Driving Smart:  12 Things That Can Make You a Better Driver

By Michael Albee
Over the course of your lifetime you will most likely be involved in an automobile accident. It may not be your fault, but the law of averages says it will happen.

crash1Most of us who enjoy the “car hobby” think that we are at least “average” drivers, and some of us would even rate ourselves as an “above average” driver. While this may be true, the truth of the matter is, we all take unnecessary risks and chances when we are behind the wheel. Those who take the most risks and/or chances are the focus of this article.

Since you are one of the “above average” drivers, you will only need to briefly review this list, but please feel free to send a link to anyone you know that should really spend some time pouring over it. And Yes, There WILL be a test …. It will begin the next time you get behind the wheel.

1). Know Your Limitations
Most cars (and trucks) today are grossly underpowered. For this reason alone, pulling out into traffic without a proper safety cushion can lead to being hit from behind, or at the very least receiving less than positive accolades from the driver you did it to. This tip is VERY important when you are entering the freeway from an on-ramp. It is very important that you merge at the speed of traffic to avoid causing, or being involved in, a high-speed crash. If you do not feel comfortable driving onto a freeway at 70 miles per hour, by all means, please take the surface streets.

2). Know Your Car’s Limitations
The timely and proper combination of acceleration, braking and/or steering can save you a lot of money in autobody repairs and insurance premiums. If something unexpected happens around you, knowing what your vehicle is capable of, can help you avoid an accident. I suggest that you find a vacant stretch of roadway (or better yet, a big parking lot) and find out what your car is capable of when you “Hop, Hold, and Turn.”

Hop, refers to you slamming on the brake pedal hard. (Simulating a panic stop). Hold, refers to you continuing to hold the peddle down hard until the car has come to a complete stop. And Turn, is turning the steering wheel left or right to avoid an object that might be in front of you. Other than using up a little bit extra brake material, these exercises won’t hurt the car, and practicing these moves before you have an emergency situation can be critical to helping you avoid an accident. Don’t just practice this once under normal conditions. Do it in the rain and snow too.

cast13). Be Prepared
The Boy Scouts aren’t the only ones who need this one! As a driver, you always need to leave yourself a way out! While you are driving, you need to be watching the traffic in front, beside and behind you and be aware of “What Could Happen”. If you don’t, and an emergency situation pops up, you may be involved in an accident that could have been avoided. Many car crashes could be avoided if the drivers would have been prepared and had been thinking about all of the possible scenarios.

4). See And Be Seen
Although this is one of the first things we all learned in Drivers Education, some of us may have forgotten it. How many times have you been cut-off, had someone change lanes and almost remove your front bumper or honk and “wave” when you pulled out in front of them? In most cases this happens because they (or you) didn’t see them or they didn’t see you. When behind the wheel, the drive must be sure to watch for other vehicles and make sure that the vehicle they are in is not in the “blind spot” of anyone else on the road.

driving25). Maintain a Safe Distance
Although this has been touched on above, keeping a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front or behind you, needs to be explained.

Under normal driving conditions, traveling at 60 mph, you are traveling at a rate of approximately 88 feet per second. The average passenger car takes well over 180 feet to go from 70 mph to Zero. This means that if the driver in front of you slams on the brakes to miss a deer, a car or something else in the road, you will need a minimum of just under 2 1/2 seconds to bring your car to a safe stop. When you add in some time for you to react to what you see happening in front of you, it should be more like 4 seconds. That amount of distance is equal to more than the length of a football field.

6). Maintain Your Vehicle for Safety
You wouldn’t go outside when it’s 20 below zero without a coat on … so why would you drive your car with a low tire, a broken tail light or windshield wipers that don’t wipe cleanly. A simple check of all of your lights, the tires and tire pressures, windshield wipers and washer fluid once per week will only take you about 3-5 minutes and it can save you a lot of money in repairs and even your life in some cases.

Replacing your windshield wipers is recommended twice a year, and it will insure that you will always be able to see in the rain and snow. Making sure that your tires are inflated properly will not only save you money at the pump it will save you money because you will not have to replace them as often.

You should also have your brake pads, rotors, brake drums and rear brake shoes checked periodically as well. (Once every two years on the average, more often if you put more than 30,000 miles on your car each year).

7). LOOK Before Backing
You don’t have to always choose parking spaces that you can drive straight out of, but if you drive a vehicle that has limited rear view this should be a priority to be as safe as possible. Before pulling out of the parking space always walk around your vehicle to be sure there are no toys, pets or small children playing around your vehicle.

Because you have a limited field of vision when backing, try to limit your backing to the shortest distance possible in order to reduce your chances of hitting something you cant see.

8). Winter Driving
If you are forced to park your car outside during the winter months, you are going to have to deal with frosty or steamed windows as well as snow and ice. For the safety of yourself and everyone you will cross paths with …. Please, clean your windows off so you can see out of every window. Don’t just scrap a little hole in it, Clean the whole window. Remember, it’s all about being able to see what’s going on around you. Also, in most states, if you are involved in an accident and your windows are not scraped clean, you can be charged with “driving with obstructed view”. And trust me, Your Insurance Company will NOT love you if you get this ticket!!!

driving19). Drive Smart
Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Reading the paper, applying your makeup or changing your cloths at 65 mph on the freeway can get you and/or someone else killed. Even at 35 mph someone can be seriously injured or hospitalized.

Talking on your cell phone while driving is also very dangerous. Especially in traffic. When you are talking to someone on the phone you do not have your full concentration on your driving. Pay Attention … A recent study found that in almost three-quarters of the accidents reported, the driver was inattentive within three seconds of the crash. Investigating officers say that far too often the drivers say, “I never saw the other car until right before we hit.” Well, If you’re not paying attention, you won’t see the other car until it lands in your lap.

10). Do It Sober
Despite over two decades of education and enforcement, a third of fatal accidents involve a drunk or alcohol impaired driver.

car-tree11). Street Racing
This is not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination. It has been going on as long as time has been recorded. As far back as ancient Rome, we have raced to see who had the fastest horse, chariot, boat, car or airplane.

The fact remains that Street Racing is one of the most dangerous things that you can every do. This is because you have no control of the situation. All it takes is a small animal such as a rabbit or squirrel to run out in front of a speeding car to make the driver swerve or hit the brakes. A sudden jerk of the wheel or hard braking can cause a car to go out of control. Now, replace that animal with a playing child, or someone in a car pulling on from a driveway or side street and you have an instant receipt for disaster.

What if a street racer has an equipment failure, such as a blown tire, steering failure or a drive train problem? This can also cause the driver to loose control of the car and end up in the back seat of someone’s parked car or in someone’s living room.

If you feel that you must race your vehicle, take it to the track. They are equipped to safely handle vehicles that run at high speeds, and the track is designed just for that purpose.

driving312). Calm and Courteous
This needs to be the motto of every driver on the road! We all have a common goal and that is to get were we are going without having a problem.

Every time I make a trip across town or across the country, I get passed by someone doing 15-20 miles per hour over the speed limit, only to pull up behind them at the next stoplight or interstate exit.

If you are in that big of a hurry, leave a few minutes earlier. If you are not, cut back on the Starbucks or the Mountain Dew.

I also, often find myself behind someone driving 50 mph in the fast lane at rush hour, or cutting me off at the bottom of an entrance ramp because they are either to lazy to move over one lane or just don’t want me to get in front of them for some reason. Come On People, courtesy goes both ways. Let’s all be friends out there!!!

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