Take a good, hard look at this picture. Sear this image into your retinas. Now step back and picture yourself pressing the rewind button, back before this awful catastrophe happened. What do you see the driver doing? Where did the driver go wrong? What could’ve been averted?
Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. My driving instructor once told a younger and more naive version of me that driving is like a sport. He also failed to mention that driving is also more lethal. That said, just as how there are those better at the game of basketball or tennis, it’s easier to accept the idea that there are simply good and bad drivers out there, whether you attribute it to talent, skill, focus, or whatever.
However, just like with any sport, there are fundamental and intuitive rules players must abide by. Within the vast arenas of highways, parking lots, and intersections, these rules aren’t vainly enforced by authorities; instead they avoid potential injuries, confrontation and just bad sportsmanship (aka road rage).
I’m not claiming to be a trophy-sporting, ex-NASCAR race car driver but I’d like to think that there’s more in me than just pure luck that have so far prevented any sort of auto accident whatsoever (*knocks on wood*). My list of top driving tips:
Make sure there’s enough space not only behind you but also in front of you when switching lanes. Four inches between you and the car in front isn’t enough space to save you when they slam the breaks unexpectedly (which causes you to brake, and the car behind you to do so, and the one behind the one…can we say pile up?) Ample room behind your rear bumper saves the fellow behind you, ample room in front of your front bumper saves you.
You’re probably asking “What do you mean? He’s the intimidating one, he should watch out for me. He’s got brakes.” Well yes but according to the biblical law of physics, trucks take a longer time to fully come to a stop because of all the heavy cargo it’s schlepping. For example, let’s image ourselves as Bob Ross and paint the following picture: you pass the truck to your right and without much warning, you cut in front of him. He suddenly slams on his brakes but the force exerted by his brakes is overidden by the force exerted by his 80 ton cargo barreling at 60 mph. The result?: free cans of Pepsi flying all over the highway for everyone to enjoy.
The way to avoid this is to have plenty of space between the two of you (like married couples) before switching over. It’s also helpful to put your blinkers on way in advanced so he knows what it is you’re trying to do; certainly the truck won’t fight with you.
Good driving skills demand owl-like eyesight. This means staying in lane, pedestrians, and also X-ray vision. You don’t need to emblazon your chest with a huge Superman “S” but when possible, try to look past the car in front via their front windshield. Don’t brake because they brake, but do so because the fellow in front of them does. This allows you to brake in advanced and creates a smoother ride.
Your driving instructor may have told you that in addition to always having both hands on the wheel, they should also be at “10 and 12 o’clock.” The problem I find with this is that the slightest hand movements become really jerky swerves. A synchronized turn of both hands in that position exerts more force on the wheel than originally expected.
Rather, how i normally hold the wheel is at 12 and 7 o’clock, so when I want to inch a bit to the left, the hand on does does most of the work while the hand below is merely supporting the turn instead of adding excessive force. I also hold the wheel taut as if I’m stretching it so I have greater control and stability.
Not only does the constant stop-&-go make you and your passengers sick to the stomach, your car also consumes more fuel. Instead, maintain a constant speed and distance from other cars) so when the need to slow down arises, you gently do so instead of jerking back-and-forth.
According to physics, this also prevents traffic for the folks behind you: if a car needs to cut in front of you because of a blocked lane, maintaining a good distance ahead of you relieves the need for you to brake. Road-raged drivers who are merciless in yielding to other cars brake every time a car goes in front of them (and thus creates a pretty parade of brake lights behind them).
In addition to these basic principles, here’s a few others that creates better drivers: always use your blinkers (don’t confuse the hell out of the driver behind you), always check your surroundings at intersections TWICE, show your gratitude to drivers that grant you right of way (a simple wave would do), and most of all, don’t be tense! Listen to some relaxing music, take some deep breaths, and be confident in the game of driving because only sore-losers resort to road rage.