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DuncanS comments on How to avoid dying in a car crash - Less Wrong

76 Post author: michaelcurzi 17 March 2012 07:44PM

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Comment author: DuncanS 19 March 2012 12:41:54AM *  17 points [-]

Here's a few general principles I use.

  • Notice near misses and any aggressive manoevres you have to make. Any violent manoevre that you have to make is quite possibly an accident if anything additional goes wrong. Ask yourself what caused them, and if there was anything you could have done differently to make the incident less dangerous. This includes cases where the other driver is principally to blame ! Basically, treat near misses like aircraft do - think of it as an accident that you luckily didn't have, and try to find some way to avoid depending on luck next time.

  • Don't do things that nobody else will expect you to do. Doing something that nobody else is doing is dumb, not just because there might be a good reason not to do it, but also because nobody else will expect you to do it, and they may not allow for it. Follow the crowd unless you really know you're out there by yourself. This obviously includes driving faster than everyone else, or stopping suddenly (if you don't absolutely have to) etc.

  • Never let your car go where your brain and observation haven't been first. Drive to a complexity level that you can handle - if too much is going on, slow down until you can cope again. In my own driving, I guess I travel at the posted limit about 50% of the time - and when I'm going slower than that, it's normally because of the needs of brain and observation. If you don't have time to think about what you're doing, you're going too fast.

Similarly, schedule distracting things into time slots where not much else is happening on the road. Aggressively ignore any distraction that will take you over your complexity threshold. Stay off the phone as phone callers won't allow for your driving situation - and avoid visual imagery as you literally can't see while you're imagining something visual.

  • Give some (not too much) thought to how you'd feel about flattening some child who runs out in front of you. Maybe it was mostly their fault - but you are going to wonder what you could have done differently, and if you were really driving in a way that kept the risks reasonable. In residential areas, car parks and so on, react to the chance of a child you can't see.
Comment author: waveman 28 February 2014 11:50:13AM 1 point [-]

This includes cases where the other driver is principally to blame !

Especially these cases. It is no good being a righteous corpse.

Another suggestion is to get away from bad drivers. If someone is tailgating me I let them past, even if I have to pull over. If I notice someone driving drunk-like or angry etc I create some distance between me and them.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 01:36:24PM 1 point [-]

This includes cases where the other driver is principally to blame.

Putting the blame does not do much when dead. The strategy has to include all ways to prevent dying, even if it is solely due to other drivers misdeeds.

Comment author: handoflixue 22 March 2012 10:10:32PM 0 points [-]

"avoid visual imagery as you literally can't see while you're imagining something visual."

Citation? I routinely visualize objects interacting with my environment, or process other visual information while visualizing something. I wouldn't be surprised that visualization is distracting, but the assertion that I can't see surprises me (I do often close my eyes to visualize something, but that's rather different)

(It's worth noting I have visual hallucinations and at least mild schizophrenia, so I may well not be a normal case - part of my curiosity is whether this is yet another domain where I'm unexpectedly different from how neurotypical ["normal"] people perceive things :))

Comment author: Dmytry 22 March 2012 10:14:22PM *  2 points [-]

"avoid visual imagery as you literally can't see while you're imagining something visual."

I guess depends to the person in question. I am imagining a road, a car on it, me driving it, as i am writing this post, looking at the screen, watching the letters come in and correcting a few typos. When i am really bored out of my mind I imagine silly HUD overlay. The interference is comparable of that from verbal monologue while you listen to someone.

Comment author: DuncanS 26 March 2012 09:55:40PM 2 points [-]

Your brain gives the illusion that you can, because it can switch quite quickly. But this is just like the illusion that you can see the whole world around you - it's not actually so. The proof is straightforward, and needs a friend.

One person holds up two fingers, one on each hand, and holds them up about a foot apart in front of them. The other person looks rapidly back and forth between the two fingers, switching their gaze from finger to finger twice a second in a regular rhythm. It's not that hard to do this.

The person holding up the fingers watches the eyes of the other person, and once they've established a rhythm they ask them a visual memory question. They will be unable to answer it without breaking rhythm on their eye movements, which the friend can observe.

Corollary - you at some level only have one internal screen which can either view external images, or internal ones. Not both at the same time.

Comment author: faul_sname 26 March 2012 10:40:03PM 2 points [-]

Alternatively, read the rest of this comment while you visualize slowly spinning a rubik's cube on the axis that cuts through opposite corners. If you don't have any trouble doing so, you know that you can see while visualizing. As for myself, I find that I can't do both tasks simultaneously.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 December 2012 06:35:00PM *  1 point [-]

I kind-of can, though the cube image is not that vivid. (It's still something I wouldn't do while driving, though.)

EDIT: BTW, I have several reasons to think that in my case reading mostly involves a part of my brain also used for processing spoken language and different from that used to process non-linguistic visual information, which may be unusual.

Comment author: Vaniver 26 March 2012 10:50:38PM 1 point [-]

Corollary - you at some level only have one internal screen which can either view external images, or internal ones. Not both at the same time.

This sounds like it could be typical mind fallacy, but at least you involved an experiment so handoflixue could see if it applied to them.

Comment author: handoflixue 26 March 2012 10:39:04PM *  0 points [-]

Your brain gives the illusion that you can, because it can switch quite quickly.

If my brain can switch that rapidly, why am I worried about it impacting my driving? And how is it that I can visualize (and hallucinate) objects interacting with the environment?

Comment author: DuncanS 26 March 2012 11:10:04PM 1 point [-]

There you might be a little different - I'm always either looking in or out - there isn't any fusion between the two. Although I have to say I've never tried pushing a fictional thing into the external view - if I try it now I find myself looking at an internal view of what I've just been looking at externally, which is not the same thing. Perhaps in your case the barrier can be persuaded to be less absolute.

One thing that's interesting about the two fingers test is that it can be easy to persuade yourself that you can pass it, but a friend will quickly tell you the truth. When you switch to internal imagery, you don't just lose awareness of the visual scene, you also lose awareness of the fact that your visual finger switching missed a beat. It's easier for someone else to see it.

Comment author: handoflixue 27 March 2012 08:19:33PM *  1 point [-]

I'm also usually functioning in a state where visual information is dramatically impaired - my boss just came to talk to me and I can't remember anything about his appearance today. I'll happily concede the experimental results to you, because they actually do line up with my experiences.

However, "tracking small fingers over the course of split seconds" is very different from "this large object that I am VERY interested in because it can kill me, just suddenly exhibited a major non-rhythmic change in behavior" (i.e. the car in front of me just hit the brakes hard)

Comment author: [deleted] 24 December 2012 06:41:21PM 1 point [-]

I'm also usually functioning in a state where visual information is dramatically impaired - my boss just came to talk to me and I can't remember anything about his appearance today. 

I'm also "naturally" like that, but in the last few years I've made a point of consciously noticing what I see whenever I remember to.