A great faceless Driver's Ed teacher/assistant football coach once proclaimed to a room of uninterested students: "Driving is a privilege, not a right." And you know what? We should've paid more attention. We like to imagine that it's everyone else who's the horrible driver, but the truth is we've all got some pretty bad habits.
These are 14 things you’re doing wrong while driving:
1. Putting your hands at 10 and 2
This is not only wrong from a controlling-your-car standpoint, it’s downright dangerous. If your airbag goes off and your hands aren’t at 9 and 3, the explosive force can blast the skin clear off of your hand.
2. Looking at the car directly in front of you
Relative to you, the car in front is stationary, so if you focus on it you run the risk of everything else becoming a big blur. You’re then keying all your decisions on that driver’s actions, and are literally betting your life that they’re an attentive driver, not a legally blind octogenarian who’s driving while texting. Instead, look through that car's windshield at the car in front of it—or at least in the gaps between cars—so you can see what’s coming up.
3. Braking with your right foot* If you still drive a manual, you can disregard this one. Otherwise, why are you using one foot to do two things? Practice braking with your left foot in a safe area, like your neighborhood. It’ll be weird at first, but once you get used to it, it’s so much better.
*Note: Though controversial, left foot braking is a pro move that can be dangerous if you're not ready. Practice in a safe area first.
4. Seeing your car in your side mirrors
The vast majority of vehicles shouldn’t have any blind spots if you've adjusted your side mirrors properly. Hint: you shouldn't see your car in them. How to do it:
- Put your head all the way to your window.
- Adjust the mirror so you can barely see your car.
- Put your head over by the center console.
- Do the same with the passenger side mirror.
If you have someone walk around the car behind you, you should notice they transition nearly seamlessly from mirror to mirror.
5. Using your high beams in fog
The light from your high beams is reflecting off all the water molecules in the air. You’re actually making your vision worse by using your highs. Keep the low-beams on though, so other drivers know you're out there.
6. Braking during a corner
You start to turn, then brake. Weight transfers to the front of the car. The rear tires don’t have as much traction as the fronts. You find out first hand whether or not an insurance rep materializes when you sing a catchy jingle. If you need to slow down for a curve, do it before you get there.
7. Using your cruise control in the rain
This one you should’ve learned when you were 15 years old. If you’re on anything other than a dry highway with light to sparse traffic, don’t use your cruise control.
8. Driving in someone’s blind spot
If you’re lined up with someone’s rear tire, you need to assume they can’t see you and won’t check before they change lanes.
9. Revving your engine when it's cold
If you've just started your car, your oil isn’t warm yet, which means it’s not properly protecting everything. If you rev it, floor it, or even accelerate too briskly, you’re causing excess wear. Simple test: if your A/C's not blowing hot air, don’t floor it.
10. Coasting downhill in neutral
By staying in gear while descending a mountain or hill (ideally a lower gear that keeps the RPMs up), you’re using your engine to help slow you down. If you perpetually dab the brakes, they’ll build up heat, boil the brake fluid, and you’ll learn what those huge hills they call “runaway truck ramps” are for.
11. Dragging your brake, then dive bombing
Don’t lightly brake for 300 feet, only to realize at the last second you’re going too fast for a turn. Brake evenly throughout so that your deceleration is nice and smooth; pretend you’re driving a limousine and the wealthy oligarch in back will straight up murder you if he or she spills the caviar.
12. Keeping too much stuff on your keychain
You know all those fiery ignition issues GM's been having? People keeping way too much sh*t on their keychains was a legit factor in screwing up all those ignition switches.*
*Note: that's still no excuse for what happened.
13. Not merging properly
Highway onramps exist so you can get up to speed before merging. That gives you time to scope out the traffic, find a gap you can fit in, and adjust your speed so you get there at the right time. The same holds true on city streets. Merging into traffic that's traveling at 45mph while going 25 should be a license-revoking offense.
14. Blasting your radio
That’s not just some old geezer’s "these damn kids!" gripe. It’s been scientifically shown that you pay less attention to the road when you’re blasting that Tay Swift.