We’ve looked at a number of things you can do to become an even better driver, from mastering motorway driving to overtaking horses. We’ve even produced a fun quiz to see if you would still pass your driving test!But there are some very simple things that you can do that will help raise your driving to a new level, making you safer and smoother than the majority of drivers on the roads.
Here are three things you can start doing differently right now:
1. Look further ahead
You, like almost everyone on the road today, probably don’t look far enough ahead.
Most drivers will concentrate on the car in front, while better drivers might look two or even three cars ahead.
Driving experts, however, will be scanning the road for hundreds of metres ahead enabling them to spot problems well before everyone else.
The trick is to look as far ahead as you can, which might mean the blind corner that is a quarter-of-a-mile away or the traffic lights in the far distance. You then scan back to the car in front, repeating the process all the time.
Remember, you’ve also got to keep a constant check all three mirrors and monitor your speed and the car’s vital signs.
No, you won’t have as much time to chat as you used to have but you’ll be driving more safely than ever before as you’ll have spotted potential problems well before they become your reality.
You’ll also be smoother on the brakes and accelerator as you’ll have anticipated the need to use them well in advance, saving fuel and impressing your passengers with a much smoother drive!
Looking further ahead also has a tendency to encourage you to leave a greater gap between you and the car in front. This is because driving too close just blocks your vision, while hanging back a little bit gives you an uninterrupted panoramic view of your drive as it unfolds, further extending your safety envelope
If you do nothing else on your next journey, please do try this. It’s a potential life-saving habit that will only take a few journeys to embed itself in your sub-conscious.
2. Be more tolerant
With better observation comes better anticipation, so you’ll notice the arrogant businessman bullying his way through congestion well before he becomes an obstacle for you to avoid.
You might also find that this advanced knowledge means that drivers like him become a small and insignificant part of your journey, your Zen-like attitude leaving you free to let him in with a smile. Your journey time will be scarcely affected but your mental stress will be dramatically reduced.
Yes, of course he’s an idiot who is driving very badly. Yes, he’s a bully and, very probably, a deeply unpleasant human being to boot. But he’s not your problem to deal with and only becomes one if you allow him into your life and life’s too short to let too many idiots into it, isn’t it?
3. Sit up straight
When I started work, I was told that I should stand up when I was talking on the phone as it would make me seem more alert and interested, no matter how dull the conversation.
I’m not sure if it ever worked (I didn’t find my first proper job desperately interesting, something I suspect leaked into almost every telephone call I made over the following 13 years…) but an advanced driving instructor said something similar when he told me to sit up straight while I was driving. This would, he promised, make me more alert and give me better control of the car and, in this case, he was absolutely right.
To achieve the perfect driving position is very easy: first set the seat so that your knee is still slightly bent when you have fully depressed the clutch and accelerator. Now set your backrest angle and/or your steering wheel reach and rake so that you can rest your wrist on the top of the rim of the wheel.
You might need to juggle to two to get a comfortable compromise and don’t worry if it feels a bit odd because most people will now be sitting closer than they are used to.
Now adjust all three mirrors so you can see behind you and wriggle the small of your back into the seat so it is properly supported. Maintaining this is much easier if you buy and use a SHOFT to keep your hips firmly located.
Now go out and drive. Can you feel how alert and on top of things you feel? How there is a new-found joy in steering and braking and accelerating? How you are starting to feel more relaxed because you’ve got better vision than ever before and a calmer mental attitude to go with it?
Credit to Saga Magazine, and freelance motoring journalist Carlton Boyce for the story.