Driving is easy, right? It must be because, right now, about 16 million Australians are legally entitled to drive cars and trucks or ride motorcycles.
For most of us, it was a case of putting in the appropriate training with mum or dad and sweating through the license test to get that magic piece of plastic (or paper) giving us the ability to fly solo.
What did we do after that? Not a lot, really. Few of us ever bothered to brush up on our skills because we either didn’t know where to find a training course or reasoned it was a kind of on-the-job training format and the fewer times we crashed into anything, the better we were getting at it.
Like it or not though, while cars are getting safer and easier to drive the driving environment is becoming more difficult. There are more people in a hurry, more traffic lights and stop signs, more pedestrians taking matters into their own hands and always, always, a pressing need for everyone to be somewhere 10 minutes ago.
And while we cannot teach you any more driving skills than you already have, we can give tips on being a more relaxed and more responsive driver.
At 60km/h a car travels almost 84 metres in five seconds. A distracted driver could do a lot of damage in that distance.
First, settle into your car and make sure everything is where you left it, that the mirrors ae correctly placed, the music volume is just right and the seat and steering wheel positions are satisfactory.
After that, put your mobile phone where it cannot be reached or, if you are expecting an important call, be prepared to stop and take the call. If your mobile phone is indispensable, spend a few dollars on a hands-free Bluetooth kit and, even then, keep calls short because they are still a distraction.
Of our five senses, those for seeing and hearing are the most important when we are driving. You need to be able to hear revving engines (is that a motorcycle you can hear from somewhere in your mirror’s blind spot?), emergency vehicle sirens and honking horns.
As for sight, drivers need to be constantly scanning. Look around you for pedestrians or cyclists moving up on your left. Check all three rear vision mirrors as often as possible, look as far ahead as possible to see potential problems before they become real ones.
Always drive to suit the conditions, keeping in mind that slowing a little in inclement weather makes you a smart driver, not a bad one.And remember, with both hands on the steering wheel in the “quarter-to-three” position you and the car are both in balance with each other. Because of all the distractions drivers need to concentrate. At 60km/h a car travels almost 84 metres in five seconds. A distracted driver could do a lot of damage in that distance.
Stay smooth.Hard acceleration, harsh braking, rapid and constant lane changing and going around corners too quickly are not only unsafe but also wear tyres and brakes prematurely and use more petrol.Maintain your lane, brake gently and practice clean, progressive acceleration.
Driver Safety Australia spokesman, Russell White, says good drivers continuously observe their environment and that includes looking as far ahead as possible. “Drivers need to maintain safe distances between themselves and vehicles in front, frequently check their mirrors, plan moves well in advance, try to anticipate possible dangers, drive to suit the conditions on the day and stay focused,” White said.
Our final tip for better driving? Be courteous and patient.It costs you nothing in money or time, is good for your blood pressure and your fellow road users will appreciate you for it.
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