According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.35 million people die each year because of road accidents. About 90% of road deaths and accidents are due to poor driving techniques and human error.
A lot of them are also due to the driver’s negligence and recklessness. This is sad because other road users (pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists) are the ones who get hurt half of the time.
Mastering a few driving techniques can help you own various tricks and tips that will maximize your driving and road safety confidence. It would be best if you always looked forward to improving your driving skills to be better at defensive driving and better at teaching others the same.It is our duty as vehicle owners and drivers to ensure each other’s safety, protect other road users and maintain our vehicles’ conditions as much as we can.
Why is it essential to improve your driving skills?
Mastering your driving techniques is important to you and other road users. Simple mistakes and poor techniques can lead to severe consequences on the road. It is essential to polish and improve your driving skills so that you can protect yourself and others.
Moreover, who doesn’t want to be the best driver on the road, a Dominic Toretto, you might say, doing Fast and Furious like maneuvers – stunts from these movies should always be avoided, though.
Driving techniques and skills can diminish with time, and it is crucial to keep practicing. A lot of us tend to let go of the standard protocols once we get our license. With no one to examine or vet our methods, we drive as we wish, throwing away the required best practices. You need to polish your driving skills to become a better driver and a master at something beneficial.
Characteristics of a safe driver
Everyone thinks they are good at driving. After passing the driver’s test and getting your license, your ego tends to become over-inflated. And it is okay; it happens. You start relaxing your seat way more than you should and start making sharp turns even when you know you shouldn’t.
You will need to frequently horn and improve your driving techniques to be considered a good driver. Learn a new method, excellent short cuts, and tricks. However, most of what makes a good driver has more to do with mental abilities than technical ones. Here is a list of a few characteristics of a good driver that can help you improve your driving skills:
1. Right attitude
The road can be frustrating and very tasking. It will test you daily, and this involves the driving conditions and other drivers too. The key to deal with all of this is to be calm and tolerant of the situation.
A good driver knows how to take charge of his/her attitude in emergencies and minor road inconveniences. A good driver knows his/her habits, good or bad, and knows how to improve them. He/she also knows how to be present and carry out the best action in any given situation.
No one is perfect. There is always more to learn. Please have the right attitude towards your shortcomings and how to improve on them.
2. Knowledge and expertise
A good driver is fully aware of what he/she may encounter on the road, the rules to be followed, the places and conditions to avoid. He/she knows the vehicle’s ability and condition. He/she knows what may lead to accidents, which roads to take, and which ones to avoid.
3. Mastering defensive driving
Defensive driving entails the ability to understand, identify and react to potentially dangerous situations before they happen to protect yourself and others.
Good drivers know how to anticipate, predict and react to various situations. Such situations may include; pedestrians about to cross the road, a driver about to overtake, the motion of other vehicles, obstacles on the road, stray animals, or even kids playing near the road.
A good driver knows not to be impatient while behind the wheel. Traffic jams, car troubles, and impaired drivers’ presence on the road are enough to make any driver go crazy. You will need to learn how to collect and calm yourself in such situations if you want to be a good driver.
Good drivers take responsibility for their actions. Everyone makes mistakes here and then; owning them and taking steps to rectify them is a great skill. This is crucial, especially when you get involved in an accident and answer for it.
6. Educated and trained
You obviously cannot call yourself a good driver if you are not well trained and educated from a reputable driving school. Yes, there are some things you can teach yourself or be taught by your parents. However, there are other things that you or your parents may overlook regardless of their importance. Furthermore, taking courses can teach you how to be a confident driver and improve your driving skills.
7. Car maintenance
A good driver knows that a poorly maintained car is unsafe for anyone on the road. Good drivers will regularly maintain their vehicles and keep them at optimal performance at all times.
Driving skill checklist
A driving skill checklist will help you prepare for the driver’s test and improve your driving techniques. There are a few standardized protocols that make most driving checklists, which we will list in this article. You can contact your local DMV for more information and guidelines.
Beginner level checklist
- Pre-vehicle checks.
- In-vehicle checks.
- Starting the vehicle.
- Smooth driving – how to move and steer the vehicle smoothly and correctly.
- A visual scan of the inside and outside of the vehicle
- Smooth braking – how to brake and stop the vehicle smoothly and accurately.
- Accurate turns.
- Backing up techniques.
- Parking techniques.
- Posture techniques.
Intermediate level checklist
- Following distance – a minimum of 2-second following distance.
- Communication with other drivers.
- Twelve seconds of scanning ahead.
- Rules and regulations – precisely road signs and speed limits at this level.
- Signaling – a minimum of 100 feet ahead of making a turn.
- Hazard identification.
- Parking – on a curb, on an incline, on an angle, and straight-in parking.
- Defensive driving – for rural areas, urban areas, hospitals, neighborhoods, and school zones.
- Roundabouts – entering and exiting.
- Intersections – maneuvering through open and traffic-controlled intersections correctly and safely.
- Scanning – in and around the vehicle.
Advanced level checklist
- Night visibility – compensating for reduced visibility at night for night driving.
- Weather visibility – compensating for different weather conditions; heavy rains, light rains, hail, and fog.
- Driving on the expressway.
- Highways – entering and exiting.
- Traffic – driving, and maneuvering through rush hour traffic and jams.
- Motorcyclists and cyclists – identifying and responding to the motions of motorcycles and bikes.
- Handling hazards – sufficiently addressing several tricky driving hazards.
- Emergency protocols – how to take yourself in emergencies and protocols to follow.
- Escape routes – identifying escape routes and best ways out of multiple road situations.
What should be noticed before getting on the road?
There is nothing more frustrating to a driver than his/her car breaking down in the middle of the road. It destroys your peace of mind, especially when you thought your car was fine.
It is advisable to perform a thorough safety inspection, and if necessary, maintenance procedure before getting on the road. Here is a list of the things you will need to consider; some of them are easy and straight forward to do yourself, whereas others may need a mechanic:
1. Condition of your tires.
Tires need to be in the best condition, especially when you are getting on the road for hours on end. Tires are perhaps the most important and first part of the vehicle that you should always check.
Check for any punctures or tears in your tire, and you can hire a mechanic to do this if you do not have the expertise or resources. Perform a pressure check on your tire to make sure it is well inflated.
You will also need to check the tread depth and see if the tires are incredibly worn out (the recommended safe tire depth is above 4/32 inches). Spare tires should replace worn-out ones immediately. This brings us to the next step – get a spare tire. Make sure the spare wheel has a wheel inflated tire with enough pressure.
2. Fluids and oil.
You will need to perform a couple of fluid checks: fuel, oil, brake fluid, coolant, transmission fluid, radiator coolant, windshield washer fluid, and power steering fluid. A mechanic will know exactly how to do all of these checks, but you can perform them yourself if you can.
You may be shocked that fuel checks are on this list, but surprisingly, most people forget and end up stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Check your oil levels to see if they are between the minimum and maximum levels using your car’s dipstick. Add the oil if needed.
You do not want your car to overheat or your engine to freeze. Check coolant levels when the engine is cold and find the correct coolant that can be used to top it up if needed.
A tank under the bonnet houses the windshield washer fluid; check it and top it up with an appropriate replacement. You can find this at most petrol stations.
After checking the fluids, you will now be in the right position to know if you have leaks under the hood. The leaks may be found in the components housing the fluids or along the hoses transmitting them. Another way to know your leak is to look on the floor of your garage for any shiny texture, oily-looking spills.
You should fix the leaks immediately, if any.
You do not want to drive in an unknown region in those dangerous hours of the night with broken or malfunctioning lights. Fix broken ones and replace others if necessary.
You should also check the wipers. Make sure they are working properly on the windscreen and avoid making your vision blurry.
6. Brake pads
In regular use, brake pads will eventually require replacements between 25 000 and 70 000 miles. Your driving style and vehicle model highly predicate this. Please take note of any unusual noises from the brake pads and report them to your mechanic. He/she will be able to determine if they are in good condition or need replacements.
4-year-old batteries need to be replaced since they have probably reached the end of their life cycles. Check for any corrosion on the terminals and clean them with hot water, apply petroleum jelly afterward.
Get the battery checked out if your engine has problems starting when you turn on the ignition. More importantly, your mechanic should check the starting and charging system – this is to notice whether your battery is being drained more than usual.
Problems with steering can be caused by poor wheel alignment. A mechanic or technician can take the car for a spin and note any irregular steering motions.
9. Air conditioning
You will not have fun on a road trip, especially during the summer, if your air conditioning is faulty or broken. You may be able to inspect the pipework visually, but you will need a professional to check the entire system thoroughly.
10. Air filters
Clogged air filters will not protect your car’s interior from outside particles and debris. It can also lead to poor fuel efficiency and reduced engine power. Mechanics recommend you change your air filters after 12 000 miles or after 12 months. Perform a visual inspection and replace them if needed.
Tips for mastering your skills
1. Driving training courses
It can be a little bit weird to go for driving training courses when you are already driving. However, these courses can be beneficial if you want to improve your driving techniques.
Driving courses will teach you how to be a confident driver. There are some shortcuts, and speeding tricks that experienced drivers can only guide.
These courses are essential, especially those for defensive driving. Such courses will teach you how to avoid hazards on the road and anticipate multiple occurrences to predict potentially harmful situations.
2. Neglect your distractions
Ditch every distraction that may tempt you to look away from the road. These include; texts, calls, food, and even passengers. Your head should be kept straight and looking forward apart from the occasional glances at the rear-view and side mirrors.
3. Safety first
Ensure to adhere to all the safety vehicle and road precautions provided by your car manufacturer and the law in general. We all know that some may seem extreme, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
4. Know your vehicle
Good drivers have in-depth knowledge and understanding of their vehicles.
5. Stick to the speed limit
The first reason to keep the speed limit is that it is a road rule and regulation. Getting stopped for over speeding is not fun for anybody.
The second reason is for your safety and car handling skills. High speeds will mess with your confidence and make you worried about your level of control and maneuverability. You will find it difficult to stop in time and make specific movements, especially if you notice an incoming accident.
Moreover, steady speeds will help you perform head checks – to safely look away from the driving lane to check for objects on the sides of the driving lane.
6. Don’t worry about other drivers
Fear, worry, and intimidation may prompt you into worrying about other drivers. Don’t. Focus on your driving, do not be distracted. Please don’t focus on the other drivers, whether they are speeding or doing certain maneuvers. Keep your head straight and pay attention to the road.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
It does indeed make things perfect. As you may well know, you have to practice something if you ever want to be good at it. Driving is no exception.
You can practice by changing locations, going to rough rounds, longer roads, curvy roads, residential areas, rural and urban areas. You can also use simulation games to practice hand-eye coordination, speed changing when making turns, and judging distances.
Mastering the most crucial driving techniques can seem like a less important thing for typical drivers to do. Most drivers will be okay with knowing the bare minimum. However, it is essential always to remember the benefits of mastering these driving techniques.
The skills will help you avoid lots of close calls, reduce damages to your vehicle, reduce injuries from minor and major accidents, lower repair costs, but most importantly, reduce stress while driving.