Driving tips

After driving vehicles for a number of years, there are some things that I think are worth passing on.

Look ahead!  Watch what is happening down the road a bit, don’t just stare at what is right in front of you.  Be observant of people waiting to turn left, so that you don’t get trapped behind them.  Watch for emergency vehicles, pedestrians, people backing out of driveways, anything that might affect traffic flow.  By being alert to what is ahead, you can avoid surprises and unnecessary delays.

Try not to get ‘boxed in’, where you have vehicles in front of you, beside you, and behind you.  Try to keep an escape path clear if something were to happen in front of you.

Don’t stop!  Well, sometimes you have to, but on many occasions, you can avoid coming to a complete stop.  Why?  Because starting from a complete stop requires more energy than accelerating from a crawl.  Plus, it puts more wear on the vehicle.  If you are coming up on a red light, slow down before you are up to the waiting traffic, then roll forward slowly.  At a stop sign, slow right down, look both ways, TWICE, then move through if clear.  You will not be stopped by the police for failure to stop if it looks like you came to a stop.

When the roadway is really rough, drive at the edge of the lane.  Try to stay out of the ‘ruts’, the most heavily traveled part of the lane, because the ride is rougher, you will have more resistance to changing direction, and hydroplaning during rain is more likely.

When you are driving in winter conditions, avoid the black part of the lane when slowing down, because it might be glare ice.  If you are having trouble stopping, try to get onto less firmly packed snow and ice.  Slow down well before you need to stop or turn, so that you are less likely to lose traction.

If you are driving a vehicle with automatic overdrive, switch it off in town.  It will try to engage at even 20 miles per hour, resulting in delays before accelerator pedal input takes effect, deposits building up in your engine, and reduced mileage after a while.  When you come to hill on the interstate, shift out of overdrive before you start up the grade, so that your engine will be turning over faster when the load increases.

If you are starting out from a stop sign or signal, turning right onto another roadway, look for pedestrians and bicycles before giving it the gas.

If you are on a hill, at an intersection, apply the handbrake to hold the car, then give it gas until the engine starts to lug down and release the brake.  This will prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards.

When stopping a vehicle with an automatic transmission on slick roadways, put the transmission in ‘neutral’.  The engine is trying to keep the wheels turning whenever the transmission is in ‘Drive’, and vehicles with lots of power accessories often have the idle set very high.  But all vehicles with automatics will be easier to stop if the transmission is in ‘neutral.’

Shift down going up steep hills.  Many automatic transmissions will not downshift until the engine is lugging badly, which is bad for it.  If it is a long, steep hill, turn off the air conditioning, as it puts additional load on the engine.  If you are having problems with the engine overheating, turn the heat up all the way, and crank the fan to the highest setting.  The heater will help to cool the engine.

Learn how to stop the vehicle with the emergency brake, by holding the button on the hand brake, or pulling out the handle for the parking brake while engaging the brake.  This is a back up system to the regular braking system, which will work even if you rupture a brake line and lose all the brake fluid, or if the engine stalls and you lose the power assist.  You must be careful that the brake does not lock in the ‘on’ position, so that is why you depress the button on the hand brake, or pull the handle out for the foot brake.

Check your mirrors every few seconds.  It is important to know what is going on around you.  If you are stopped in traffic waiting for someone to turn or to back out, watch your mirror.  If you see someone coming up behind you who does not look like they are going to stop, put your head back against the head rest, and get ready to stand on the gas.  Having your vehicle moving 1 mile per hour at impact will lessen the shock as compared to being at a standing stop.

Turn your lights on when driving on the highway.  It makes it much easier for others to see you.

Don’t drive with your left foot on the brake pedal.  You can brake with your left foot all you want, but driving with your foot on the pedal often results in your brake lights being on all the time, because the switch that turns them on activates after the pedal is depressed the slightest amount.  Having your brake lights on all the time is like having no brake lights at all:  People can’t tell that you are slowing down, and rear end you.  And it will be your fault.

Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you.  You may have superhuman reactions, but even they won’t help you if you are following too closely.  Back off, and watch what is going on in front of the car in front of you.

That is enough for now, I think.

 

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