11 Crucial Skills Better Drivers Know (Some May Save Your Life)

11 Crucial Skills Better Drivers Know (Some May Save Your Life)

Getting your license is only the beginning of a lifetime of independence. Once you’re on your own, you will drive, and learn, and realize that you’re a much better driver than when got your license.

And maybe even wonder–why do they let people who know so little get their license?

The best way to learn anything is to do it, though, and as you drive, you will learn new skills, and improve old skills. You’ll be your own driving school now, as you navigate the roads of Chesapeake, Virginia.

Here are 11 skills the better drivers learn and know.

1. Finetune Your Mirrors for Better Highway Vision

Each car has its own combination of mirrors, angles, and blind spots. Each driver has a slightly different height and angle of vision on all the mirrors.

You need to make sure that you are safe–and thus keep other safe–by finding the best placement of all mirrors before you drive. Check the inside rearview mirror so that your back window is fully framed within the mirror–not just pointed to one side.

Then, adjust the outside mirrors so that their field of view just overlaps the interior mirror’s field. You shouldn’t be able to see your car–but you will see into your car’s blind spot.

One thing to be careful of with mirrors in this position–bicyclists, especially when you parallel park. Take the extra few seconds, and lean left to check oncoming traffic for a bicyclist. Neither of you wants to be surprised when you open your door.

2. Speeding Doesn’t Help

Most drives require you to get from Point A to Point B. You might think that speeding will save a lot of time.

But it won’t, especially in city and town streets like those around Chesapeake and Suffolk, Virginia. Your driving school instructor, of course, stressed sticking to the speed limit rigidly, and some people fail their driving test for going over the limit.

You won’t really save time driving around town, however, by speeding, and you may put yourself and others at risk. Most town roads really are not safe with speeds over the posted limits (and some may have limits which are too high).

Simply allowing time to get to Point B–and knowing alternate routes around town–will gain you actual time-savings, rather than trying to rush through crowded streets.

Now, if you’re on the highway, speeding may save time–on long trips. And it’s known that state troopers usually will be forgiving of drivers who are over the speed limit by 5-7 miles per hour, since many speedometers are off by a few MPH–leading to dismissed tickets.

But even going a steady 72 in a 65 will not save you a huge amount of time, unless you’re driving south on I-95 to Florida. The traffic may be going 72, and the speed of the traffic may be safer, but don’t count on saving a lot of time.

3. Phone Brackets Make the Drive Easy

If you use your phone as your GPS to get from Point A to Point B, you can reduce the distraction by installing a phone bracket on your dashboard or windshield. You’ll be able to see the map as you go along, and check your location when you are at a stop sign or red light.

Some people prefer to have the voice directions off while they drive, which is cool. You’ll have to plan your trip, and look at the directions ahead of time. Good drivers look ahead, as your driving instructor told you. Part of that looking head is knowing where you’re going as you drive around Suffolk and Portsmouth, VA.

4. Learn to Focus on Multiple Items at Once

As you develop your driving skills, you will realize you can do many things at once.

You will find you can easily read road signs (and billboards) as well as maintain speed and position in lane. You will be looking ahead two blocks at the children playing in the yard, as well as ensuring you don’t run into the vehicle in front of you when they stop at the stop sign. You’ll find out what your response times are to various situations.

Driving skills all interconnect, and as you drive more, you will do more–and do it all better.

5. Keeping Your Head in Emergencies

Every driver will end up in emergency situations. Critters–or small children–will dash in front of your car. The person in front of you will suddenly stop. You may see the stop sign a second or three later than you should have.

If you have a newer car, you probably have anti-lock brakes installed. These brakes will keep you safe, and allow you to steer around potential obstacles in emergency situations. Unlike brakes of old, you should be able to steer with the ABS system engaged, even with the brake pedal pushed to the floor.

On a deserted back road or empty parking lot you can practice–get up to 20 mph or so and put on the brakes. You will come to a stop and be able to steer around the imagined obstacle.

Even with ABS equipment, you have to keep your head in an emergency–depending on what the emergency is. If you have a tire blow-out on the highway, you’ll need to control the car to a safe stop on the shoulder. In a skid–especially in slick or icy conditions–you should practice how to get out of the skid; this is a skill you can learn and practice outside of driving school.

If you are alert and paying attention–and aware of your driving situation–you’ll be able to keep control and bring your car to a safe stop.

6. Drift out, Drift in, unless There’s Danger

We all drift out of our lanes from time to time. We drift because we lose focus, or other things need attention (or get attention, like changing songs on an iPod).

If you drift, you don’t need to take a violent sudden action to correct it, unless danger is looming. Assuming no one is near enough to be affected, you can simply drift back into your lane and continue on your way.

There’s no need for drama most of the time.

7. How to Tell Which Side of the Car the Gas Tank is On.

It’s actually pretty easy to forget which side the tank is on. We only fill up every so often, although we’re doing that filling every state but New Jersey now.

Everyone, however, has pulled up to the pump, only to realize the gas tank is on the other side of the car. Perhaps you drive several different cars regularly. Perhaps your old car had the tank on that side.

Look at your gas gauge. Unless your car is pretty old now, you will see a little arrow next to the gas pump icon, pointing left or right. That tells you which side of the car the tank is on.

8. Here’s What to Do When You Get Pulled Over

At some point, you will get pulled over. Perhaps it’s for a legitimate reason (and most of the time, you’ll know what you were doing wrong). Only seldom will it be for an illegitimate reason.

Whenever you get pulled over, remain calm, be polite, and keep your hands visible. Answer questions with “Yes, sir” or “No, ma’am” or appropriate variations thereof. Don’t argue (that’s what court is for).

Make sure you don’t get mouthy with the officer (even if you correctly think there was no reason to pull you over). It won’t work, and it can’t help you. Officers have discretion in how they handle cases, and even if you get a ticket, you’re more likely to “get out of it” on court day if you were cooperative with the officer.

9. Know Stuff about How to Keep Your Car Going

You should know how to take care of your car, some of which may have been touched on in driving school.

Know how to change a tire. At some point in your driving career you will end up with a flat–and for some unknown law of nature, most flats happen on isolated roads rather than near anything resembling a service station.

If you do get a flat, make sure you can get the car to a firm, flat place either off the road or just on the shoulder. Once your car is parked, work through the following steps.

  • Put the car into Park, get out, and place logs or other heavy objects in front of the non-flat tires.
  • Take out the jack, place it firmly under the car–there may be a spot to place it–and perpendicular to the ground.
  • Remove the hubcaps and loosen the lug nuts so that you can turn them by hand.
  • Raise the jack so that the tire is completely off the ground; if the jack starts to lean, lower the vehicle, straighten the jack, and try again.
  • Remove the lug nuts and place them in the hubcap.
  • Remove the flat tire and place the spare on the hub–the valve should be facing out.
  • Put the lug nuts back on in a star pattern, hand-tight.
  • Partially lower the car so that the tire is on the ground but not bearing full weight.
  • Use the lug wrench to tighten all the lug nuts.
  • Lower the vehicle the rest of the way and stow the jack. Tighten the lug nuts as much as you can.
  • Take the old tire to the mechanic for repair–it probably won’t be too expensive if it’s a small puncture.

Know how to check your oil and all fluid levels, as well as tire pressure. Making sure the oil is at the proper level will keep your engine running efficiently–and running out of oil is a really bad thing waiting to happen. Properly inflated tires will also boost your gas mileage.

While you’re receiving driving instruction, after a session driving around Suffolk, VA, ask your instructor about some of these skills. You will be glad you did.

10. Avoid Road Rage by Taking the Scenic Route

We’ve all been frustrated by other drivers. Sometimes that frustration leads to an out-of-control response of yelling, screaming, and even deadly violence.

That’s not good.

Aggressive driving and poor driving can both be causes of road rage. You may cause others to get angry if you cut them off, fail to signal, text while driving, or drive too slowly (20 in a 45 is really unacceptable) in front of them. You may be triggered by similar actions by others.

One way to lessen the chances of road rage is to take lesser-traveled rounds to your destination–when possible. The Tidewater road network provides you with options and you find places to go in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, or Suffolk. You’ll have driven over many of them with your parents or driving instructor while you were working towards your license.

11. How to Escape from a Sinking Car

This will probably never happen to you. Or to anyone you know.

But knowing the steps to get out of a sinking car may save your own life, as well as those of your passengers. Think it through, while sitting in your car, and remember your plan, and you’ll be in good shape. Here are the steps to take when your car ends up in the water.

  • Keep your cool. Panic will put you in more danger.
  • Hold on to the steering wheel at the 9 and 3 positions (or even 8 and 4) to avoid injury if the airbags inflate.
  • As soon as the car is in the water, undo your seatbelt–and help small children do the same.
  • Do not worry about making the cell phone call.
  • Open the window–or a window–as quickly as possible. Electrical systems should work for a short period after the car lands in the water. Don’t worry yet about the doors–that could cause a quick sink rather than a slow one.
  • If you can’t open the window, use a hammer or window breaking tool you have stowed conveniently to smash the windows.
  • Get air in your lungs and get out of the window.
  • If the car is filling with water, know that you will not be able to open the door until the water pressure is equal inside and out. You will still have an air pocket up near the roof of the car.
  • Help children out first then follow them to the surface.

As with any safety plan, it’s important to have a plan–know what you will do. You will only need to think about it once or twice in your driving career, but you may end up being thankful you did.

Wrapping It Up

Drivers get excellent training in the driving schools. Professional driving instruction helps keep the roads of Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Suffolk safe. Many skills, however, come later, as people gain experience driving.

These 11 skills are items to be aware of as you begin your driving career. As you drive, develop them, and you will be a better driver.