Lessons >>> Lesson 25
We've all been down this road before: you are on your way home at 5 o'clock from a very long day, minding your business, and some jerk cuts you off. Now this scenario is absolutely common and has happened to every one of us, but what's not so common is the way we handle it. Each person reacts differently, whether it be with anger, a rude gesture, or maybe by slowing down and giving an inconsiderate driver wide berth. We all know what we should do, but we don't always do it. Why? Because we take driving personally! Other drivers can definitely affront your sensibilities, but you will never change them. But you can change you.
Sitting in the Car. When seated in the vehicle, make sure you are sitting close enough to push the clutch, the leftmost pedal, all the way to the floor. The gearshift should be within easy reach as well.
Wear your seat belt. Even though there is the rare water accident where you want to get out of the car quickly, in most cases, your seatbelt can save your life. Make putting on your seat belt a habit for everyone in the car, don't move an inch until everyone has it safely locked.
Respect traffic lights. Yellow does not mean speed up and red really does mean stop. Running reds and forcing yellows is a poor habit to get into, and if a wreck does occur, there very well may be many, many people there to see you cause the accident and when the cops show up, large tickets could be handed out and in the age of video surveillance, it could get very uncomfortable in court if it goes that far.
Be alert for people on the pedestrian crossing. You must stop at the line nearest you. You may proceed if the person who has crossed in front of you is clear of your vehicle and there is no one else following them or crossing from the other side.
Stay in your lane. The rules are simple, but widely ignored. Don't ride the center line, drift from side to side, zig-zag through traffic, bully your way into another lane or hog the fast lane. When changing lanes, look before you leap. Even with your mirrors adjusted properly you can't see what is happening one lane over. So turn your head and look over your shoulder for a last-second check, and always use your turn signals.
Don't speed up to keep people from passing. Don't speed up to keep people from passing or simply changing lanes, it's infantile and dangerous. At the same time, don't play the slow game to teach some person a lesson, you never know who is in that other car.
Use turn signals. Especially if you are on a two-lane road and are turning left. It is also a good idea to use signals on the highway. It is good manners to let someone know of your intentions.
Don't tailgate. Why would you want to? The truck driver can't see you back there and you can't see any of the road ahead. In bad weather, the spray reduces visibility to virtually zero.
Don't antagonize anyone. Have you ever heard that you shouldn't stare at a dog's eyes since he would feel this was a challenge and possibly bite you? Well, the same is true for people. If the above driver is passing you after flashing lights and tailgating, he will also probably be staring at you as he goes by. Don't be tempted to look at him, and certainly do not shoot him a rude gesture or "jaw" at him. You will immediately diffuse the situation if you keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes straight ahead.
Set the Parking Brake. A habit that one needs to get used to is always to set the parking brake when parking, especially on hills. Unlike automatics, there is no locked parking position with a manual transmission, only the internal friction of the non-running motor. Make sure you set the parking brake first and let up on the brakes to make sure it is engaged fully, then leave the gearshift in reverse or 1st.
Avoid eating or using cell phones while driving. It is hard to concentrate on the job at hand while doing either, so park to eat or talk. Another no-no is reading the newspaper or a book.
Don't drink and drive. If you're in a situation where you've been drinking and you MUST drive, know your limits. In the ideal world, no one would drive after having any alcohol. In the real world, we drive home from weddings, parties, bars, and baseball games. Get a chart from your local DMV and know how many beverages you can consume in an hour before you're impaired. Compare this number with what your personal experience tells you. If you're stuck at 10 o'clock at night at your friend's house with one or two too many beers in your system, have them brew some coffee for you and spend an hour drinking coffee and as many glasses of water as you can.
Make sure your vehicle is safe. Always make sure your car is in good repair. Plenty of oil, fuel, and other fluids are always the way to go. Properly inflated tires are crucial, varying pressures in your tires or one that is low when all the rest aren't can produce unpredictable driving characteristics and even more so under heavy breaking or rapid and sudden maneuvers like emergency lane changes. Always make sure all you lights are working, this includes turn indicators as well as headlamps. Keep your windows clean and make sure your wipers are working well. Even the cheapest wipers are only about $4 each and ultimately cheaper in the long run than a collision because of poor visibility. Make sure your defrosters are functional as well, if they aren't that can be just as bad as dirty windows.
Various things can occur on the open road and one needs to be prepared. If you experience a blowout at speed on the highway, first and foremost stay calm, freaking out will only distract you from what you need to get done. Hold the wheel firmly, signal, and move to the side of the road. Nine times out of ten, the folks behind you will see whatever happened and give you room.
All of the tips above are just using good common sense, but for some reason, we run a little short of that during rush hour. Good sense can save your life, so try your best to use it! "To the world, you may just be another somebody, but to somebody, you are the world." Be safe!
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