How to Drive – Advice for New and Experienced Drivers – 2003

Some People Don’t Know How – This is How

My son is about to get his driver’s license soon and I thought I would try to pull from my years of experience (and accidents) on how to avoid getting into an accident. Recently, I’ve come to realize, it’s just driving like an old man.

In this article I’ll provide my overall philosophy and a list of ways that accidents occur and ways to avoid them. I will add articles about and videos showing near hits (and maybe some near misses) of how people tempted fate with each of these methods. Hopefully these dramatic scenes and stories will burn “How not to Drive” into your brains.

My Driving Philosophy and Driving Tips:

Slow and steady wins the race. Avoid the tolls if you can. Leave early if you need to be there by a certain time.

How to Drive – Driving Tips

Drive in silence or listening to podcasts, easy listening music. And if you can hold a conversation with a passenger or via a hands free phone, you can do that too. Drive slow, accidents happen quickly. If you have to make a quick move, don’t… Keep those 5 car lengths ahead of you (Actually 1 car length for every 10 miles per hour). Follow cars at a safe distance and speed. And try not to follow construction vehicles / work trucks / pickup trucks that things can fall off of or blow off of. And don’t do anything listing in the How not to Drive section. And most importantly, drive like an old man.

How not to Drive:

  1. Distracted driving – I’m not surprised that this is the number one reason. My father, a great policeman, wouldn’t even talk on the phone while driving even though he was more than capable. Focus on driving and the cars around you because you need to see who is driving like an idiot around you. Watch people swerving on or over the lane markers, honk and move away (usually by slowing down). How not to be distracted? Get your tunes and GPS set before moving your gear shifter out of park. A dear friends son recently was programming his GPS as he was backing out of a parking space and hit another car. Luckily no-one was hurt. Don’t get me wrong, you are allowed to take your eyes off the road only when there’s nobody near your and nothing in the way. For some reason, I’m remembering a story, we were in our 20’s and a group of us from work went to lunch and I was driving. The guy in the front seat started to distract me and I slowed down really fast and told him to stop. Karma got him and about a week later he was in an accident. A mutual friend told me that it was karma so I suspected it was distracted driving on his part.
  2. Speeding. Don’t speed – speed kills. You might get a rush. If you want to get the thrill of a racing engine, gun your car as you’re going uphill and hit the red line with your tach. Here it is the second topic of this list and I have to reference my dad again. He said this cleans out the fuel injectors. What speed should you be driving? It typically is close to the speed limit. I would like to say keeping up with traffic, but here in NJ, driving on a 65 mph road, the traffic in the fast line is moving 80-90 mph. Pick a middle lane and stay under 75.
  3. Drunk driving – don’t do it. There’s Uber / Lyft / friends / moms / dads / siblings / cousins and sleep over options. It’s best to limit yourself to 1 drink if you’re going to drive. After 1 drink, some people have a hard time limiting themselves.
  4. Reckless driving. Don’t do it, again, if you want a rush, do something else. Go on a go-cart track. We are lucky enough in this country to have roads for transportation – commuting, traveling, moving commerce. Reckless Driving isn’t one of them.
  5. Failure to yield right of way. This is a tough one. There are two culprits here, merging and left turns. I think this always occurs when people are merging and the lane of traffic they are merging into is directly in their blind spot. That merging blind spot is deadly. And, as you are merging, you are accelerating to wedge your car into a spot in traffic. You are merging into the slow lane and with this problem, the slow lane drivers should be held equally at fault. The need to realize that it’s a team effort, and should be aware that people are merging and the merging people have blind spots. Slow lane folks need to see the car approaching the merge point and either, make space for them by slowing down a lot or moving over a lane in a calm, blindspot checking manor). As far as left turns go, sometimes it’s easier to make a few right turns instead… or make a right turn and then a U-turn. It’ll take a few seconds longer (Or may be shorter if the left turn lane is back up). But it’s worth the elimination of the stress.
  6. Tailgating. I used to be semi guilty of this – mostly on highways. The way I knew I was guilty, is when traffic ground to a stop and I had to turn my wheel to drive on the shoulder as I was breaking because I feared hitting the car in front of me if I went straight, skidding into the car in front of me.
  7. Running red lights/stop signs. This is a product of points 1 thru 5. AND it’s super dangerous! I have videos of this. Including a video on this site where I was a victim of an early morning red-light runner.
  8. Unsafe lane changes. How are they unsafe? Blind spots – check your blind spot twice! Likely people passing you are going faster than you…. the spot might be clear one second and occupied the next. My rule is the 5 second blinker, checking the blindspot a few times and then slowly moving over, continuously checking the blind spot. If there are two lanes to your left (or right), you have to worry about (1) people passing you in the lane you want to be in and (2) people from two lanes to your left moving into the lane that you want to be in. Also, when you are approaching your exit, you’re about a mile away, move into the slow lane, you’ll be in queue. It’s a lot more relaxing then trying to jump ahead of a car or two.
  9. Fatigue. Human get tired, we need sleep, it’s a struggle if you let it become one. Don’t let it. Pull over, find a quiet spot and name for a half hour, even resting your eyes for a half hour will help you go a little further.
  10. Poor weather conditions. I hate driving at night in the rain. While some highways have amazing reflectors and reflective tape as lane markers, others have their lane markers disappear during inclement weather. That compounded with the lower visibility and reduced braking distance, makes driving in poor weather conditions tougher than driving on a nice sunny day. But space and driving in the slow lane with a solid should line with double the normal distance between you and the car in front of you should make it ok.
  11. Inexperienced drivers. You’re only inexperienced before your first accident, and then you realize that this isn’t a game and that cars are for transportation and not for fun and they need to be taken somewhat seriously.
  12. Vehicle defects/malfunctions: Luckily, vehicle defects and malfunctions mostly happen slowly over time. They are announced by funny noises, funny feelings, a rough sounding engine, a rougher ride then normal. Engine, Transmission, Brakes or Tires…. When things go a little crazy – pull over – see what’s what and then use your judgement (or an experts judgement) on how long you have before you need a repair. It could be as simple as tightening the lug nuts on the tires… this happened to me on a rental car in Aruba.
  13. Pedestrian or cyclist negligence. People walking and biking have blind spots. I think the rule is to give them 4 feet. This may require you slowing or stopping to allow oncoming traffic to pass so that you can safely swerve into the oncoming lane to achieve a nice buffer between the walker/biker.
  14. Improper turning. On a multilane road, don’t make a left turn from the right lane.
  15. Aggressive driving. Driving is aggravating. And the human condition can be aggravating as well. Stay away from these aggressive drivers. To help stave off your own aggression, listen to podcasts or easy listening when driving. If your blasting heavy metal / rock / etc, you’re going to be driving aggressively. It’s much harder to drive aggressively with easy rock / slow jazz / podcasts.
  16. Animal crossings – In New Jersey, there are deer seasons – The best defense against this, is driving like an old man at night and to follow other cars (or trucks preferably) – let them hit the deer in the road. But stay far enough behind so the flying deer lands safely in front of your car. Usually trucks won’t cause the deers to go flying high in the air, but you might see the truck brake and then the truck will run the deer over. The other thing to be careful of is the newly hit carcass on the road.
  17. Roadway defects. I’m looking at you potholes! Potholes suck… More prevalent in areas that are prone to freezing and thawing. You just have to follow other cars and watch their brake lights and swerving and be aware.
  18. Improper passing. Pass on the left. Or pass on the right with caution. (Insert video of idiot passing a truck on the right here). When you are passing someone – you will be in their blind spot for a bit. Try not to linger there. Pass someone going about 10 MPH faster than they are…. If they are going 50 MPH, slow down to about 60 MPH…
  19. Driver inattention or daydreaming. See rule number 1.
  20. Driver error or confusion. A pet peeve of mine – you will get lost, you will miss a turn, you will find yourself in a position that will require you to zip across two lanes to hit your turn. DO NOT DO THIS. Take the L with grace and take the next exit.
  21. Night driving. Luckily new drivers have new eyes that can see better than old eyes in the dark.
  22. Teenage drivers. This is you – you aren’t experienced yet – and your first accident will make you experienced.
  23. Wrong-way driving. This is dangerous – and it will occur if you are not familiar with the layout of the streets. Take your time to study the maps. Wrong-Way Driving typically will occur when someone tries to enter a highway exit ramp or they turn down a one-way street that may not be clearly marked. Pay attention, and if you do find yourself in this situation, pull over to the right side of the road, try to stop the oncoming traffic by waving a car down, and then make your k-turn.
  24. Construction sites: Slow down – lanes are typically narrower and the driving area may not be properly marked. Pay attention for the Slow/Stop hand signs.
  25. Sun glare, fog, minimal visibility driving. The best thing to do is pull off on a side street if you can’t see the car in front of you while allowing for a safe stopping distance. For sun glare, put your visor down and look towards the top of the hood of your vehicle and try to safely keep up with the car in front of you.

In Conclusion:

Keep a level head, relax and stay away from the aggressive drivers out there!

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