How To Be A Better Driver
There’s a lot of frustratingly bad drivers out there. We don’t need more, so prevent yourself from joining their ranks by being a better driver. There’s several techniques and methods, and some of them are even fun, so pick a few that work for you and commute in safety.
Stop updating your Facebook status, put down your iPhone, and just drive. This is a mental and physical task that needs your attention. Odds are you are in a two ton vehicle with enough momentum to kill anyone that gets in the way. Stop being a jerk and pay attention.
Know the Laws
Not knowing the laws won’t save you if you get pulled over. Ignorance is no excuse. It’s not just the speed limit either, as you need to know right-of-way, where you can’t make a u-turn, and what to do in an emergency. There are even laws on vehicle maintenance, and they exist for a reason. All these laws will make you safer, and protect your wallet from the small town revenue collections officers. “I seen it done a thousand times” is no excuse for not knowing the law.
Use Common Sense
Don’t follow too close. Don’t speed in bad weather (okay, don’t speed). A yield sign is not a stop sign, but do give right of way if other drivers are coming. Use your turn signal! Look farther down the road, not just at the vehicle directly in front of you. Use your mirrors. Don’t eat, text, shave, or put on makeup while driving. Use your brain.
Most of us have taken this boring procedural parade of laws. It’s not fun, and it’s not just for high school, as there are driver’s ed courses available in almost every city catering to students of all ages. If you have never been through driver’s ed, it is generally half classroom instructions on laws and what-if scenarios, and half hands-on driving practice in a beater. You may already have your license, but this class will help you parallel park, and know how to avoid most tickets.
Driver’s safety courses
If you’ve received a traffic citation, especially a massive speeding ticket, odds are you have looked into a driver’s safety course to keep points off your license or prevent your car insurance from going up. While these courses are pretty cheesy, they are short, and do lower the cost of insurance. AARP offers an in-person class to more than just their white haired members. It runs $12, but knocks off $5 a month for the next three years. That’s a $168 savings for about three hours of “work.”
Police driver training
Police have a variety of equipment that they regularly train with. Ideally, your local police department is trained on how to effectively use their cruisers. The same training is available to you, at a price, but with an emphasis on keeping you safe. Expect classroom instruction, then a hands-on approach to emergency acceleration and braking, and even how to properly drive in reverse. Some courses will lower insurance rates, other will not. Bonus: some classes offer to teach you the PIT maneuver. Don’t try it out on the street though.
If you’re a learn by reading type, you’re in luck. Professional race drivers have written books on the subject they know so well, and while a lot can delve into racing position and pit crew theory, some of it is applicable to driving your Geo Metro to work. A more interesting approach might be to hit YouTube for instructional videos. Keep in mind, this isn’t like book publishing, so any dingus can be an instant expert and offer advice. Try to stick with instructional vids, rather than endless hours of weird Russian dashcams.
Your local SCCA autocross meet has no interest in teaching you driving laws, but the monthly meet could be considered an affordable advanced driving school. Autocross is a timed run around a course in your vehicle, even if it is a factory stock daily driver. Repeated runs will teach you your vehicle’s handling limits, and how it responds to quick driver inputs like sudden turns or hard braking through a sharp corner. This will subconsciously teach you how far you can push your ride if an emergency situation shows up out on the road. Plus it’s just plain fun.
Professional Driving School
Hit up a local road course racetrack for a seriously good time, while learning about vehicle handling and the fastest way around a track. Sure, it’s setup for wannabe racecar drivers, but some of the lessons learned here do translate to the street. Lessons generally range from a couple hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on how long the course is, and how much instruction you want. The cheaper ones are a one-day class offering an overview, while the expensive classes can take weeks, and get you ready for various racing license exams.
Anything we missed? If you have any tips on how to be a better driver, we would love to hear ‘em.