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Five habits to kick to be a better driver
They say that old habits die hard, but some are worth kicking. When it comes to driving, you may be doing so in a way that unintentionally decreases safety, inhibits efficiency, or adds unnecessary wear and tear to the inner workings of your vehicle. Here are five things you can consciously train yourself to avoid as a responsible motorist.
Not wearing a seatbelt
This should be a no-brainer. Seatbelts save lives, but too many people still don’t care much for them. Being properly harnessed in your car can secure you in emergency situations like collisions, abrupt stops, and more. No matter how short your trip is or how slow you are going, wearing your seatbelt is still one of the first things you should automatically do when starting your car. Forge this habit any time and every time you get in a vehicle so that it eventually becomes second nature.
Improper hand and arm position
It may look cool to have one hand nonchalantly handling your steering wheel from its top, but in an emergency situation this compromises your ability to fully control your car. Your hands should hold the wheel at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions with arms slightly bent and relatively relaxed. Driving school instructors used to teach students to contact the wheel at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, but this has been modified with the advent and prevalence of airbags. With your hands higher up on the wheel, they can be injured and even thrown to strike your own head with the deployment of airbags. At 9 and 3 o’clock, your hands are kept from harm’s way and should provide more stability to steering input. Lower 8 and 4 o’clock positions are also acceptable and can reduce strain on long drives.
Keep a safe distance between your car and the one in front at all times. This is to ensure that you afford yourself ample reaction time to surprise situations with evasive maneuvers or emergency braking. If you follow a car too closely, there is less room for error and an increased risk of collision. At highway speeds, follow a 2-3 second rule — meaning that it should take you 2-3 seconds to reach the lead vehicle. Remember that the space between you and a lead car should fit two or three vehicles, and watch the behavior of the car in front—as well as the cars and road conditions well ahead. Tailgating should be avoided at slow speeds too, such as in heavy traffic. At an incline, cars can roll downhill when their brakes are released. In traffic, manual cars can sometimes roll in reverse before moving forward from a full stop. Avoid tailgating and reduce chances of unwanted damage.
Coasting on neutral
In a manual car, some people like to save gas by freewheeling at the behest of gravity. Without power sent to your wheels, you will not be able to accelerate in an emergency situation. Fishtailing and losing control is also more likely. Your reaction time is reduced with the additional step of having to put your car in gear in order to make an evasive maneuver.
Riding the brakes
To maintain speed on a downhill, some people take to riding the brakes. Excessive braking can lead to brake fade and you’ll find yourself without proper stopping power after prolonged abuse. Overheating of your brakes can burn them and even burn brake fluid. If you’re driving on twisty mountain roads, you can slow yourself down with engine braking to preserve your brakes for the long haul. With a manual transmission, stay on a low gear to maintain optimal speed while going downhill. Some automatic transmissions come with manual mode, which you can use for this purpose.