Getting to know your vehicle
The following skills are most important to help demonstrate safe operation of your vehicle.
• Backing • Staying in your lane
• Following other vehicles • Responding to signs and signals
• Attention span • Yielding the right of way
• Turning • Parking between vehicles
• Approaching intersections • Use of signals
The Five Leading Causes of Accidents
• Careless and/or reckless operation
• Failure to yield
• Following too close
• Distracted driving
THE IMPACT OF ROAD CONDITIONS
Good pavement conditions are important for traction and stopping quickly. When roadways are well-maintained drivers have a better chance of staying on the road. Always reduce speed and keep a safe following distance when driving in adverse conditions. Remember when driving if your windshield wipers are in operation your headlights are required to be on. This helps you to be seen in adverse conditions.
SIGNS, TRAFFIC LIGHTS, AND PAVEMENT MARKINGS
Traffic control devices includes: traffic signals, signs, and pavement markings. These devices are necessary to regulate and control traffic. You must be able to recognize and obey them.
Traffic control devices includes: traffic signals, signs, and pavement markings. These devices are necessary to regulate and control traffic. You must be able to recognize and obey them.
If you are familiar with the shape and color of the signs and their use, you will know that you should adjust your speed and driving manner before you can read the wording as you approach the signs.
The Octagon shape sign is exclusively for stop signs. Slow down and come to a stop.
The Rectangle shape is used for regulatory signs, which include speed limit, school zones, parking, and loading zones.
The diamond shape sign is used for warning approaching hazard signs. A diamond shaped sign that is orange in color is used in construction zones. Slow down and proceed with caution. Yellow diamond shaped signs advise you to approaching conditions such as curves, approaching side roads and traffic flow.
The triangle shaped signs with the point down is used exclusively for the yield signs. Slow down and watch for oncoming traffic. Be prepared to stop if the traffic flows require it.
The triangle shaped with the point sideways is used to indicate no passing zones.
The two signs shapes are used exclusively for railroad advance warning signs.
The rectangle shaped sign with the longer dimension going horizontal is used for guide signs. Some warning signs and temporary traffic control signs.
Other shaped signs are typically used for route marker signs.
These signs tell a driver of possible danger that might be ahead. Such as warning you to slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary. These signs are usually diamond shaped, yellow with black lettering. These are usually fluorescent yellow, such as school zones, school and pedestrian crossings. Some common signs are below:
These signs tell you about specific laws you should obey. Such as rules for traffic direction, lane use, turning, speed, parking, and other special situations. These signs are square, rectangular, or have a special shape and/or white with black, red or green letters or symbols. Some regulatory signs have a red circle with a red slash over a symbol. These signs prohibit certain actions.
These green or brown signs are square or rectangular shape with white lettering or symbols. They show directions and distance to various locations, such as cities, airports, state and parish\county lines.
These blue signs are square or rectangular shape with white lettering or symbols. They show the locations of various services, such as rest areas, gas stations, hotels and hospitals.
Signs in construction areas
Traffic signals are lights that tell you when to stop and go. Traffic lights are usually at intersections and are red, yellow, and green from top to bottom.
Yellow center lines are used to separate traffic in opposite directions. White lines separate lanes of traffic going in the same directions. You are required to drive between these lane lines.
A Single Broken Yellow line is used to mark the centerline where there are only two lanes of traffic. You must drive to the right of the centerline. When it is safe, you may cross this line to turn or pass another vehicle.
A Double Solid Yellow lines are used to mark the center of the roadway when there are four or more lanes of traffic. You may not cross these lines to pass. You may cross these lines to make a turn.
A No Passing Line is a single solid yellow line used on two-lane roads to indicate zones where passing is prohibited. You may cross this line to make a turn.
White lines separate lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. You are required to drive between these lane lines.
Double solid white lines separate two lanes of traffic going in the same direction. Crossing a double solid line is prohibited. Most commonly seen on interstates.
Stopped School Buses
You must stop 30 ft. from a school bus that is loading or unloading children. All 50 states have a law that makes it illegal to pass a school bus that is loading or unloading children. Always be prepared when the bus lights are flashing. Bus drivers will activate the flashing yellow lights of the bus at least 100 ft. but no more than 500 ft. before the bus stops. As the bus comes to a complete stop the flashing red lights and stop signs will activate. Wait before the bus moves and scan area before starting to drive. This is required by law whether you are meeting the bus or traveling behind it.
- You must not drive faster than the posted maximum limit.
- You must not drive slower than the posted minimum limit.
- While driving within the posted speed limit, you must not drive so slowly that you impede other traffic.
- Reduced speed limits are required in the following areas:
- On streets near schools and playgrounds and at locations marked with a “school crossing” sign when children are present
- On streets in residential or business areas.
Keep in mind these reasons for wearing safety belts:
• They keep you from being thrown from your car. Your chances of surviving a crash are 2 to 4 times greater if you remain in the car when the collision occurs.
• There is much less chance of being knocked unconscious or seriously injured. If there is danger from fire or water, you can get out quickly.
• Safety belts keep you in a position so you can control the car. The first impact in a crash frequently throws the driver from behind the wheel and the vehicle is out of control.
An airbag is a flexible membrane that inflates rapidly with air or another gas during a head on or nearly head on collision. Side and front air bags have been proven to be an effective safety device. Air bags do not replace safety belts. They supplement the safety provided by reducing the chance of the vehicle occupant sustaining a head or upper body injury from encounters with the vehicle’s interior equipment. The recommendation for the 10 and 2 hand positions went out when air bags came in. The reason is that the air bag, when it deploys, comes out at speeds of 150 to 200 miles per hour. If your hands are on the upper part of the wheel (the traditional 10 and 2 position), your hands can be thrown into your head causing a serious head injury or your wrist or forearm can be broken. Thumbs have been severed because of the speed at which the seams of the air bag cuts across the hand. The recommended positions are 9 and 3 or 8 and 4.
Most of us would like to believe we not only know what it takes to be a good driver and that we put that knowledge into practice every time we are behind the wheel. Unfortunately, most of us never get past the basics. Defensive driving involves a proactive attitude behind the wheel and get past the basics. Defensive driving involves a proactive attitude behind the wheel and anticipating potential hazards instead of simply reacting to them. You should know the limitations of both yourself and your vehicle and how to handle both in a hazard situation. Driving defensively means not only taking responsibility for yourself and your actions, but also keeping an eye on “the other guy.” The National Safety Council suggests the following guidelines to help reduce your risks on the road.
• Don’t start the engine without securing each passenger in the car, including
children and pets.
• Safety belts save thousands of lives each year!
• Lock all doors.
• Remember that driving too fast or too slow can increase the likelihood of
• If you plan to drink, designate a driver who won’t drink. Alcohol is a factor in
Almost half of all fatal motor vehicle crashes.
• Be alert! If you notice that a car is straddling the center line, weaving, making
wide turns, stopping abruptly or responding slowly to traffic signals, the driver may be impaired.
• Avoid an impaired driver by turning right at the nearest corner or exiting at the
• If it appears that an oncoming car is crossing into your lane, pull over to the
roadside, sound the horn and flash your lights.
• Notify the police immediately after seeing a motorist who is driving suspiciously
• Follow the rules of the road. Don’t contest the “right of way” or try to race
Another car during a merge. Be respectful of other motorist.
Driving Under Stress
Any stress situation can affect your driving. Even mild emotional feelings can affect your driving ability. Emotions are hard to control and they can make you temporarily accident prone. Driving in traffic routinely involves events and incidents. Events are normal sequential maneuvers such as stopping for the light, changing lanes, or putting on
the brakes. Incidents are frequent but unpredictable events. Some of these are dangerous and frightening, like near-misses, while others are merely annoying or depressing, like missing your turn or being insulted by another motorist. Driving events and incidents are sources of psychological forces capable of producing powerful feelings and irrational thought sequences.
Driving Under Influence
When alcohol enters your stomach, its goes into your bloodstream and to all parts of your body. It reaches your brain in about 20 minutes. In your brain, alcohol affects those parts that control your judgment and skill. Here are some things you should know about alcohol:
- Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant. It has anesthetic effects on the brain which “goes to sleep”.
- Alcohol slows normal reflexes, interferes with judgment, reduces alertness and impairs vision. If you feel stimulated after drinking it simply because your inhibitions are lowered, causing loss of caution and self-control. In large enough quantities, acute alcohol poisoning can result in coma death.
- It doesn’t matter whether you drink beer, wine, whiskey or any other alcohol beverage; it’s the amount of alcohol that’s enters your body that cause the problem.
- Alcohol can affect you differently at different times. A small amount on an empty stomach will affect you more rapidly than it would if you have recently eaten. Many other factors affect the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream: alcohol content potency and type of beverage, rate of consumption, gender, physical fitness, emotional state and rate of metabolism and elimination.
- Once the alcohol enters your blood, there is nothing you can do to lessen the effects. Black coffee, exercise or a cold shower will not sober you up. Alcohol is metabolized by your liver and eliminated from your body through your kidneys and lungs. This process takes time.
If you have been drinking alcoholic beverage, you are in no condition to drive. You have placed yourself in a position where you might injure or kill yourself or some innocent person(s). Remember that alcohol:
- Reduces the ability to judge speeds, distances and angles.
- Encourages the driver to take foolish risk and break laws.
- Impairs concentration. You may forget to fasten a seat belt, turn on headlights, use turn signals, observe stop sign, etc.
- Slow reaction time in stopping and turning.
- Limits vision, eyes become blurred and can’t focus.
- Reduces ability to judge one’s own condition.
- Causes sleepiness.
- Increases anger towards other drivers.
Blood Alcohol Concentration
What does blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measure? BAC describes the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood expressed as weight per unit of volume. For example, at 0.10% BAC, there is a concentration of 100mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. For most legal purposes, however, a blood sample is not necessary to determine a person’s BAC. It can be measured much more simply by analyzing exhaled breath (such as using a breathalyzer). It takes about an hour for the body to get rid of one normal drink from the circulatory system. Therefore, if someone has had four normal drinks, they should wait four hours or more before the drive.
In Louisiana the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration is:
- .04 if you are operating a commercial motor vehicle
- .08 if you are 21 years of age or older
- .02 if you are 20 years of age or younger
The body can process 0.015% of alcohol per hour. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.20% at 2:00 AM, it will be more than 0.10% at 8:00 AM and still 0.05% at non the following day!
Driving while/or using drugs (e.g. amphetamines, tranquilizers and barbiturates) can be hazardous (and possibly lethal) because of drowsiness, reduced coordination and poor judgment or risk taking. It can take hours to wear off, and if the drugs are combined with alcohol, the effects can be exaggerated and increase dramatically. Louisiana law provides the same penalty for driving under the influence of drugs as it does for alcohol. This includes over-the-counter (OTC) and prescribe medication. It is important to pay attention to the labels on medications as they interfere with your driving ability.
Driving is work. It is tiring. It takes a person in good physical, mental and emotional condition to actively prevent crashes. When you are tired, you don’t drive as well as you do when you are rested. Driver fatigue can kill. Just like alcohol and drugs, it impairs your vision and judgment. Drivers should not push themselves to the point of not being physically and mentally alert at all times. A driver should rest every two hours and not drive longer than six or eight hours a day. Fatigue can affect you in several ways. It slows your reaction time. There is a loss in your concentration and attention. Extreme fatigue may lead to moments of dozing behind the wheel. Driving under these conditions may lead to collisions. You have many ways of fighting fatigue. Take
a break (at a rest area if on the interstate). Have a cup of coffee. Chew gum. Listen to the radio. Let some fresh air into your car. Boredom is common to motorists on long trips, especially when driving on an interstate highway. It can lead to what is called “highway hypnosis.” That is, your senses become dulled, your eyes become fixed on the road and you are not alert to traffic situations around you. To keep from getting tired on a long trip:
- Be well rested before you start.
- Don’t take any drugs that can make you drowsy.
- Try not to drive late at night when you are used to sleeping.
- Take regular rest stops, even if you are not tired.
- Keep moving your eyes. Look at objects near and far, left and right.
- Open the window and get some fresh air.
- Keep your car’s interior cool.
Illness and Driving
Various health conditions which may affect your ability to drive safely could be: Blackouts or fainting, Vision Problems, Heart Disease, Epilepsy, Sleep Disorders, Diabetes, Psychiatric disorders, Neurological disorders, and Age-related decline
If you become aware of a health issue in a family member or yourself you should not hesitate to talk with someone. Having any of these conditions does not necessarily mean that you will be unable to continue driving. But you may need to visit your doctor more often. You may also need to restrict driving to daylight driving only, wearing corrective lenses when driving, or only driving on familiar streets and roads. Everyone has a responsibility to be certain they are fit to drive. At the time of any driver’s license issuance you are asked three questions pertaining to your mental and physical health. You should honestly disclose any information that may affect driving.
Aggressive Driving/Road Rage
Aggressive driving is a traffic offense or combination of offenses such as following too closely, speeding, unsafe lane changes, failure to signal intent to change lanes and other forms of negligent or inconsiderate driving. Aggressive drivers can be dangerous drivers. Drivers who do not follow the rules of the road are a hazard to all motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the roadway. They put themselves and others at risk with their unsafe driving. Speeding, running red lights and stop signs, pulling in front of trucks too quickly when passing and making frequent lane changes, especially in the blind spots of trucks, can create dangerous and potentially fatal situations on the road. These situations can lead to road rage not only for the aggressive driver, but also for others sharing the road.
How to avoid road rage: Be calm, Keep a good distance, Stay alert, Behave cooperatively in traffic situations, Don’t speed, Allow adequate time for your trip, Avoid tailgating, and Create a relaxing and comfortable environment in your car
Louisiana law requires you have headlights on (low beam) when your windshield wipers are required.
Driving at night can be made safest if you follow these rules:
• Keep your windshield and windows clean, inside and out.
• Be certain that all lights on the vehicles are operating properly.
• Reduce your speed so that you can stop within the distance you can see ahead.
• Use lower beam when approaching other cars so you won’t blind the other driver.
• If a stubborn driver refuses to dim the lights, look to the right edge of the road as a guide and slow down.
Pedestrians occasionally use highways to walk along or cross. Pedestrians have the right of way when they are in a marked crosswalk, when crossing an intersection with a green traffic signal or walk signal, and over a vehicle making a right turn on red. You should always becareful of pedestrians crossing the roadway and give them space. You must yield to pedestrians at all times. Even if they are not in a crosswalk and crossing the street where they should not be (also known as jaywalking), which is illegal, you must stop for them.
Many pedestrians, especially young children, do not follow the law or use safe crossing practices. When you see people walking or standing along a road, or children playing near a roadway, you should slow down. Always allow pedestrians as much room as safely possible, and be alert for sudden movement by pedestrians into the path of your vehicle.
VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEDESTRIANS
Pedestrians using guide dogs or white canes with or without a red tip must be given the right of way at all times. These pedestrians are partially or totally blind, so be especially careful when turning corners or backing up.
Cellular Phones and Texting
The increased use of cell phones while driving is becoming a hazard on our highways. Drivers who us their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle pose a serious threat to themselves and other drivers. Currently, there are 39 states that have a ban on texting while driving and 10 states that prohibit hand held types of cell phone use while driving. Using a cell phone while driving involves all three types of distraction: visual, taking your eyes off the road, manual, taking your hands off the wheel, and cognitive by taking your mind and focus off your driving.
• Use your cell phone only in emergencies. If possible, have a passenger make the call.
• If you must make a call, pull safely off the road and stop before making the call.
• Do not take notes or look up telephone numbers while driving.
• Let your voice mail answer incoming calls.
• If you must use your cell telephone, keep your conversations short.
Get a model with voice-activated controls and hands-free operation.
Sharing the Road with Bicycles
Traffic laws apply to person riding bicycles. Every person riding a bicycle is given the same rights to follow the same rules and regulations that are giving to those driving an automobile.
Riding on bicycles – When riding a bicycle, the rider must ride upon a seat that is attached to the bicycle. The number of people on the bicycle shall not be greater than the intended number of people the bicycle is designed to carry. The person controlling the bicycle must have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
Clinging to vehicles – No person riding a bicycle shall attach himself or the bicycle to any vehicle while on public roadways.
Riding on roadways and bicycle paths – All bicyclists must ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safely possible while exercising caution when passing stationary vehicles or vehicles traveling in the same direction. Bicyclists must ride more than to abreast except on roadways set aside for exclusive bicycle use.
Approaching and passing bicyclists:
• You must yield to bicyclists in intersections as you would for pedestrians and other vehicles.
• Increase following distances behind bicyclists because bicycle-stopping distances are shorter than automobiles.
• Be aware that bicyclists not traveling in the extreme right of the lane may be trying to avoid gravel, debris, bad pavement, sewer grates and other obstacles.
• Be cautious of bicyclists moving legally into the center of the lane because of road hazards or into the left lane because of a left turn.
• Avoid passing between a bicyclist and an oncoming vehicle on a two-way road. Slow down and allow the on-coming vehicle to pass. Then move to the left to allow plenty of room to safely pass the bicyclist.
• A three foot distance must be present between the passing automobile and slower traveling bicyclists.
• Give bicyclists the entire lane when they are passing parked cars. They need the space to avoid opening doors.
• Use caution when passing bicyclists because the air current created by a passing vehicle may cause bicyclists to have an accident.
• If you are pulling a trailer, allow for extra passing room when passing bicyclists.
• Extra caution should be used when motorist are near bicyclists in wet, windy, or icy weather.
• Reduce speed when encountering bicyclists and never tailgate.
• Do not blow your horn when near bicyclists.
Turning near bicyclists:
• Drivers who are turning left must wait until oncoming bicyclists pass. Accidents occur when turning drivers do not notice the bicyclists in the flow of traffic or misjudge their speed.
• Do not swing in front of a bicyclist to make a right turn. Making a right turn after overtaking a bicyclist is also a cause of accidents. Drivers should slow down and stay behind the bicyclist, or look once, then again. Make sure you see the bicycle and know its speed before you turn.
• Speeds of bicycles are hard to judge. They can vary from under 10 mph to over 35 mph. Good communication and eye contact between drivers and bicyclists are needed to prevent accidents.
Sharing the Road with Motorcycles and Big Trucks
Be alert for a motorcycle to appear unexpectedly. Due to a motorcycle’s size, its position within a lane of traffic will change as traffic conditions change. The motorcyclist should position himself in the lane to see and be seen. This often means riding in the left portion of the traffic lane to allow a better view of traffic and road situations. It also makes the motorcycle more visible to other traffic. However, as traffic and road conditions change, the rider may move. This move could be to the center of the lane or even to the right side to avoid traffic or to be seen by others on the road.
It takes special driving skills and knowledge to drive safely around big trucks. You cannot drive around a big truck the way you drive around other vehicles. The most important tip is to give a wide clearance (berth) to the big truck. Collisions between large trucks and lighter vehicles frequently result in death in the driver or occupants of the “other vehicles.”
Remember, trucks don’t drive like cars. Generally speaking, the bigger the truck is:
- The bigger its blind spots.
- The more room it needs to maneuver.
- The longer it takes to stop.
- The longer it takes to pass it.
- The longer it takes to accelerate.
- The more room it takes to turn.
- The more likely you’re going to be the loser in a collision
Avoid the NO-ZONE. Just like automobiles, the first rule of safety with trucks is SEE AND BE SEEN. Large trucks have blind spots, or No-Zones, around the front, back and sides of the truck. Watch out! A truck could even turn into you, because these No-Zones make it difficult for the driver to see. So, don’t hang out in the No-Zones. Remember, if you can’t see the truck driver in the truck’s mirror, the truck driver can’t see you.
If you are passing a truck, always pass on the left side and make sure to allow plenty of room before cutting back in front of the truck. Keep a firm control on the steering wheel to counter the effect of air turbulence. Look for the whole front of the vehicle in your rear-view mirror before pulling in front and maintaining speed.
Traffic Laws and Regulations
You are required to obey all traffic laws when driving a vehicle upon a street or highway.
You must operate your vehicle as indicated by traffic signs and signals and pavement markings.
Excessive speed is often the factor that turns a minor incident into a fatal crash. The laws of physics tell us that crash severity increases disproportionately with vehicle speed. A frontal impact at 35 mph, for example, is one-third more violent than one at 30 mph. When driving at 75 mph, you have little chance of living through a crash. Driving at such a speed during bad weather or at night means you are over driving your headlights. Since your stopping distance is greater than your visibility, you’re gambling that you can stop quickly in an emergency. You can’t.
Remember, you must obey the minimum and maximum speed limit at all times. You should always reduce you speed in adverse conditions.
Your must obey all lawful orders and directions of a police officer. Here are some ways to improve your traffic stop experience:
• Remember that you are required to cooperate with all reasonable requests that law enforcement personnel make.
• If you have a concealed weapon permit always inform the officer. Get
permission form the officer to retrieve concealed weapon permit, driver’s license, registration and insurance cards.
• Remain in the vehicle unless the officer tells you otherwise.
• Keep your hands visible.
• If you are stopped by a non-uniformed officer in an unmarked vehicle, you can ask the officer for identification.
• If you believe the reason for the stop is vague or unclear, you can ask officer for details.
• If you are uncomfortable stopping in an area that is deserted or not well-lit, explain this to the officer and ask if you can proceed to a more populated or better illuminated area.
• Procedural questions and complaints about an officer’s treatment of you can be forwarded to the officer’s supervisor.
If you operate a vehicle in a criminally negligent or reckless manner, you are committing a crime punishable by fine and jail.
Hit and Run Driving
If you are involved in or cause an accident, you are required by law to stop, identify yourself and render reasonable aid. Failure to do so may result in a fine and time in jail.
Flight from An Officer
A motor driver, who refuses to stop, knowing a law enforcement officer has given a signal for him to stop, has committed a crime punishable by fine and time in jail.
Protecting Yourself In A Crash
You may not always be able to avoid a crash. If you are about to be hit, here are some tips on how to protect yourself. The best protection before a crash is to always buckle your seat belt and shoulder harness before you start any trip in your vehicle no matter how short your journey will be.
If you are about to be hit from the rear:
- Be ready to apply your brake so you won’t be pushed into the car head.
- Brace yourself between the steering wheel and the seat belt.
- Press the back of your head firmly against the head rest.
If you are about to be hit from the side:
- Keep a tight grip on the steering wheel. This may keep you from being thrown against the side of the car.
- Get ready to steer quickly so that if you spin around you can try to regain control of the car.
If you are about to be hit from the front:
- Use your arms and hands to protect your face, If you are wearing your seat belt and shoulder strap.
- If you are not using your shoulder strap, throw yourself across the seat to keep from hitting the steering wheel or windshield.
Most skids happen when you try to turn or stop suddenly on slippery pavement. If the rear of your car starts to slide, don’t use the brakes. Steer in the direction in which the rear end of your car is skidding.
Railroad Grade Crossing
Louisiana law requires that the driver of any motor vehicle must stop within 50 feet but no less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of a railroad crossing when:
• A signal device is flashing and a train is approaching.
• A crossing gate is lowered.
• A train gives a warning signal and is an immediate hazard due to its speed or proximity to the crossing.
• A train is approaching so close as to create an immediate hazard.
After stopping, the driver shall not proceed to cross the tracks until he can do so safely. Railroad grade crossings are marked with warning devices for your protection. Watch for and respect these devices.
There is a 20 questions review quiz to enhance your driving comprehension. Once the review quiz has been taking a Certificate of Successful Completion will be emailed within a few hours. You are ready to take review quiz.