I've posted before about thinking about driving, while driving. An integral part of that is maintaining your situational awareness - an awareness of what's happening around you as you navigate traffic. Case in point:
Two days ago I was waiting at a red light in the middle of three northbound lanes at a major intersection close to where I live. The light changed to green, and I put the car in gear (I drive a stick on occasion). I checked to my left before hitting the gas, though, and saw a large white van on the cross street that seemed to be going a bit fast for what was then a red light. I paused a half of a second and confirmed: that van was going to run the red light. I waited at my green light for it to pass through the intersection. A black SUV passed me northbound in the lane to my right; she hadn't had to wait for the light. I saw the van and SUV approaching other; the SUV's brake lights only came on in the last instant before the two collided hard enough to make both vehicles jump off the pavement. I parked and made sure both drivers were OK, then called for first responders.
So who lost their situational awareness here? Clearly the van driver did; she told me after the accident she thought she had had a green light. She was genuinely surprised when I gently told her no, she'd had the red. But the other driver had also lost her situational awareness; she had sailed through the intersection past me, not seeing the obvious white van obviously running a red light until the last instant before collision. I, who had seen the white van and stayed put, watched the whole thing unfold in front of me. It was partly luck I avoided that acident, but it was mostly because I'd taken the time to look to see if traffic was clear, even though I had a green light.
Why did both of the other drivers lose their situational awareness? Not known. But it was pretty clear to me that both of them had to have lost it for that accident to occur.
Next time you get behind the wheel, remember to keep your situational awareness up to speed, and check everything before you proceed. Safe driving out there.