Three Defensive Driving Tools to Avoid Great Impact
What do OODA, Three Mississippi’s, and a vehicle’s front wheels have in common? They can all be defensive driving tools that will alert and prepare you for potential conflict situations and avoid a crash.
In another year or so, I’ll enter that age range of 78–85, when most people decide to quit driving. Over the years, I’ve learned some tools that I hope will allow me to drive safely far beyond that range. I’m not a certified driving instructor, so I’ll describe the tools and how I use them. How you choose to use them is up to you.
The OODA Loop: See and avoid trouble
So what’s an OODA? The OODA Loop is a rapid decision-making tool developed by Retired Colonel John Boyd, USAF. In combat, OODA is used to totally confuse and demoralize the enemy. In defensive driving, OODA is a disciplined way of thinking that helps one see and avoid trouble. OODA stands for Observe > Orient > Decide > Act, and then do it again.
It sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? But then there’s a joke—Two crows were sitting in a tree above a corn field. Crow One said, “Let’s fly down and eat some corn.” Crow Two, “We can’t. There’s a man standing in the field.” Crow One, “That’s a scarecrow. If it was a man, he’d be looking at his cell phone.”
How many times do we see people who aren’t even observing? And, as we age, we need a conscious, disciplined decision-making tool to drive safely. OODA can be that tool. Let’s start with an easy example.
Three Mississippi’s: Three second rule
Three Mississippi’s keep you three seconds from hitting a vehicle in front of you. It’s the easiest of the tools to understand, but the hardest to practice. It’s the minimum safe distance to maintain between you and the driver ahead for reaction time. I’ve used two seconds for years, but in researching for this article, the Florida Driver’s Handbook Section 5.26 states, “Keep a minimum following distance of three to four seconds with an additional second for any unusual weather or traffic conditions.” I’ve made the adjustment to three seconds. And as I get older and my reflexes slow down, I may go to four.
Cell phones and all the distractions they create aside, there are legitimate reasons to look away from the road ahead—for instance, looking back before changing lanes. In heavy traffic, it may take more than one look. Also, checking vehicles at stop signs or in the center divider or checking GPS on an unfamiliar turn. Three seconds gives us time to do that. So how does Three Mississippi’s work?
Observe, Orient, Decide and Act Continue Reading