Before humans are ever born we experience the sounds of automobiles and are subjected to their dangers.
Once we enter this majestic world we’re handed all sorts of automobile-related toys. This isn’t just a ‘boy thing’. Girls that are interested in Barbies always want the Barbie Minivans, Convertibles, and other things that Barbie can ride in. Of course, boys love cars and trucks a lot more than most girls.
Almost every day a newborn child will see a car or be placed inside one.
Note: I just realised this may not be the case for children living in third world countries, so most of what I’m discussing here is related to people in first/second world places.
Cars, trucks, and the act of driving could almost be considered a fundamental of life — scary.
Once kids mature in to teenagers they eagerly await the day they get their learners license/permit. The average age to receive said license in most countries is 15 and a half. Read more about driver’s licenses. Up until then these teenagers’ only driving experience is via video games and being in the car with Mom or Dad (that is, if they’re paying attention to what their parents are doing while driving).
Depending on where you live, your methods of driver’s license acquisition may vary from mine; I learned to drive in Australia. I had to go through a process of 3 provisional driver’s licenses over the course of 4 years before I received my full license at the age of 21. I’m glad the rules there are more extensive than, say, the United States — where most states allow people of an average age of 17.5 to receive their full license.
I’m not saying Australia’s methods are better — the rules have become even more strict since I got my license — just that it appears their system is more comprehensive.
I also don’t think that I’m a superb driver. I’ve been known speed from time-to-time, accelerate through amber traffic lights, and maybe spin some tires in the wet. That said, I’ve seen far, far worse drivers on the roads in Australia and the United States.
Just to refresh your memory, I’m going to list some universal DOs and DON’Ts below to make sure you are doing things correctly.
DO wear a seatbelt – In the United States, I see far too many people not wearing seat belts. Apparently it’s not mandatory for people over 16 years old. Just because it’s not a law doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. The law doesn’t force you to breathe, but you do it to survive.
DO use your peripheral vision – You know, the stuff you see out of the corner of your eyes. That’s some good stuff! This includes scanning the road and the sides of the road for possible hazards. Focusing on what’s right in front of you isn’t going to cut it; you need to be able to see that tennis ball bouncing over a fence and heading in to your lane while traveling 70km/h (43.5mph).
DO ride the brake – Reaction times can vary from person to person, but generally it can be rather slow if you just have your foot resting on the accelerator or even flat on the floor (heavenscience forbid!). If you have your foot hovering (not lightly pressing) the brake when you don’t need to accelerate, then your braking reaction time is going to be far quicker; you’ll stop the car far sooner.
DO indicate/signal – Wowzers! In the giant state of Texas I’ve seen more people on the highways that don’t indicate to enter another lane or exit the highway than people that actually do. To me, this is almost like wearing a seatbelt; it’s a habit and it should be done all the time. If you don’t indicate, then how on earth do I know where you’re going? You should always use your indicator even if there’s no one behind you or around you.
Scenario: It’s night time and some kid in a black outfit decides he’s going to cross a road running perpendicular to the one you’re driving on (i.e., running parallel with the direction you’re driving), but you decide to turn on to that perpendicular road without indicating. You can imagine the implications of this.
DO stop, revive, survive – That’s a slogan on Australian roads — Stop. Revive. Survive. It means you should stop driving every 2 hours, stretch, relax, and have something to eat and/or drink. You think two hours isn’t that long, right? Well, when you’re constantly moving your eyes to scan the road, concentrating on maintaining a safe speed, and managing the distance from other cars around you, then you can become fatigued in a short amount of time.
Side note: Rachel and I often drive back and forth from Huntsville to Fort Worth — a 3.5 hour drive (with a stop or two). Recently I decided that we will take these drives in 1.5 hour shifts. This means: if we don’t have time to make a food/drink stop along the way, then we can just switch positions half way through the drive and be able to make it there as quickly as possible.
DO keep in the curb lane unless overtaking – This is a rule in Australia and the USA, yet lots of people enjoy driving in the centre lane next to other cars, so that no one can overtake in either lane. If someone is going too slow, then overtake them and get back in the curb or “slow” lane. This isn’t too much of an issue on highways with 3 lanes or more, but the rule still applies.
DON’T tailgate – Really? People do this? I’ve been living in Texas for a short while and many oversized pick-up trucks and 4WDs like to get really close (I’m talking mere inches) behind cars in the “fast lane” while those cars are overtaking someone. Once the car gets back in to the “curb lane” the large vehicle will scream by (probably with their foot to the floor on the accelerator). There’s really no reason for this. Stay three seconds behind the car in front, please!
DON’T txt/talk – Honestly, driving 1+ tonnes of metal is dangerous enough without adding distractions in to the mix. If you have a friend in the car, then get them to txt/call for you. Otherwise, pull over or wait until you’re at your destination. Thanks.
DON’T be lazy with cruise control – This relates back to DO ride the brake. Cruise control is there so that you can maintain a constant speed without having to constantly press and depress the accelerator. The advantage of this is that you can ride the brake so if there is a hazard that requires you to stop, then your reaction time will be much quicker. Some people may not consider this an advantage because you have to keep your foot at an angle (which can get sore/tiring), but it could save multiple lives!
DON’T place anything between you and an airbag – This could be a difficult thing to do in the most modern cars because many cars now come with side and curtain airbags which pretty much covers any space between the occupant and the car.
The main airbags you want to apply this rule is with the driver and front passenger airbags. Nothing should ever be placed between the driver’s airbag and the driver; airbags are released with such force that anything in this space could become lodged within the drivers body in the event of an airbag deployment. Some passengers may choose to do work or watch a movie on a laptop whilst in the passenger seat.
In most cases this is all fine and dandy, but in all seriousness an airbag could deploy at any time, and you wouldn’t want your laptop smashed against your chest and throat, would you?
DON’T get angry – I’m sure many of us get some road rage from time-to-time, but it’s generally not worth your time and/or energy.
DON’T rev like a manic – Don’t get me wrong, I love to accelerate to the speed limit as quickly as possible or drop it down a gear to overtake someone quickly, but doing this chomps through petrol and in turn the money you pay for it. In short, the lower you keep the RPM on the engine the less fuel you’ll use and the less you’ll have to service your car/engine.
Try not to be scared – This isn’t really a do or don’t, but I just wanted to touch on it. Many of my friends in Sydney are “afraid” to drive across the Sydney Harbour Bridge or in the CBD or anywhere they’re not familiar with. You should be scared to drive in general because it’s a dangerous thing to do (haul a huge hunk of metal at speed), and generally you need to watch out for other drivers’ actions more than your own, but you shouldn’t be afraid to drive in certain areas. A road is a road and having more or less cars around you will give you more experience as a driver.
That’s all the fundamental tips I have for you in relation to driving. If there’s something I missed or something you don’t agree with, then please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Update: I’ve written a post on how a car is a weapon, and why you should take driving seriously. Read it here.
Be safe out there, friends!