Despite the fact that cars are getting safer, driving remains a dangerous activity in the hands of the incapable. Therefore, the web is awash with tips and advice on how to improve your technique and approach to driving.
For this reason we're not going to tread too heavily over old ground by offering driving tips and advice that fall into the blindingly obvious – such as remaining untoxicated or not using your mobile phone when behind the wheel. Instead, we're going to present five often overlooked but easy to adopt tips that will help you to become a better driver.
Train Your Eyes
When all is said and done, the improper use of the eyes is the main contributing factor for driving mistakes, so you'll need to make sure that train your eyes to spot danger.
Okay, advising that you keep your eyes on the road to avert danger might sound like stating the blindingly obvious, but how many of you are adopting visual scanning techniques to help spot danger whilst on the road?
A driver's sight consists of central and peripheral vision and good drivers use the following three visual scanning techniques to make the best of both and use their eyes effectively.
- Look ahead, not down whilst keeping your eye level high. Focus your attention on the road ahead, while maintaining your intended path remains in your central vision.
- Keep your eyes moving by selecting details in the traffic scene that surrounds you, assessing for potential hazards/danger
- Make sure your rearview mirrors are positioned correctly so that you can make the most of your peripheral vision, before you set out on your journey!
Don't ‘Switch off' Just Because You Are Familiar with the Area
Just because you think you know the roads like ‘the back of your hand' it doesn't mean you can afford to switch off. It seems that so many of us, though, fall into this trap. According to a poll conducted by the insurance company Elephant, three out of every ten accidents happen within a mile of the home.
Each and every time you embark upon a journey – even if you have driven down a particular road hundreds of times – there are a million different variables that can make each drive along that road different to the time before it. Therefore, it remains vitally important that you maintain concentration at all times and don't switch off just because you're “only popping to the shop”.
The idea of mental preparation might be used to great effect in the world of professional sport and business, but the sentiment behind it can be applied to any number of everyday situations, including driving.
Mental preparation is about getting yourself into the correct frame of mind so that you can perform at your best. If you can make sure that you're relaxed, calm and in control before you step into a car you will invariably become a better driver. Conversely, if you're distracted, angry or upset then you should avoid being behind the wheel. Similarly, if you are tired or on medication that is making you drowsy, do not drive.
Distance Is the Key to Managing Risk
The correct minimum distance that you should maintain between you and another car is two seconds. Yes all drivers are taught this before they even take to the wheel, but the number of times this simple technique isn't observed is quite staggering.
If you are driving at 40mph, this means that you should be driving at least nine car lengths behind the nearest vehicle ahead of you. Observing distance is the key to managing risk as it will allow you to be ready for any potential danger by giving you the crucial time to break when a problem ahead arises.
The Power of Posture
Most drivers do not sit correctly whilst they are driving, which can seriously compromise driving ability and comfort.
The main problems are that drivers tend to have their seats reclined too much and sit too far back. The correct way to sit is to make sure that you are sitting straight with both your bum and back pressed flush against the supporting structure of the seat. Doing so will not only help you avoid injury such as back aches but it will also help you maintain attentiveness over long journeys.
As well as sitting correctly, you should make the following adjustments to your seat to help your driving posture:
- Adjust the fore and aft position of your seat (the horizontal distance between the rear and front seatback) so that there is a slight bend in your knees when you are not pressing the pedals.
- Lower the seat as low as possible without impairing your vision so that you are as close to the centre of gravity as possible.
- Make sure that the seatback angle is adjusted so that your extended arms do not pull your shoulders from the seat, and that your wrists are able to rest upon the top of the steering wheel.
Insurance, It's a Legal Requirement for a Reason
Although the number of uninsured drivers has fallen from a high of 2milllion in 2005, 1.2 million uninsured drivers are estimated to still be driving on UK roads. This reckless behaviour has significant ramifications not only for those flouting the law but for other drivers, too, as annual premiums rise as a consequence.
In the UK, over 30 million people a drive a car and whilst we can all do our part to become better drivers, safety on the road all too often relies on the behaviour of other drivers. Therefore it is vitally important in the worst case scenario of a crash or collision happening that you are insured.
If you are driving a rental car the cost of an accident can rise significantly, so make sure that you are topped up with excess insurance to stop you paying a massive premium in the event of an accident.
If you know of any other often overlooked tips that have helped you to become a better driver, please do share them in the comments section below.
Image by Alan Cleaver