like to talk about one of those today: GPS/Navigation devices.

While I do not fault people for using some form of digital navigation, GPS, or combination device, I do want to caution you: Most devices are not designed for larger vehicles, such as commercial trucks, motor homes, travel trailers, or other RV’s. “So, Daniel, what do we do about this?” Well faithful reader, i’m glad you asked! This is a fairly simple fix, and there’s only three key pieces of information you really need to know:

1) Overall height: The overall height of the vehicle should be measured on mostly level ground, from the top of the highest point of your rig, down to the ground. Be sure to keep in mind A/C units, satellite domes, or other devices mounted on your roof. I recommend a sticky label on your dashboard with the OverAllHeight on it so when you forget, you have an easy reference when you’re driving.

2) Length: It’s a good idea to know how long your rig from tip to tail, or front most protrusion to rear-most protrusion, as well as distance between axles. Typically you won’t need that information on the Interstate system, but if you decice to venture off onto the US or State highway systems, you’re likely to come to a crossing of some kind that dictates how much you can weigh, how long you can be, or some formula involving both of those factors.

3) Weight: GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, is the maximum your vehicle can weigh and still operate within its specifications. This is especially important when towing a trailer, as you do not want to exceed the GVWR of the tow vehicle. Knowing the max you can weigh is helpful for places where your “licensed” weight is limited, but knowing how much your rig actually weighs (called actual weights) is just as important. You can find the GVWR on the stickers on your vehicle(s), and you can find your actual weight by loading up your rig as you normally would (be sure to top off the fresh water tank(s) if you normally travel with water!) and running across a scale at a truck stop (be sure to go inside and let them know you’re doing a non-commercial weigh, first).

Knowing your facts will help you decide if it’s safe to make that crossing, and knowing your route will help you put you at ease and get you where you want to go safely. If you do use a digital navigation device, do be sure to browse over your route for potential issues before you start driving, and keep your eyes sharp for issues along the way that your nav device can’t tell you about.

Happy trails! 😀

High Beams

High beams, ‘brites’, ‘long-see-in-dark’, or just brights, they’re all the same; BRIGHT. I’ve collected a wide range of driving experience over the last several years, and this is one of the big issues that continues to plague me, as well as many other drivers.

While the laws will vary slightly from place to place, here’s the general breakdown of when you should be using your high beams:

1) Anytime it’s after sunset, but before sunrise, AND there’s no approaching traffic within 500′ or so, and no traffic ahead of you (going the same direction) within 300′ or so.

2) When using them as a warning device to warn other drivers of some immediate danger.

When NOT to use your brights:

1) For any reason outside of the above two reasons, and anytime your brights will be shining brightly into someone else’s eyes!!

Yep, it really is that simple. I’ll talk about general light usage, and using your lights as a communications device in other posts, but here’s some examples of when you should or should not use your brights:

When someone is passing you (hopefully on the left!!), and you want to let them know they’re clear to move back over, DO NOT FLASH YOUR BRIGHT LIGHTS. Bright lights flashing mean, “DANGER!”. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, DON’T do it! The first issue is that it means “Danger!”, so the passing driver should cease the lane-change, recover, and evaluate the area around him/her to determine what the danger is or was.

During the day, bright lights are bright enough to shine directly into the eyes of the driver (especially for people who properly adjust their mirrors!!), and at night, they’re just down-right blinding!!

I was driving down a hill one night in a very cold and snowy area, and approaching a stop sign where my road “tees” into another road. There was traffic coming from both sides on that road, and as I began to brake my vehicle, I lost traction and started sliding. I began lightly feathering the brake, I geared down, and I flashed my high beams rapidly to warn other drivers that I was an imminent danger. I was able to regain traction and come to a complete stop just past the stop sign, but the other drivers had already begun evasive action to avoid a collision with me if I had not regained traction. This is a great way to use your high beams.

Another great way to use your high beams is to give a quick double-tap to oncoming traffic when there’s an issue ahead of them; a collision, pop-up construction, disabled vehicle, and yes, even police presence (the laws vary on this one, so do some research first). The idea is to show two quick flashes, far enough away from oncoming traffic so that it doesn’t blind them, and without flashing someone directly in front of you (that, too, will be another post).

Here’s the bottom line: Remember that your high beams are very bright, and outside of using them to see clearly at night in very dark areas with no other traffic around, they should only ever be used as a warning device.

Seeing clearly in the rain

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Do you know why the line is, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone”? Because we cannot see as well in the rain as we can outside of rain.
When it’s raining, your lights should be on (not your HIGH beams, not your hazards!) so you can be easily seen in the dreary weather.
Also, and this applies ALL THE TIME, if you cannot see the reflective part of the mirror of another vehicle, then they cannot see you, so stay out of other vehicles blind spots!


Extra Mile

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So you’re rollin’ down the road, itchin’ to get to the next stop, dealing with traffic, or weather, or any number of other distractions, and BOOM! there’s your exit, just up ahead, two lanes over! Oh no, we can’t make that, can we??

Don’t. Not can’t, DO NOT. I know it sucks, I know it’s lame, and I know it takes longer, but the SAFEST thing you can do when you’re about to miss your exit is KEEP GOING, and take the next one.

Sure, it’ll take longer, and yeah, you might be late, BUT, you’ll still get there in one piece, and will have done so safely. Not just your safety, either, but the safety of all the people and vehicles around you, which is something you should be aware of at all times.