It’s uncommon to pick up a few poor habits once you’ve been driving for a time and gain some confidence behind the wheel. While we may dismiss them as hallmarks of our own unique driving style that have little impact on others, the combination of thousands of drivers with a few bad habits can easily equal an increase in the number of accidents.
The on-road Instructor at Task Driving Academy sheds some light on a few typical undesirable driving behaviours and why you should break them.
Road rage isn’t usually accompanied by tailgating. Some drivers are unaware of how close they are to the vehicle in front of them and get overly comfortable with their position to other vehicles. One of the simplest and most efficient strategies to reduce the frequency of accidents on our roads, in my opinion, is to provide more space between vehicles.
As a driver instructor, I always emphasise the importance of maintaining a safe following distance. The following is the recommended safe distance:
In the city, a minimum follow distance of 2 seconds is required.
On the highway, there is a 3-4 second following distance.
Following distances are determined by selecting and focussing on a stationary object ahead of you. Count the seconds (one thousand, two thousand) until you reach the same stationary object as the car in front of you to establish your following distance.
If you try this and can only get to “one, one-thou,” you’re too near for any and all roads!
Drivers have more time to react when there is enough space. Do yourself a favour and set aside that time every day.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE SHOULDER CHECKS
The good ol’ shoulder check. Every time you change lanes or make a turn, you’re supposed to do this. Unfortunately, this is again another technique that is all-too-often overlooked. Our vehicles now include blind spot detectors, which can be very useful, but they should never be used as a substitute for safe driving techniques.
The regular shoulder check is always a good idea. You’re meant to do this every time you change lanes or make a turn. Unfortunately, this is yet another approach that goes unnoticed much too often. Blind spot detectors are now standard equipment in many vehicles, and while they can be quite beneficial, they should never be utilised in place of safe driving methods.
Are you going to make a left turn? Bring your chin to your left shoulder just before making the turn, and examine your blind spot for any dangers or pedestrians. Always check your shoulders in the direction you’re going.
Taking a RIGHT? LEFT SHOULDER CHECK ARE YOU ON THE RIGHT TRACK? RIGHT shoulder check It’s that easy, and shoulder checks are usually only required once every turn.
TAKING THE STEERING WHEEL FROM THE INSIDE (AKA HOOKING)
This is something I see all the time. Right now, try this simple experiment:
- Hold your right arm at a 90-degree angle in front of you, palm facing your face.
- As if you were turning left, bring your palm down to your chest.
- Determine the extent of your range of motion. Were you able to complete that short motion without difficulty
- Pull your arm down to the right this time, and do the same thing.
What was your impression of that? Is it possible for you to succeed? I’m not aware of anyone who can help you.
Consider the following scenario: you’re turning left with your hand on the inside of the steering wheel. You have to steer right to avoid a pedestrian who suddenly leaps out in front of you. Is it possible for you to succeed? No, I doubt it. Not only does clutching the inside of the steering wheel provide little steering control, but guess what else is flying at your face if your air bag locates? Your forearm, specifically.
Keep your hands on the outside of the steering wheel at all times. It not only gives you control over any steering adjustments, but it also keeps your hands and arms away from your face in the event that your air bag activates.
OVERLOOKING YOUR “BLINKER”/TURN SIGNAL
It’s critical that we communicate with other road users as we throw ourselves ahead at speeds of 50/70/100 km/hr or more. If only our cars had some type of special technology that allowed us to speak with other drivers… Turn signals, oh no.
“Do I need to signal here?” many of my learners wonder. “Would it help clear what our aims are?” I generally respond. Frequently, the answer is yes.
We’re all on the road together, so let’s make driving and talking with one another as safe and straightforward as possible. Put your signal on if you’re unsure. Bottom line: communicate with other road users by using your turn signals.
DRIVING IS ALL OR NEITHER.
Many drivers are constantly pressing on the brakes or pressing on the acceleration. There are moments, though, when neither pedal has to be pressed.
Without braking, your vehicle will begin to slow down naturally. Simply lift your foot off the accelerator and allow the car slow down naturally when you need to increase your following distance, slow down for a lower speed limit, or begin slowing down for a red light ahead.
When we see brake lights ahead of us, our immediate reaction is to apply the brakes, but this causes a chain reaction of brake lights to appear behind us. When approaching a red light or needing to be at 30 km/h for an approaching school zone, it’s sometimes required, but when driving at 100 km/h on the freeway, we don’t want to be flashing our brake lights unless it’s really necessary.
Frequently, simply removing our foot from the accelerator and covering the brake pedal with our right foot is enough. It’s also more fuel efficient, makes increasing speed easier, and removes the brake light chain reaction.
These are just a few of the most common driving mistakes that many instructors see on a daily basis. Try breaking these harmful behaviours and notice how much better your driving becomes!