6 driving habits to unlearn
Cars and driving conditions have come a long way since most of us first got behind the wheel, yet how many of us have taken the time to update our old-school habits? The experts from RAA Driver Education look at some old-school driving techniques you need to update.
Positioning your side mirrors too close to your car
Most people were taught to position their side mirrors so that they can see the entire flanks of their car; but this is actually wrong and increases your blind spots.
Basically, by positioning your mirrors this far inward, you’re unnecessarily overlapping with the view you can see in your rearview mirror, while cutting out the crucial view of the lane next to you.
To find the correct position, simply angle them outward away from your car until no part of your vehicle can be seen in the mirror.
Some people feel that being able to see their own car helps them judge the angle and distance of the objects around them. If you choose to do this, you should set the mirrors so that you can only see a sliver of your car at most.
When done properly, a car should seamlessly transition from your rearview mirror to your side mirrors and then to your peripheral vision, minimising blind spots.
Remember, you should always still glance to your side before changing lanes.
Forcing your ‘right of way’
For years, many drivers have used the phrase ‘I’ve got right of way’; however, there’s actually no such thing.
While the Australian Road Rules certainly require drivers to give way in many different situations (more than 30, in fact), this doesn’t automatically give the other driver the right to simply plough ahead.
Rather, RAA’s Senior Manager of Driver Education, Michael Simmons, says that all drivers have a legal obligation to avoid a crash if possible.
‘So bottom line: while another driver may be required to give way to you, don’t force your way through if it’s not safe. We all need to look out for one another because mistakes can happen,’ Mr Simmons says.
How you hold the steering wheel
Those who learnt to drive before the age of airbags were told to hold the steering wheel at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock – and many would have also passed this technique down to their kids.
While that method is still acceptable, changes in car technology mean there might be a better way of doing things.
Indeed, Mr Simmons says that there’s now a preference for holding the wheel at 9 and 3.
‘With most cars now having airbags, this position ensures your hands are in a safer spot should the airbag deploy,’ he explains. ‘What’s more, hands at 9 and 3 also gives you slightly more control over the car.’
While most new drivers do start out holding the wheel correctly, many of us have developed bad habits over time, such as holding the wheel with one hand or gripping the wheel on the inside. ‘No matter how long we’ve been driving for, it’s important to maintain good techniques and not get lazy.’
Changing gears one by one
Old-school drivers may shake their heads at the thought of this, but when shifting into a lower gear in modern manual cars, you don’t always need to go one by one. It’s now quite acceptable to skip a gear – going straight from fifth to third for example. ‘The correct technique here is to brake to the speed you need and then select the appropriate gear for that speed,’ Mr Simmons says.
So why is this now okay?
‘Modern brakes are so much better,’ he explains. ‘So the old expression “to save your brakes” doesn’t apply anymore.
‘What’s more, skipping gears decreases the workload on your gearbox and clutch, which are more expensive to maintain.’
Remember that if you’re relying on your gears to slow the car and haven’t put your foot on the brake yet, then your brake lights won’t be activated – so be aware of cars behind you. Not communicating with the traffic behind you increases the risk of a rear-end crash.
While we’re talking about changing gears, make sure you move your hand back to the steering wheel as soon as possible, rather than driving with one hand on the gearstick.
Rotating your wheels while waiting to turn right
If you’re stopped at an intersection waiting to make a right turn across traffic, make sure you keep your steering wheel straight. Many drivers point their wheels in the direction they’re about to head, ready to make their move. But this attempt at a speedy take off is actually dangerous.
‘Put it this way: if you happen to be rear-ended while waiting, you’ll be pushed directly into the path of oncoming traffic,’ Mr Simmons warns.
As congestion increases and roads become even busier, it’s more important than ever to break this bad habit.
Letting passengers rest their feet on the dash
It’s not just drivers who have out-dated habits they should break. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see a passenger with their feet resting on the dashboard, particularly on a warm summer’s day with the windows down. Once upon a time this wasn’t too much of a problem; however, airbags have changed the equation. By resting their feet on the dash, passengers are putting themselves directly in the path of the front airbag… not the spot you want to be should the airbag deploy.
Read the article in the e-magazine here.
Image credits: iStock, RAA.