We’re afraid to say that you may have been driving the wrong way for all these years. But you’re far from alone. Here’s the Autocar guide to common motoring errors, and how to fix them:
Incorrectly using the ventilation recirculation button.
You may have a vague idea that this is the button you press (circled here) when you’re trailing behind an old van belching black smoke like it’s a giant container ship. And this would indeed be the right thing to do. But you shouldn’t use it in winter after entering your car, because it will take a lot longer to de-fug the windows. But you should use it at least temporarily on hot days at start-up because it will get the temperature down the quickest. And while we're on the subject, on a hot day lower all the windows to allow the hot air out of the car before first setting off; then close them after a few minutes to get the full benefits of your air conditioning.
Not using the parking brake with automatics.
Even some modern automatic gearboxes don’t automatically engage the parking brake when you engage Park and switch off the engine. But you always should engage it, since relying on the transmission entirely to demobilise what might be a heavy car on a hill puts it under a lot of stress it could easily do without. Additionally, you may go on vacation and end up driving a stick-shift rental car in a hilly area. Having got out of the habit of using the handbrake after you park your car could cause you a great deal of trouble.
Not allowing a space of 3-4 feet in front of you in traffic.
When pulling up behind another car in traffic, always allow a space of around 3-4 feet from the car in front. This allows enough space to always overtake them when they break down or become otherwise immobile.
Not standing on the brakes when you really have to.
If you need to stop quickly, stand on those brakes. Modern brakes are very powerful, and modern tires are very effective in stopping you too. Let them do their work; don’t worry about locking-up – nearly all modern cars have anti-lock brakes (ABS) fitted, and most have stability control and automatic wheel-brake distribution too, which will also help. Many accidents occur not only because drivers don’t brake early enough, but also not hard enough. If your car has automatic emergency braking, even better – but don’t ever switch it off.
Not using the steering-wheel mounted shortcut buttons.
These were originally invented for safety reasons, not convenience. Once you get the habit of altering functions like the audio system through them, it will ensure you take your eyes off the road far less and you’re much less likely to have an accident.
Not checking your tires.
This may sound like a simple one, but it’s something that’s so readily ignored, and yet your tires are so important. After all, the only contact your car physically has with the road – whether it’s a sports car, a compact or an SUV – are those four small patches of rubber. So, the law in most states of America requires you to have a minimum of 2/32 of an inch (1.6mm) of tread on your tires, and that’s more or less the same for most developed nations. How to check? Simply place a penny into your tire's tread groove with Abraham Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tread depth is less than the minimum needed. If your locality is notably wet, it’s safer to replace tires quite a bit sooner. Tire-makers recommend you check your tire tread depth and your air pressure level once per month.
Playing loud music.
We’re all guilty of it. Your favourite song comes on the radio so you automatically crank up the volume. But did you know that playing loud music, while enjoyable, also has a detrimental effect on your ability to focus? This was demonstrated by research conducted by the Memorial University of Newfoundland, which showed a direct link between a higher sound volume and reaction time. Incredibly, when music was played at just 95 decibels (the average smartphone speaker is capable of over 100 dBA), reaction times increased by 20% across all participants. Additionally, loud music can also mask the noise of your engine, which can make judging your speed more difficult. So if you’re planning on going for a spirited country drive, make sure you turn the radio off.
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Also read: Defensive Driving Tips
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