Maybe it’s an unfortunate by product of our standardized approach to education that even as adults we’re not conditioned to learn per se, but to pass tests. We learn enough to pass our exams at school and even in college and the same goes for our road test. We learn how to drive perfectly while under supervision, but upon passing our test, we go out on our own and inevitably find ourselves lapsing into bad behaviors and making repeated mistakes. When these mistakes cause us to run afoul on another driver we use this as an opportunity for quiet contemplation and self reflection, taking a few moments to consider how we could have approached the situation differently… Nah, just kidding. We inevitably blame it on the other guy! Or in some cases, even the car.
Whether we’re prepared to admit it or not, we could all stand to get on the American Safety Council’s adult driver’s education enrollment to brush up on our skills, no matter how long we’ve been driving. It’s important to embrace our mistakes and learn from them rather than glossing over them. Let’s look at some of the common mistakes we all make (even if we’re too ashamed to admit it).
Riding the clutch
Many manual drivers keep the clutch only partially engaged a lot of the time when driving, particularly when coming to a stop at the traffic light. Many people do it so that they can set off at the lights faster or to override the vehicle’s automatic stop start / system. This is known as “riding the clutch” and can be harmful in a few ways. Firstly, we have less control over the vehicle unless the clutch is fully disengaged, secondly while it may not damage the clutch itself it does cause excessive wear to the release bearing and the flywheel (and that’s a pretty damned expensive repair).
Driving in sandals
As the weather warms up, more than a few of us will be taking to parks and beaches in our cars, and we’ll be driving while wearing sandals or flip flops. A 2015 survey found that 25% of women and 13% of men sometimes wore sandals while driving. Comfy? You bet! Safe? Absolutely not. These shoes can compromise your control of the pedals and can sometimes cause the pedals to get stuck, resulting in an accident. Believe it or not your choice of footwear may well invalidate your insurance claim in this instance.
Those who live in hilly areas may well find that we’re forking out for brake pads and discs far more regularly than our friends. This is because we brake wrong when driving downhill. Many of us brake slowly and continuously which can cause disproportionate wear to the brakes. Instead we should brake more firmly but less often. If you want greater control of your speed downhill, engine braking (shifting down a gear or two) is a better way of achieving this.
Laws on cell phone use when behind the wheel are pretty prescriptive but many of us put our lives in danger by driving while distracted even if we are hands free. Changing the track on your phone or iPod, making an adjustment on your GPS device or fishing a thrown child’s toy out of the footwell are common distractions which affect us all. Stay safe and pull over if you find yourself distracted.