How To Be a Better Driver: 10 Tips
Driving is a big responsibility. But perhaps because many of us drive to and from work every day and eventually clock thousands upon thousands of miles on the road, lots of folks treat driving as something they don’t need to become better at.
Like anything else, driving is a skill. But unlike many other skills, driving well is vital for the safety of yourself and others. With that in mind, let’s break down how you can become a better driver by following 10 easy tips.
First and foremost, practice defensive driving.
Defensive driving includes:
- Not letting anger or aggression get the better of you
- Allowing other cars enough space if they are driving rudely or aggressively
- Not pursuing other vehicles to “punish” them
- Always keeping plenty of space between yourself and other cars
- And more
In other words, driving defensively means driving with protection and safety in mind, not speed or beating someone else to your destination.
Know Your Car
Naturally, you’ll drive best in a car you fully and intimately understand. To that end, make sure that you know your car and all of its safety features, how it turns, and the condition of its tires.
When you rent a car, you should take care to inspect the vehicle thoroughly so you know what to expect when you get behind the wheel.
Knowing your car is the best way to manage difficult driving conditions. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to anticipate your car’s response to certain movements or commands more accurately than if you had to drive a car you weren’t fully in-tune with.
Situate Your Mirrors and Seat
Be sure to always situate your mirrors and driver’s seat whenever you sit down (unless you don’t share the car with another person). Mirror positioning and seat position can affect your comfort, how quickly you’re able to respond to potential hazards on the road, and how good of a mental picture you can make when deciding whether to switch lanes or check for traffic behind you.
Look Significantly Ahead
When in the driver’s seat, always look significantly ahead. Many drivers keep their eyes glued to the front of their hood or the road just in front of their vehicle. This is a mistake.
Instead, you should constantly be scanning the road significantly ahead of your car, checking for hazards of potential threats. In this way, you’ll be able to anticipate problems with plenty of time to take evasive maneuvers or protect yourself in other ways.
By looking significantly ahead, you’ll also practice defensive driving, as touched on above.
Never Let Your Eyes Rest
By the same token, you should never let your eyes rest when you are driving a car. Always be scanning and checking for potential hazards or problems, particularly if you are driving on a freeway or driving in any crowded environment.
The gap between you and the vehicle that suddenly stops can shrink to almost nothing in an instant. That’s why you should never “zone out” or just stare at the same place in the road for more than a second or two. Scan, scan, scan!
Remember the 4-Second Rule
The 4-second rule simply states that you should allow yourself about four seconds’ worth of distance between yourself and the nearest vehicle in front of you. If you do this, you’ll give yourself four seconds to respond to any sudden hazards, like the car ahead of you suddenly braking in response to an environmental obstruction.
At higher speeds, such as well on the freeway, this can translate to quite a bit of distance between yourself and another car. But it’s well worth it in the end since you’ll be safer and prevent yourself from rear-ending the other vehicle and causing an accident.
Never tailgate or follow another car closely behind, especially if you are in a crowded driving environment.
Take Responsibility for Yourself + Others
It’s tempting to simply drive for your own safety and not bother yourself with the movements or decisions of others. But the best way to drive safely and maturely is to take responsibility for both yourself and other people on the road.
Don’t expect someone to practice defensive driving or to get out of your way, for example. Always move cautiously and carefully and use your signals explicitly to send out information away from your car. Don’t expect, for example, the car ahead of you to brake slowly and gradually—they may decide to brake suddenly at any time, so you have to take responsibility for that possibility.
Remember Your Rear-View Mirror’s Switch
The majority of cars these days have switches on the bottom of their rearview mirrors. In fact, this switch is one of the least understood parts of modern cars!
These switches dim the lights in the back and can clear up your vision when you are trying to see behind your car (such as during a lane change). It’s also very useful if you have difficulty seeing things clearly when driving at night.
Turn Left “Late”
Many drivers make a critical error when they take a hard left turn: They turn “early” because it feels more natural to start turning left as soon as they enter the intersection. But this can be a problem since turning left early could cause your vehicle to turn into the adjacent lane, leading to a traffic jam or a car accident.
Instead, you should resist your instinct and try to turn left “late”. Wait until the very last second before you need to make your turn before shifting the wheel. If you do this, you’ll never turn into oncoming traffic, and you’ll be a safer driver overall.
Accelerate and Brake Slowly
Last but not least, you can become a better driver by learning how to accelerate and brake your vehicle slowly. Don’t slam your foot down on either pedal. This just makes your car less protectable for other drivers and gives you less time to react to other drivers or hazards on the road.
Instead, practice gradually accelerating your car up to a safe speed and braking slowly as well. Braking slowly gives cars behind you time to react. If you are following the tips above, you should still have plenty of time to slow or stop your car before hitting another vehicle or object.
Safe and Sound While Driving Around
All in all, becoming a better driver is a lifelong journey for many. But we can all do a much better job of improving traffic safety and avoiding car accidents if we collectively practice the above 10 tips. Many of these tips are things we learn when we first get our driver’s licenses, but we gradually forget them as we become more accustomed to the road and its flow.
Not only will remembering these help you be a better driver in your own car, but they’ll also serve you well if you ever need to rent a car from Advantage. With a wide range of discounted car rentals from major US airports, we can help you get from touchdown to your destination in no time. Check out our selections of rentable SUVs, cars, minivans, and more here!