Make a Headcheck

You’re almost home after traveling for a few hours on a rather boring highway. As your exit approaches, you signal and move into the right-hand lane. The freeway exit ramp empties onto a moderately busy two-lane road. You scan ahead as you round the curved ramp and notice that there is steady traffic on the road where you need to merge. You also notice a few cars stopped at the end of the ramp waiting to filter into traffic. You stop at the end of the line behind a compact sedan.The car at the head of the line accelerates into traffic and the sedan moves forward ready for an opportunity to merge. You glance over your left shoulder and notice a gap in traffic large enough for both you and the sedan to move into. You look back to see the sedan’s driver beginning to accelerate onto the road.

You ease out the clutch expecting to follow the sedan onto the road. You decide to glance over your shoulder one more time to make sure the gap is still large enough for you to proceed. Your head check confirms that there is still adequate space to merge. As you return your eyes ahead, you are startled to see that the sedan driver is not accelerating as expected. Instead, he is slowing and applying the brakes!

You quickly roll off the throttle and brake hard, but the distance is too short to avoid hitting the left edge of the car’s bumper with your right crash guard. The impact violently knocks you off balance and onto the pavement. Thankfully, you are in full protective gear, so injuries are limited to a sore elbow and knee.

It was smart to look over your shoulder to check for traffic before proceeding, but it is critical that you do so only after you’re sure that the path in front is clear. Next time, wait until you see the car ahead actually enter the roadway before diverting your eyes away from what’s in front of you. Once it’s clear that there is a sufficient gap in traffic and that the path ahead is clear, then proceed.

copyright Ken Condon

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