You may have been driving for a while, but you can never know for sure whether or not you’re a good driver until that moment comes when “it” hits you. Surely, mileage can give you adequate skills through experience; however, it does not necessarily mark your improvements. Do you ever consider how fuel efficient you can actually be? Are you sure you are driving safely? If you want to learn how to be the better driver, follow these tips:
First Things First: Know Your Car
Get to know your car. One thing that most people take for granted, especially when they own a car, is to not read their car manual. There are many things that you can learn just by looking at the manual, even though you think that you know everything. This could greatly help at times when there is something fishy happening: for example, when you hear your car make strange noises, you would know something’s up if you are in the know in the first place. You can have a better idea what is wrong with your car when you do your part of learning about your car.
You can also try and take the car out and do braking maneuvers – it goes without saying that you do this in areas where it is allowed, and you can assure that you and others would be safe. Take the car out and see how it reacts in rain or in snow, because only a few people know how their cars react in adverse conditions. By knowing the interaction of the car in different situations, you would know certain limitations that you can work around. This can boost your efficiency and safety by a huge margin.
Go to a large empty parking lot after it has rained or snowed and start to test out the limits of your car’s grip. Practice getting the wheels to spin, then ease off the power and let them come back to you. This is way to prepare you for driving in poor conditions on the road, and it’s a good adrenaline rush, too! Just be mindful of other people and objects that can be a cause of accident.
Configure your Mirrors Properly
Although the modern technology of cars allow for standardized side mirror positioning, it still is important if you know how to properly adjust the car mirrors so you can increase your field of vision by a huge margin. A lot of people don’t adjust their mirrors accordingly, and as such, this decreases the vantage point that they can ideally achieve. To get a very good first approximation, United Services Automobile Association recommends:
- Set the rear-view so that you can see straight backwards.
- Stick your head up right against the driver side window, and adjust your left side view mirror so that you can just begin to see the left side of your car.
- Put your head in the middle of the car, between the driver and front passenger’s seat and adjust your right mirror until you can just see the right side of the car.
- When you are in a normal driving position, you won’t be able to see your own car in your sideview mirrors. You’d probably find driving like this disconcerting at first because all you can see on the side mirrors is the side of the road rushing by, with no visual reference to let you know exactly where you’re looking. In fact, you won’t be able to see anything in your sideview mirrors that you can see in your rearview. Then again, that’s the point! If they are adjusted correctly, each mirror handles a certain angle of view behind you such that everything is covered, with no blind spot big enough for a car.
- When changing lanes, all you need to do is check your rearview, and then glance to the appropriate side view to make sure it’s not “filled” with car. If you just see a blur of road rushing by, you’re clear. It takes a while to learn to trust it.
Simply watching the car in front is not safe enough; it actually gets more dangerous the shorter the distance of a following object is. Try to look ahead and see what’s coming up 200, 500, or even 1,000 (if possible) feet ahead. You can immediately notice if the person in front is doing something unexpected, like braking unnecessarily because they don’t keep a sufficient distance.
The habit of looking can help you work around big vehicles such as trucks and SUVs, especially because they block too much of the view. You can either increase the following distance, or try to pass them. The key here is that this gives you many ways to deal with the situation because you’re always looking ahead.
Increase your Situational Awareness.
Situational Awareness is important in many aspects of life, but even more so behind the wheels. The mechanics of driving a car is not all that hard to figure out. Practically everything is all being aware of everything that’s going on around you that requires real attention and focus.
Start by just trying to be aware of all the road signs you pass. Next, make sure you know where all pedestrians, especially kids, and bicyclists are, and anticipate their movements. You would then start being more aware of all the cars around you, adding what kind of cars they are and the performance capabilities of each. Make sure you see all the motorcycles out there, too.
This is one of the key points taught in race schools everywhere along with car control. However, car control is meaningless if you don’t know what kind of reaction you need to make just because you weren’t aware of your surroundings.
Focus and Stay Calm
Never get carried away. If the person behind you honks, maybe they don’t mean to honk at you. Rather, they mean for the guy in front of you, the one who’s just not ready enough to move forward at the green light. More often than not, what happens on the road is a chain of rage: road rage triggers stress around you, and all of a sudden, everybody will have a bad time.
Also, be alert at all times. A huge percentage of road accidents come from people who cannot focus on driving. Be it because of being drunk, being deprived of sleep, or being too distracted on the road. You can even consider taking supplements to improve concentration when you have to survive the long drive, most especially when you did not have enough rest. Go take your coffee if you need to, especially if it can help you avert any accidents.
Learn to Drive Manual
They say that everybody should know how to drive a manual car. Driving with a stick shift adds another layer of involvement between what you do with your hands and feet, and how you put power to the wheels. It makes you think about how the different parts of the driveline interact with each other, and it gives you more information about what the car is doing.
When you’re learning, you feel like you have to pay twice as much attention to everything else on the road. You never think of how people always stop too close to your bumper at stoplights until you’re learning to get used to the clutch at a twelve-lane intersection on a slight incline.