“Speed Kills!”, apparently. Funny, I thought that it was the sudden deceleration upon impact that did the damage.
Can you imagine a country lane with a tall, dense hedge along both sides of the road? If you can, you’ll also see that the two hedges appear to intersect at corners. In advanced driving circles this point is referred to as the ‘limit-point’ (or ‘vanishing point’), since it forms the limit of your vision along the road surface. As you approach, negotiate and exit corners, watching the limit-point will provide you with some very useful information. It can also help you to judge the maximum safe speed that you can carry into a corner, regardless of the prevailing speed limit.
On the approach to a bend notice how soon the limit-point begins to move relative to your distance from it. If you’re 500 metres away and the limit-point is already revealing the road to you the corner is fast. In contrast, if you’re much closer to a bend and the limit-point is static then it’s a slow, sharp corner. Always adjust your speed so that you could stop on your own side of the road within the distance you can see to be clear; that is, the distance to the limit-point. The grim reaper may be loitering just out of sight around the curve. And I don’t mean PC Patronising with his roadside hair-drier!
Prior to entering a bend your car’s speed should match the apparent speed of movement of the limit-point. By ‘matching’ the limit-point you’ll retain the ability to stop mid-corner within the distance you can see is clear. If the corner tightens you’ll sense that you’re closing on the limit-point. In which case ease smoothly off the gas until you have it matched once more.
Having matched the limit-point through the curve it will, as the road begins to straighten, appear to run away from you towards the horizon. Provided you have sufficient grip you can now smoothly accelerate in an attempt to catch up with it. Also, with practise you’ll soon be able to relate ‘shaving’ a bend’s exit to the speed at which the limit-point runs away from you (shaving being the process of straightening the exit of a bend in a manner similar to that employed by racing drivers around racing circuits). Remember, however, that a safe cornering line for blind bends on public roads is characterised by a later turn-in than on circuits. Broadly speaking, if the limit-point appears to be sprinting away from you (as opposed to merely running) then you can begin to shave.
Be careful not to fixate on the limit-point. Look out for the other clues as to a bend’s severity. For example, even before the limit-point becomes animated notice the angle formed by the white lines in the centre of the road. Have you noticed how the number of warnings (including road markings and signs) on the approach to a bend reflects its severity? If there’s a plethora of signs on the approach, it usually means it’s sharp or tricky. Did you know that the length of the white lines in the centre of the road varies to indicate the degree of hazard? The more paint there is on the road the greater the potential danger.
A key safe driving principle is that the more road you can see, the faster you can go – but I suppose ‘Speed Kills!’ is snappier.
Enjoy your driving,