by Dr. Arlo Gordin

Over the years I've seen some very responsible, careful drivers come in to my office with car accident-caused injuries they apparently couldn't avoid . . .

But I began to ponder, is there a way they could have avoided that accident that we weren't ever taught in drivers' education?

It would seem that when somebody slams into our car from the rear, that's out of our control.  After seeing hundreds of people in this situation, I devoted serious thought into the prevention of rear-end collisions.  From this came the idea for a driving technique I've used repeatedly to protect myself from accidents.  I call it "Honk To the Rear". 

 This driving technique can help you avoid, or lessen the impact of what could be a devastating rear-end collision.  You know you can take responsibility in your driving for what's in front of you and what's to the side of you.  This technique allows you to take some responsibility for what's going on in the cars behind you!

It works like this.  When you find yourself having to stop or slow in traffic, 1) where it would not ordinarily be expected, like a freeway or a fast thoroughfare, 2) in the middle of an intersection where you are expected to drive rightthrough, 3) when heading downhill with people behind you indicating poor braking ability or inattention 4) while driving in poor weather conditions causing vision or braking impairment, employ the following guidelines:

The moment you find it necessary to apply your brakes suddenly, instantly shoot your eyes to your rear view mirror.  If you cannot clearly see the eyes of the driver behind you indicating that he has seen your red lights and has applied his brakes, instantly begin to honk your horn.  Honk.  Honk.  Honk.  The unconscious response of the person behind you is to apply the brakes when that honking is heard.  "Why is he honking?  Something must be wrong," is the instinctive message.  Also immediately turn on your emergency flashers too.  You're trying to get them to hear and see something is going on and go into alert-driver mode (as opposed to retarded texter-mode for example).

 Of course, the person in front of you thinks you're insane for honking.  "Why are you honking?  Can't you see the lady in the crosswalk in front of me?"  The lady in the crosswalk also thinks you're crazy.  "Don't you know I have the right-of-way?"  But of course, you're not honking to the front, not honking to her; you're honking to the rear.

A person unexpectedly steps into the crosswalk, or chooses to walk against the "DON'T WALK" signal. Traffic behind you is moving at 45 MPH.  You honk for the people behind you, so they won't run into you.  The cars behind you brake and no collisions occur.  It's unfortunate that the lady in the crosswalk is startled, but better for everyone that a collision hurting people (and property) has been avoided. 

Hitting the brakes that extra second earlier, after being alerted by the honking, can make the difference, especially in Los Angeles traffic where we often don't get that cushion of space around us which they told us in Driver's Ed would protect us from rear-end collisions.  The driver who is looking at someone strolling down the street, the driver texting, the one who is rummaging around in her purse, the person who is just spacing out, the driver messing with the telephone or nav system, or even listening to loud music, hears your Honk, Honk, Honk, crunches the brakes and doesn't hit you.  The honking could also signal the driver barreling along three cars behind you and prevent a four-car freeway pile-up. I employ this technique often and I know it has protected me on many occasions.

That additional method of warning by turning on your emergency flashers gives an additional signal that something ahead is not speeding along; it's not business as usual.

A third way is, when a vehicle ahead of you has slowed in your lane to make a left turn, to turn on your left turn signal.  Traffic behind you cannot see the signal from the car ahead, but seeing yours gives them an additional visual cue that traffic isn’t barreling through, but instead indicates you're stopping to turn.          

Rear-end collisions are well worth avoiding.  The damage they can cause to your spine is a hassle to repair and can sometimes leave permanent weakening of the ligament tissues that are torn.  The aggravation of having to fix yourself, and your car, are all things we can do without in our busy lives.  We have plenty of more important things to do.

I hope this driving tip saves you from needless whiplash, pain, and wasted energy in dealing with body shops and insurance adjusters.  So practice it a bit, until the technique becomes instant and intuitive.  Remember - in sudden situations - you can Honk to the Rear.