Do more than plan your route, rehearse it to stay on course

Getting lost isn’t one of the official statistical causes of auto body accidents, but it’s almost certainly a factor in some. The reason? Even momentary uncertainty as to where they are causes people to drive erratically, take their eyes off the road and make dangerous maneuvers, like illegal turns and swerving in heavy traffic.

Pre-planning with written directions, maps or a satellite navigation system is helpful. But even these are not foolproof, and the way in which you use them can put you at risk. So we recommend going one step further than route-planning: route rehearsing. But before we get to that, here’s a look at some of the downsides of common route-planning methods:

Verbal directions:

Lack of accuracy, either in misunderstanding what you’ve been told or incorrectly writing them down, is the biggest problem with verbal directions. Even when accuracy isn’t the problem, there can be another: you can have a difficult time recognizing the landmarks that seem so obvious to someone who sees them every day.

Internet directions and maps:

Depending on how old they are, these can be out of date. But the real problem is the temptation to look at them too long while you’re at the wheel. In this case, they become a distraction that courts disaster.

Satellite navigation systems:

Also known as Global Positioning Systems, or “GPS”, these devices are among the greatest inventions of the motoring age. You plug in your location, enter your destination, and get a navigator sitting on your dashboard minding your route in real-time. Not only do they provide displays of where you are, but some models give you detailed “spoken” turn-by-turn directions.

But even as the manufacturer’s instructions warn, you can be distracted by GPS displays sufficiently to cause an auto accident. It’s also possible to tune out their verbal advisories until you hear the final command before a turn, and then be tempted to react with an abrupt and dangerous maneuver. One final issue: as with printed maps and directions, the maps stored in these devices can be out of date and tell you to turn where no road exists.

Route Rehearsal is the Answer

It truly isn’t enough merely to plan your route. Knowing the route as well as possible is your best protection against direction confusion, and you can arrive at this knowledge by rehearsing it. Here’s how:

• Regardless of which way you get your directions, get out a map of your route

• Recite the route to yourself while looking at it, over and over, until you can say it from memory. Inspect the map for any places along the route where you think you may have trouble – there’s bound to be at least one. Then make a mental note to slow down as you approach it and begin to look for signs that identify your next turn.

• If you’ve got a GPS, run the “Simulation” function, if it has one, even before you enter your vehicle. This will take you through your entire route and announce every turn, at double speed. It still takes time (for example, one hour of simulation for a two-hour trip), but you’ll be amazed at how much more comfortable you’ll feel when you come to key points on your journey where you might otherwise feel a bit confused.

We here at CollisionMax recommend everyone follow these tips to avoid the risk of auto accidents.