Most of us have an amateurish habit of looking only at the car directly in front of us when we drive. Our brains aren’t programmed to register danger more than a few feet away, so it’s literally a natural instinct to watch the cars closest to you.
At driving speeds, however, hazards an eighth of a mile away can threaten your safety in the blink of an eye. This is why over-the-road truckers and other professional drivers are taught to constantly scan the road as far ahead as possible. It’s called “steering high.”
Yes, you still have to monitor what the driver in front of you is up to, but most road hazards can be avoided by anticipating a bad situation before you’re on top of it. What’s happening to traffic several car lengths away? What’s happening at the horizon? Is traffic more or less congested? Are there brake lights? Road crews? Crossroads or entrance ramps? Are any drivers behaving erratically?
At a minimum, try to scan 15 seconds ahead of your position. At low speeds, like city driving, this is about a block. On the highway, it’s about ¼ mile. These distances are great enough to make almost any hazard avoidable, if you’re watching for them.
Yes, it’s more information to keep track of, but when you give driving this level of attention, it becomes fun, almost like a video game, where you’re constantly watching for danger and keeping maximum distance from it.
You don’t get points in this “video game,” but it can save your life.