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Blueroses's avatar

What is the most useful driving tip you ever learned?

Asked by Blueroses (17453 points ) December 6th, 2013

What is the most useful advice you would like to pass on to drivers on the road?

How did you learn it? Did it save you from disaster?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

44 Answers

Blueroses's avatar

ok, I’ll tell you the best one.
If you drive an auto transmission car: on very icy roads, manually shift down to lower gears, rather than relying on brakes to stop you. Especially on very icy intersections when you need to turn… if you are down in first gear, you can control your movement well.

snowberry's avatar

If you are driving icy roads, pump your brakes as you slow down. This is good warning to the people in back of you, and it will help you stay in control. Provide lots of extra time to stop.

jerv's avatar

1) Assume that other cars are being driven by drunken teenage idiots. There are enough that are distracted, inattentive, unskilled, or just plain stupid drivers out there that your best bet is to imagine the dumbest thing they will do, then plan on them doing it.

2) If you don’t know how your car works, don’t drive it! My wife won’t drive my car because I have three pedals instead of two. You should know what those shiny little things sticking out of the doors are called (mirrors!), what they do, and actually use them. How about that little lever on the left of the steering wheel? Did you know that that can keep people from running into you when you turn or change lanes by letting them know what you’re doing? If others don’t know what you’re doing, odds are you don’t know what you’re doing either, which in turn means that you really shouldn’t be driving.

The next few reflect my decades of New England life, and are most applicable to winter driving.

3) The brakes stop the tires from rotating; that may or may not actually affect the speed of the car. That goes double in the rain, and triple in the winter.

4) Upset the car, and the car will upset you. Cars have a certain balance to them. Rapid movements tend to make them unbalanced. Unbalanced cars tend to lost traction far easier than balanced cars. Losing traction leads to plowing, spinning, and other things that may make you unhappy. For this reason, in slippery conditions, I use the gas and brakes less to control my speed (I use my shifter for that, even in an automatic) and more to control my fore/aft weight distribution. And every move I make is made slowly and smoothly; ease into the brakes, steer gradually, etcetera. Tires have only so much grip to split between braking and turning, and that doing one reduces traction available for the other,

@snowberry I generally apply my brakes early and gently. Pumping them tend to “jerk” things around in a destabilizing manner. If you need to pump the brakes to stay in control, you really need to work on your braking technique. It’s a proportinal control, not an on/off switch; see #2 above.
Oh, and since many cars these days have ABS, you may actually lose control. The point of ABS is not actually to reduce stopping distance, but rather to allow one to retain full directional control while the brake pedal is on the floor. Tires have only so much grip to split between braking and turning, and that doing one reduces traction available for the other. For those of us without ABS, a gentler touch on the brake pedal works. ABS merely has a computer handle a task that is normally handled by driver competence because modern drivers are too lazy to become competent.

5) You don’t need traction, you only need control. Watch some drifting, or WRC rally racing. Drive in the winter in the Northeast. You will see most cars sliding, but many of them will be sliding under the complete control of their drivers.

Pachy's avatar

Don’t drive drunk! I learned it in my 30s when, after imbibing a few martoonies after work, I dozed off briefly in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway and sideswiped another car. Fortunately, very minor damage only, but it scared me badly enough to learn and faithfully stick to the first three words of my post.

tups's avatar

Keep your eyes open.

ragingloli's avatar

Take the Train.

Smitha's avatar

Lane Discipline – This just seems to be non- existent on the roads here.
Always keep a safe distance and stay three seconds behind the car in front. This adjusts for speed.

ucme's avatar

If your car breaks down when you’re under pressure & stressed, beat the fucker with a nearby branch :)

LuckyGuy's avatar

My Dad taught me to keep my wheels pointed strait ahead when I am waiting to make a turn across busy oncoming traffic. That way if someone bumps me from behind I will go straight and not have a head-on collision with a vehicle moving at high speed.

This is particularly important on snowy/icy weather when the roads are slick and peoiple often can’t stop.

Oh one more….
Never suddenly swerve to avoid an animal in the road. That is often how cars end up upside-down in a ditch or wrapped around trees on perfectly straight roads.
Slow dawn if prudent but never swerve. You will lose.

ragingloli's avatar

If you are in traffic, and there is an animal on the road, run it over, if the collision poses little danger to you.
Because if you brake, and the guy behind you runs into you, you are liable for damages.

tom_g's avatar

If getting to your destination on time requires no obstacles, such as someone driving slow in front of you, you’re doing it wrong. Turn around, go home, and try again tomorrow. Never get on the road when you’ve f*cked up by not giving yourself enough time for life to get in the way.

GoldieAV16's avatar

When you are stopped to make a left turn, waiting for oncoming traffic to give you a clearing, do not turn your wheels to the left. That way if a car comes up behind and rear ends you, you won’t be pushed head on into the oncoming traffic.

I learned it when it happened to a friend and he was seriously injured. It’s never saved me, but I still remember it – every time.

dabbler's avatar

“Defensive Driving”. That boils down to @jerv‘s first point “Assume that other cars are being driven by drunken teenage idiots.” Add ‘blind’ to that.
Know where all the cars around you are. Know where all the hazards and escape routes are.

Also “Aim for the Softest Hit” ... the least risk of injury or loss of life and the least damage, in that order.
If a collision seems inevitable you are better off mowing down bushes on the grassy median than ramming the stalled truck ahead of you.
You are better off hitting some parked cars than a class of school kids.
Be assessing your ‘escape route’ contingencies at all times.

thorninmud's avatar

I used to adjust my driver’s side mirror so that I could just barely see my rear fender, but then I was told a better way: it should point much further out away from the car, so that it picks up where the rear view mirror leaves off. If a car is passing you, as soon as its left headlight leaves the field of view of your rear view mirror, it should appear in your side mirror. This takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the two mirrors together give you a much broader rearward vista with less of a blind zone to your left.

Seek's avatar

I learned very early on how to control my vehicle whilst hydroplaning. It happens a lot here in Florida, where we have an extended dry season, during which we’ll get a nice light shower, just enough water to lift the oil off the roads and spread it about.

Can’t explain how it’s done, but I can do it. ^_^

JLeslie's avatar

Just one? Since people above have already named some very important ones, I will just list one we haven’t seen yet.

When driving with multiple lanes of traffic, like on a highway or major local thoroughfare space your car so no other cars are immediately to the left or right of you. You should never be cruising for a long time next to another car (I know the is impossible during high traffic times on some roads, but the speeds of the cars usually are slow also). Basically, you should always have an out on at least one side if something happens in your lane. Only if you know for sure you have the out can you safely move quickly over, otherwise you must stay straight in lane, no matter what it means for you, although you should still be assessing the way to cause the least amount of disruption to traffic and what would be safest.

gailcalled's avatar

When my stern and omniscient father taught 16-year-old me to drive, he introduced the subject by saying, “Think of an automobile as a loaded gun.”

That covers it all, including the fact that I can still quote this after over 50 years.

When I was taking my son to his road test at the police barracks for the first time, I had a very small fended bender on the way over. The passenger-side door was too dented to open, so my son had to scrootch over and exit from the driver’s side. He passed his test on the first try, and was always a very conservative and careful driver.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Ocular driving.

The best way to get your car to go where you want it is simply to visually concentrate on that point.

Don’t overthink your actual physical actions. Muscle memory already has this in hand.

Instead look at a corner’s apex. You’ll hit it right on.

What’s a corner’s apex? What’s supposed to happen there?

Another time perhaps.

filmfann's avatar

Maintain that space cushion!

I see people on the freeway ever day who think they are at Indy, and are 3 feet off the bumper of the car ahead. It drives me crazy!

marinelife's avatar

I took a driving lesson from a professional when I had not driven for a number of years and was going back into a heavy driving environment, He told me that getting on the freeway was like basket weaving (which took the anxiety out of it).

He also said to drive at a slightly off speed like 58 in a 60 MPH zone, which keeps your car traveling between the bunches of faster and slower cars. It works great.

I am regularly grateful to him and for that lesson.

bossob's avatar

Don’t assume you have a safe right-of-way just because you have the green light. Other drivers don’t always stop for red lights.

zenvelo's avatar

1. When in a skid, don’t brake and turn into it. Has saved me numerous times when driving in the snow in the mountains.

2. When in heavy freeway traffic, slow down to provide room behind the car ahead, but don’t brake. Just back off, you will continue to move but not be braking and starting and find you have an easier ride than if you continually speed up/slow down.

dabbler's avatar

zen, may we presume that: “don’t brake and turn into it”
means: “don’t brake” and “turn into it” (with which I agree, and add foot-off-the-accelerator)
not: don’t “brake and turn into it” (which might be someone’s strategy)
? thx

JLeslie's avatar

All these answers about ice and snow, And what I always tell my husband in the ice and snow (he didn’t grow up in it) is drive like you don’t have brakes. Which means slow down! Lots of space between cars. When you have to brake, all the suggestions above apply.

amujinx's avatar

If are thinking of doing something, but hesitate, don’t finish that action until it is safe. The hesitation throws off other drivers.

@ucme Thrashing? Like this? (Since not all Americans are going to know your reference)

kritiper's avatar

Be defensive ALL of the time! Watch out for the other guy.

kritiper's avatar

@Blueroses – Good advice with automatic transmissions but I take it one step further. Shift into neutral for the last few feet. The car will come to a gentle stop without the wheels still driving the car forward.

YARNLADY's avatar

Be a full time driver when you are behind the wheel. Keep passenger distractions to a minimum and do not change the radio while you are driving, better yet, turn it off.

ucme's avatar

@amujinx You got it, specifically aimed at @Blueroses who will very definitely get it.

elbanditoroso's avatar

“drive as if the other guy is crazy and unpredictable”

KNOWITALL's avatar

Keep your tires good & aired & your vehicle well kept. Nothing matters if you die from negligence & tire pops or somethi

zenvelo's avatar

@dabbler yes, you parsed my sentence better than I did. I should have used a comma.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Screw it. If all else fails floor it.

Haleth's avatar

@zenvelo That’s useful if you’re skidding in a straight line, too. Sometimes you end up sliding if you brake too fast and the road is slippery. The best way to get control back is to very lightly hit the gas so the tires regain traction, then brake again.

Also, if you’re stuck in snow/ mud/ whatever, don’t just hit the gas and spin the wheels. That will only dig you in deeper. Very very slowly, back up and move forward a couple times until you can gradually move out.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Speed can be thought of as a set of wrenches:

The 10mm wrench is 10mph, The 20mm is 20mph and so on.

Only one wrench is the right one for a particular bolt. (situation).

The law believes (incorrectly) one will never need a socket larger than say 70mm at any given time.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Avoiding accidents already in progress.

Aim for the place the out of control car has already been.

It’s unlikely the car will occupy that space again.

Seek's avatar

That wrench metaphor has left me scratching my head.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^Since driving involves constantly changing conditions it requires constantly changing reactions.

If I am driving at the legal limit a situation might easily arise where the best response involves a speed that is above said limit.

That velocity is a tool I cannot legally use.

Seek's avatar

I believe it’s written into the books that the obligation to avoid a crash supercedes posted speed limits. I am not a lawyer

Unbroken's avatar

Once I was driving too fast on an icy unfamiliar road, I had to stop or cross a busy intersection that wasn’t clear I did not have enough time to stop. I threw it in to either park or reverse. I can’t remember I was a very young driver then. It stalled the engine of course, and wasn’t good for the car but I firmly believe it saved lives and injuries. My car also started up after that, which was a surprise and a relief to me.

Gently turn into a skid, foot off the gas, and then turn out of it as gently.

I low visibility don’t use the brakes just maintain a constant safe speed and be as visible as you can.

Uncleared roads, if you can follow the tracks ahead of you, look for markers that indicate edges of roads. If there are no tracks and no oncoming traffic stay a little more toward the center, as you don’t want to get carried into the ditch.

Be aware that your hands naturally follow where you are looking. If you can’t identify a blinking moving light in the dark or make sure your hands and vehicle stay firmly on course. Slow down if concerned.

Seelix's avatar

When driving on the highway or another unlighted road at night, to avoid being blinded by the lights of the car in the oncoming lane, look toward the white line at the right of your own lane as the car passes.

Obviously this is only a good idea if traffic is sparse. Don’t drive around staring at the right shoulder all the time. It totally helps when other cars are few and far between, though.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^Ocular diving requires that you be looking where you want the car to be in the next few seconds. As speed increases this point becomes more distant.

Combined with a frequent scan of one’s surroundings, mirrors and instruments of course.

I urge Jellies to try this on a curving section of road sometime.

It’s feels almost magical before it becomes habit. Your body feels like it’s under some unfelt control.

Visualize the car where you want it and it just ends up there.

Blueroses's avatar

Trust your instincts. I can tell you 4 specific times when something came into my mind about “watch that intersection” or “leave more room behind that guy”

The most important one was driving in Chicago and I saw a truck bearing down on me when traffic had stopped. I had an escape route and left myself space to get down into the ditch… the guy did not stop… I hit gas fast and got down into the barrow. Truck hit and injured people in front of me.

kritiper's avatar

@Blueroses This is ESPECIALLY true for ice! Even in 1st (low) gear, the automatic transmission will keep moving the car forward unless you shift to neutral just before the car comes to a complete stop. Most notably in cars with rear wheel drive.

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