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Intersection Escape Routes
Accelerate or Decelerate - Not Turn or Swerve!

By: James R. Davis

You have just entered an intersection (at, say, 30 MPH) and notice that a vehicle is about to enter the intersection from the left it will not, cannot, stop in time and unless you do something fast you are going to collide. What are your options? What escape paths do you have?

I propose that there are only two choices: accelerate or decelerate. Turning or swerving to the right is not a reasonable alternative though most people will almost certainly attempt to do so. (Clearly swerving to the left is crazy as it puts you into oncoming traffic.)

If you accelerate and go straight ahead (1) you will move farther away from that threatening car than if you did not accelerate. If you similarly accelerate and turn at the same time (2) you will not have moved as far away from the car. (Aggressive acceleration while simultaneously turning is an invitation to loss of control all by itself.) The difference, shown as between the two horizontal lines, could be the difference between life and death.

If you apply the brakes instead of the throttle, you will most likely guarantee that collision.

Thus, if the hazard is coming from the left, you are almost always better off accelerating in a straight line. That is your escape path and method.

Interestingly, if the hazard is coming from the right, you are almost always better off braking. If you can stop before your paths cross you walk away.

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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