By on October 23, 2013
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I’ve let myself go over the years. No, I’m not talking about the almost 100 pounds I have gained since I left hallowed halls of Snohomish High School almost 30 years ago, I’m talking about my driving habits. 10 and 2 has slipped to 7 and crotch, with crotch occasionally slipping to 6 to steady the wheel while 7 moves around for added leverage. Know what I mean? I know you do…

Like most of the people who read TTAC, I would like to think I am an above average driver – knock on wood. I bolster that claim by citing the low number of accidents I have been involved in over the years. I can think of just three – one when I was 17 and put my Nova in the ditch, one when I was 18 and put my Nova in yet a different ditch and another in my late 20s when I slid my Geo Metro off of Interstate 90. In the first case, I ran off the road because I was doing doughnuts in the gravel (oops!), the second was on a dark snowy night when I came up over a hill and found the road full of little kids sledding and the third, which should have been the worst, was when I got crossed up on black ice and blew of the Interstate going full speed. In every case, I was able to fish the car back onto the road and go home without a single bit of damage. I have never struck another car (unless you count the times I may or may not have bumped someone parallel parking) nor have I ever caused anyone the slightest injury. Considering that I have been a licensed driver for more than 30 years and have probably driven somewhere north of a million miles in my life, I think that’s a pretty good record.

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah!

In the twisties I have a good sense of my cars’ abilities. I know how to corner, understand how the car’s weight shifts around when you brake and turn, and how traction varies in different situations. When I want to, I can make a car hustle and although I have never driven on a track feel like I would do that pretty well, too. Of course real racers will jump on me now, accuse me of hubris and say that my supposed street skills don’t count for anything on the track – to which I reply, “Give me a race car and some track time and we’ll see..” but I digress.

I’m not saying any of this to puff myself up or get a ride in a race car, I’m saying it because I think most people who read TTAC feel like I do. As enthusiasts, we know we are above average drivers, right? But how do we know? So, in the interest of science, on my way home from work yesterday, I took a good hard look at the reality of my driving habits.

I did some things right. I wore my seatbelt and made sure my mirrors were adjusted before I set out. I looked far down the road to read traffic as far out as possible, used my signal religiously and checked my blind spots before I changed lanes just like I was taught way back in driver’s ed. I didn’t linger in people’s blind spots either, something I learned from a lifetime as a motorcyclist, and whenever possible I used my vantage point on freeway overpasses to look down on the roads I would be merging into before I looped back around to them on the backside of the cloverleaf. Not bad, right? This old dog, I think, has some good tricks.

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But I did some things wrong, too. I didn’t grip the wheel in the right places – not even close – I held the wheel at the bottom, with my hands in my lap and only moved them up when I needed to negotiate a turn. There were times I followed too close because I was worried someone would merge between me and the car in front of me and, because of that, there were times I had to get on the brakes harder than I would have liked. I passed on the right, something I have heard referred to as “undertaking” and for much of the journey stayed above the posted speed limit. There were probably other things too, and I will keep looking for them as I go along. Hopefully, I’ll catch all of these small mistakes and be an even better driver for my efforts.

There it is, my own honest assessment of my own abilities. Despite all the puffing myself up at the top of this article, the truth is I have some things I need to focus on to ensure that I stay ahead of the curve. I wonder, however, if there might be other things I should be working on and so I want to ask you to set aside your egos, and check your desire to criticize the people who share, in order to really discuss our bad driving habits. What are they? How serious do you think they are and how can we fix them?

We can all do better. What’s it gonna take to get back our “eye of the tiger?” Probably at least one more montage….

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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79 Comments on “Driving Ability: Have I Lost The “Eye Of The Tiger?”...”


  • avatar
    mikey

    I’ve been driving 44 years. Yes,its easy to get complacent,and lazy. I try and make a conscience effort, to not fall into bad habits.

    These days, I find myself becoming a more defensive driver, than I ever was.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    I recommend riding a motorcycle to keep your safe driving habits sharp. You’ll either become/stay an excellent driver, or you’ll die in a motorcycle accident. Either way, there will be one less bad driver on the roads. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Man, you are cruel.. but I agree, motorcycle riding, if taken seriously, will sharpen your skills up. I know it did for me. Problem is, I now drive just as defensively when I am behind the wheel. That part I don’t like. Too many geniuses out there.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Undertaking is now unavoidable. Either a left lane bandit with a clear view to the horizon won’t yield the passing lane, or the freeway is full and the passing lane is now slowed by the constant battle between people keeping a proper distance and aggressive drivers tailgating them (causing an increase in the necessary safe following distance). Doesn’t matter what lane you choose, even under the limit you are going to pass the uninformed, uncaring masses. Even when I still drove my Landcruiser in the slow lane I consistently passed people while driving well under the limit.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Besides being unavoidable due to the poor lane discipline and heavy traffic you mention, passing on the right is not universally forbidden.

      Of course this is state to state, but this is what CA says about it: http ://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21754.htm

      The way I read this, CA has no problem with passing on the right on a multi-lane highway.

      • 0 avatar
        Slab

        I think this is taught in California driver’s ed. I’m sitting in the middle lane going 5 miles over. Right lane’s a mix of truckers and slowing and accelerating drivers. Left lane’s wide open. Someone will come up and sit on my bumper until the right lane opens. Never fails.

    • 0 avatar

      On highways where I do most of my driving–Massachusetts to Virginia–the left-most lane often has the densest traffic, and the right-most lane is often the de facto passing lane, because it has the least traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      IMO, prohibiting ‘undertaking’ is a bad law. Each lane is a flow of traffic, and should not be barred from doing what it is inclined to do because of what is happening in another flow of traffic. So long as you are in a lane, you should be able to drive in that lane according to how the conditions in the lane permit. The hazards I’ve heard people use to justify prohibiting undertaking are no different or severe than the hazards of overtaking. Perhaps when cars didn’t have passenger-side mirrors it made sense, but not now.

      To me, the whole ‘pass on the right’ issue should be limited to when not in a designated lane, such as using a shoulder to pass a car stopped waiting to make a left turn. I can understand restrictions on such situations, but not forbidding the use of an open and available lane.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Predictability reduces crash risk.

        Speed variance increases crash risk.

        Undertaking reduces predictability while increasing the hazards posed by speed variance. That’s obviously a bad idea on both counts. Restricting passing to the inside lane will mitigate the effects of speed variance and makes driving more predictable.

        If the Germans tried to operate the autobahn with free-for-all passing, it would be a catastrophic failure. Imagine a 100 mph car sharing a lane with a 60 mph semi, and that should make it obvious what the problem is.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Your point is well taken, but far too often the middle or left lane has a motorist going slower than the flow. Those who resolutely sit there are typically doing the limit – or slightly less – and by their passive aggressive behavior are saying tough $hit to everybody. Going around them on the right is the only answer. And when I do, I cut it tight with no signal. My FU to them. I shouldn’t, but their arrogance and self-righteousness is infuriating. This left lane banditry seems to cause more accidents than any non-weather related cause.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @golden, sometimes I do the same thing, along with a loooooooong shot of windshield wiper (long enough to see them hit their wipers). I know that other drivers can see the obviously deliberate mist blowing off my car, and I certainly hope that the sight of it gives another kindred spirit some sense of satisfaction.

            I also “reward” oncoming high-beam forgetters ;)

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Also guilty of cutting it close with no signal when I have to pass a left lane bandit on the right. It’s pretty idiotic and childish when you think about it. Sometimes I can’t help myself though.

            JimC2 – the wiper mist is a good idea. I’ll have to give that a shot if I think of it.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m a younger driver, but I have some good and bad habits.

    The good: I keep a running inventory of what cars are around me and am constantly watching out to see what other people are doing. I always signal when lane-changing, and I hold the wheel in a way that allows me to make emergency maneuvers the quickest. I also haven’t relied on the rearview cameras that our most-recent two cars have had

    The bad: I follow people way too closely. I have a lead-foot when it comes to highway or interstate travel—or maybe just in general. I spend way too much time ogling nice cars on the road (like the Rolls-Royce Ghost that I saw this morning), and I tend not to see road debris or obstacles until they’re already under my rear tires. (“Oh, did I just run over that old lady? Oops”.)

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Kyree, you are ahead of the Camry driver was second in line at the stoplight and didn’t think he had to use his signal while follow a car ahead of him that did. When i follow on my motorcycle it is a good way to get me tagged from the rear end. He got a swift 140db blast from the Stebil Nautilus!

      At high speeds or congested areas I have two hands on the sides of the wheel for best leverage to turn in an emergency. It also provides quickest reaction to turn especially as your muscle mass lessens. Do some autocrosses and you figure out where your hands need to be in a hurry or your wiper and turn signal stalks will be the butt of jokes when you return to the pits after ypur run.

    • 0 avatar
      BobinPgh

      If you know you follow people too closely why don’t you just back off?

      By the way, are you also a “close talker” that is, someone who gets close to someone’s face when you are talking to them? That might have something to do with why you follow other cars too closely.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Hands at 2:30 and 9:30 and no thumbs wrapped around the wheel as an old habit from my off-roading days. Having motorcycles and sporty cars where you look up into other cars door handles you learn to watch the road for others not watching for you. I always drive like I am on the track, not that I drive fast all the time but smooth and follow the proper lines on the on and off ramps, braking and accelerating smooth. I don’t always watch the gauges like I should and get lazy with the cruise control on. I tend to “guard” my spot from “idiots” when merging as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      One of the things I have to conscientiously think about for a bit when switching between off road driving and motorcycle riding is where my thumbs are.

      Personally, I think letting driver conscientiousness go as you get older largely depends on where you drive. American suburb driving is terrible for driver complacency. OTOH, driving in large, older cities on the East Coast, Europe or Asia will keep you on your toes.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Bad Behavior…today while driving into work. Reached into pocket, took out phone, and turned on Pandora. Since this is America, if this resulted in an accident, I would sue Ford and become a millionaire because they have yet to release Applink for Gen1 Sync cars. Get with the program Ford!

  • avatar
    joberg73

    It is impossible to NOT pass on the right when every other driver out there feels a strong need to be in the center or left lanes. Often the right lane is completely empty and you are actually doing the correct thing by staying right.

    I live near I-90 in Massachusetts where there is often 10 or more miles between exits. There is no reason at all for people to travel in the center lane without passing given that no one is merging on or off the highway for many miles. So I stay right.

    • 0 avatar

      EXACTLY how I feel! It’s not that we want to, or like to. Other peoples habits are the problem. If people use the lanes as intended like I do (once I’m done in the right lane– usually ASAP) I’m back to the empty right and may slow down some 5-15mph depending on the situation.

      What gets me steamed is when someone has no qualms doing 80 in the right lane, but when they get up next to a semi truck or camper trailer suddenly they go super slow to be “cautious.” Get around ‘em, because all it takes is some yahoo merging up ahead to foul up the lane.

    • 0 avatar
      IndianaDriver

      I’ve always thought of the following for driving on a 3 lane highway.

      Left = above the speed limit.
      Middle = at the speed limit.
      Right = below the speed limit.

      No one going over the speed limit should get mad at the middle or right lane people. For two lane highways:

      Left = above the speed limit.
      Right = at the speed limit or below.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Keep right except to pass. Clear. Simple. Not passing? Get to the right.

        So, sure, if someone’s travelling below the speed limit in the right lane, the person doing the speed limit in the middle lane is in the clear, as they’re actively passing someone. But far too many people use that as license to park themselves in the middle lane from the time they get on the highway until they have to exit.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Center lane is the travel lane and left for passing.
      Right lane for merging/exiting. The signage on the highway supports this as well. Must be a Masshole driver thing.. KIDDING…

    • 0 avatar
      amarks

      I’m late to this one, but it’s worth noting that Massachusetts law allows passing on the right in three specific circumstances: when the vehicle is turning left, on one-way streets, and on restricted travel roads that are direction-separated (i.e. highways). So, bad habit or not, it is legal.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    I think my driving habits are good – they are technically good. One thing I do differently now is if I am behind a slow asshole but am turning off within say a mile and a half, I will just stay behind him, rather than overtake, unless I think overtaking him will get me through a light one change before he will.

    On four- or more-lanes, I will pass, whether I do it to the right or the left – the new style, I think, is to crowd the left lane because you just KNOW you’re going to go faster than the others…and then zone out. So the right lane is frequently less cluttered.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    Yes! As drivers get crazier and crazier I get more defensive. So I think, anyway, my driving skills have not deteriorated in 33 years.

    And it’s ok, I read that you shouldn’t drive at 10 and 2 because if your airbags deploy they can “delaminate” your hands. OUCH.

    John

    • 0 avatar

      I used to actually reach inside the wheel and rest my hand on the spokes of the wheel. That is major bad juju and I had to train myself not to do that anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      Still better than these dudes running around with a hand up at 12 o’clock (or left hand at 1 o’clock… really?), waiting for a broken nose.

      With that said, I’ve always tended to 9 and 3, which is suggested– and no thumb wrapping.
      http://www.9news.com/news/article/260393/188/Forget-10-and-2-new-driving-guidelines-suggest-9-and-3

  • avatar
    ash78

    19 years behind the wheel and not an accident to my name, and not for lack of aggressive driving. Maybe it’s growing up with underpowered FWD cars which surely helped that. But driving is like playing chess and the more you can PREDICT incidents, the better you’ll do. Think several moves ahead, don’t react to surprises that you should have seen coming.

    There is no way to avoid someone else running a stop sign at a blind intersection and t-boning you, but apart from those situations, almost all accidents are avoidable by YOU. You just have to be more attentive and competent than everyone else. And competence is less important now with ABS, traction control, amazing tires, and so on.

  • avatar
    GST

    Great question. If you were in Seattle, I would take you to lunch. Me, driving distracted by using phone to talk and to navigate, otherwise very defensive, former motorcycle rider.

    However, age 70, only one accident. College, drinking, night, rain, slick Chicago street, Porsche 1600 Normal Coupe spin out. Minor damage. Maybe only 3-4 tickets in 50 years of driving. Do like driving. Probably 700,000 miles by now. Recently sold my 1987 Buick Regal Grand National that I bought new and kept stock.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    What is Good Driving on the street? Is it following every law to the letter? Is it driving safely according to conditions in spite of the law? Clean, extravagant drifts around empty cloverleaves?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      In my opinion, good driving is a two-tier thing: One, good motorists should follow the laws of the road and refrain from engaging in dangerous or aggressive driving. Two, good motorists should be actively aware of what is going on around them and should be prepared to make evasive maneuvers should they become necessary.

      Textbook answer? Maybe…

    • 0 avatar

      Good questions raised brenschluss. I think we all know the answer. Driving with the traffic code under your arm is not always the best way to go nor the safest.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Bull.. most everything you listed has nothing to do with making you a good or bad driver. You sound like an experienced driver. Most of our traffic laws are created for the lowest common denominator driver so they don’t screw up so badly. Speed limits are practically arbitrary these days, made for revenue generation as much as traffic flow. And many things like “undertaking” or following too closely are basic requirements since so few other drivers follow the rules either.

    Do you pay attention to what’s going on around you? Make driving decisions based on being safe and efficient? Try to be considerate to your fellow motorists? That’s why you are a good driver.

    Every day I see people driving way too slowly, scared of every other car on the road, stopping short, not stopping at all, pulling out in front of people, cutting people off, being clearly lost and not caring about the problems they cause by stopping in the middle of the road to make a turn they missed, etc, etc. Those are the bad drivers. And the joke is, almost everyone THINKS they are a good driver, but obviously most everyone is not.

    My big problem I have noticed lately is not stopping at “right on red” corners. I tend to slow down, and if no one is coming I cruise on through. But now we have red light cameras all over the freakin place here and forgetting to stop completely, regardless of traffic, is going to cost me $158 each time. I have found that a very hard habit to break.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.

    -Dave Barry

  • avatar
    sckid213

    I’m 30, and guilty of the one hand at 6pm style of driving. But hey, I drive a Caddy, so I think I get a pass. :-)

    I live in the LA area and my commute home takes me down PCH / Sepulveda Blvd. near LAX, where the road is basically a divided highway with as many as 5 lanes on each side in parts. One thing that has made me ALWAYS check my blind spots is motorcyles. In slow traffic, they lane split like they do on the freeway. Often I’ll be stopped and have motorcycles lane splitting by me on both sides at the same time. I’ve always been a check-over-my-shoulder type, but those bikes have me making sure I ALWAYS do it.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Which model Cadillac?

      • 0 avatar
        sckid213

        ’08 CTS. So yeah, I probably really shouldn’t get a pass….

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          How do you like it and were you at all familiar with earlier Cadillacs when you bought it?

          • 0 avatar
            sckid213

            I like it a lot, and was pretty familiar with earlier Cadillacs. My parents had a ’78 Eldo Biarritz Custom Classic that I was driven home from the hospital in, my best friend’s mom had a series of late ’80s – early ’90s Sedan Devilles (and one sweeeet ’92 Seville, one of the first sold) that I basically grew up in, and I learned to drive on my mom’s ’94 Deville.

            The CTS drives nothing like those old barges, but there’s still a bit of the Caddy feel in it. Especially on the freeway, where it just eats up the miles. I like how it stands out, and all of my GTI, BMW and Audi-driving friends love it; it’s like a guilty pleasure for them.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Interesting. I drove one around here after my former boss bought hers, I me’h it, felt like a tight Oldsmobile. I’d much rather have a 4.9 Sedan Deville or Brougham.

        • 0 avatar

          You get a pass if you have a large orange drink in your other hand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMsmbLo8KQw

          • 0 avatar
            sckid213

            Haha yes indeed. Or a 40 of Olde English and a swisher sweet rolled up with something nice…http://youtu.be/8PLifPUIuic?t=54s

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    34 years of driving, and most of my many accidents were due to haste and/or exhaustion. Although I can’t help the ones where someone else bumped me, including the one deer and my wife twice, and the tractor-trailer that sideswiped me (terrifying).

    Most notably, I’m very cautious when making left turns. I created an accident in 1982 that totalled 2.5 cars and sent two people to the hospital for minor injuries – all due to a hasty left turn across traffic.

    In 1992 I totalled my car (later rebuilt) by rear-ending someone while I was tired and speeding – stupid.

    Then in 2001 I bumped a truck when I was tired, and also because I mistook his juke at a right-turn-on-red as a commitment to go.

    These examples are just a few of the mishaps I’ve been involved in.

    So while I still think I’m an OK driver in terms of skill, my judgment hasn’t always been so great – I admit it. Hopefully I’m wising up.

    Interestingly, as an EV driver I’m more committed to the speed limit than ever before. Besides, the math tells us that speeding doesn’t save any meaningful time, unless you’re willing to take that risk over great distances.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I don’t know, with that history sounds like your a terrible driver! :)

      I disagree with you about speeding, at least, speeding a little bit. Over a long highway trip you are right, the difference between 65 and 75 is fairly minimal time savings. But around town, quickly accelerating and going 5 or so over the speed limit can mean the difference between stopping at 10 lights or 2. At 2-3 mins per light this can make a big difference in time savings. And for an ICE car it also saves fuel: sitting at lights and constantly stopping and accelerating kills my MPG averages. As an EV driver you wouldn’t have that problem though.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        The difference between 65 and 75 mph saves 10 min on an 80 mile round trip commute. There is a minimal difference in safety between those speeds as well. At the speed of traffic on many highways, you are safer at 75 mph.

        I think speeding around town is much more dangerous, and the time savings more debatable. There are more variables around town that make speeding dangerous (pedestrians, cyclists, intersections, cars entering and exiting residences and businesses).

        No guarantee that you make it through lights by speeding either – depends on traffic and timing. For example, Great Highway in SF’s Outer Sunset. At around 30mph you will get green at every intersection. At 40mph, you reach the light too soon, then have to stop and re-accelerate.

        I certainly can’t find fault with 5 over though. It’s the crowd that drives 50mph regardless of whether they are in a school zone or a 4 lane interstate that drives me crazy.

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          @burgers – agreed 100%. I probably shouldn’t use the term “speeding”, especially around town. I am speaking more of a brisk acceleration, and maybe 5mph over. And it does depend on the area, some roads I travel on are timed very well for traffic flowing at the speed limit. Other roads seem to be designed purposely to mis-time the lights so if you drive the speed limit you have to stop at every one. And in areas where there are kids, dogs, pedestrians, residential areas, then I keep it slow. Around my area we have commercial roadways with lots of lights and very few pedestrians, that’s where things get frustrating.

          After reading @SCE’s comments I imagined an EV owner leaving a red light at the glacial speed to save the most amount of fuel, until they eventually top out at 2mph under the posted limit, then coasting to the next light because, well it is probably going to change anyway. :)

          But now I telecommute most of the time, which is awesome. And when I do head into the office, my commute is usually on the parkway, 70mph most of the way, and a nice solid 60mph for the last 10 trafficky miles. It takes me 45 minutes and I don’t even bother to speed, it isn’t even worth it to save the 5 mins or so considering all the speed traps on that road.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            @mnm4ever: I keep up with traffic in town. :) In fact, an EV’s torque can be irresistible off the line, so occasionally a jackrabbit start is called for.

            But while the Leaf can go over 90, its range is rated at about 45 mph. Higher speeds kill the range, so I tend to stick with the posted limits and arrive calmer than otherwise.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “I passed on the right, something I have heard referred to as “undertaking” and for much of the journey stayed above the posted speed limit.”

    The former is perfectly acceptable if done correctly and safely, in context; there’s a world of difference between overtaking someone on the right as they try to make/prepare for a left turn or are just obliviously roadblocking, and zooming around at a delta-v of 50, whipping back and forth.

    And speeding is *often safer than not speeding*. The safest speed in normal circumstances is “the same speed the rest of traffic is moving”, not what a sign says.

    Even going faster than traffic is not a failure of ability and judgment, so long as the circumstances do not render it *reckless*.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I’m also in this bunch of hopefully better than average drivers but , I know some really fast guys so I’m keenly aware and not a little bit disappointed to realize I’m not really a fast one .

    I never had the eye .

    Hands always @ 10 & 2 because anything else means you _WILL_ be unable to swerve when that idiot cuts you off @ speed someday .

    Look and think , several vehicles ahead , that’s the best advice here .

    Do I get a pass for having and enjoying a 1980 Caddy S & S Victoria Hearse ? . it’s a terrific Road Car .

    Agreed , Motocycling keeps you sharp ~

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think I’d be driving fast if I had that Nash Metropolitan, either. Or is that some car from your distant past? (Either way, I like it.)

      I used to be one of the fast guys, but I’ve slowed down. I don’t know whether the desire to stay invisible to cops has affected my habits, or whether it’s age–60–or both.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I’ve gotten lazy with my turn signals. I only use them when my turn impacts the traffic around me. For example, in moderate to heavy highway traffic, it is helpful that other drives know my intention before I change lanes. However, I don’t use the turn signal just for the sake of following the letter of the law if the nearest car is 6 car lengths away and has zero chance of needing to make any adjustments based on my lane change. I’m also not going to sit at a light listening to the turn signal if I am in a protected left-turn-only lane.

    I should probably return to using them more often, for the day I think there is no one around me, but there is.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      That’s a bad habit. Don’t try to judge if other motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, etc. need to know what you intend to do – they are better judges of that than you are.

      I cross a busy 4-lane on foot every day at noon. I frequently miss the chance to cross the street because tools who are turning onto the intersecting street before they reach me, or turning the other way out of the intersecting street, and are therefore not going to cross my path after all, neglect to signal. By your standards, since you’re a hundred yards away, I’m not “around you,” but since you are moving at 45 mph and I’m on foot crossing the road, you are definitely “around” me by my standards.

      Besides – why waste time and effort worrying about whether the closest car is 6 lengths away or has slightly sped up and is now only 4 lengths away – just signal your intention. Make something that is really a no-brainer into an ACTUAL no-brainer (AKA making it a habit), and you get to pay attention to something else that actually requires it.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        Plus, if you keep your hands and 9 and 3 (thumbs up!) you barely have to move your finger.

      • 0 avatar
        doublechili

        “Make something that is really a no-brainer into an ACTUAL no-brainer (AKA making it a habit), and you get to pay attention to something else that actually requires it.”

        Yes, absolutely. Also, it’s not a “signal” if you start doing it when you’re half way into the lane or the turn. At that point other drivers already know what you’re doing and you should be thinking about turning your signal off, not on.

        I’m slowing down, but I probably still drive a bit too fast on local roads sometimes. On highways I’ve come to the conclusion that a little fast is better. I try to find a nice bit of open road, get in the right lane and maintain a speed that keeps me in some open space. Nothing drives me crazy like a bunch of cars grouped together on an otherwise open highway. Whenever I do try to slow down on highways I find half the traffic passing me and me passing the other half, and it just feels less safe.

        As a very general proposition, hand position and other important details aside, it’s all about focus and awareness: be extremely focused on driving and be aware of everything around you (ahead, behind, to either side). At any given moment, if someone magically stopped action, pulled you out of your car and gave you a quiz, you should be able to precisely recite all relatively proximate vehicles, pedestrians, traffic controls, cross streets/driveways, etc..

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    For most of my driving life I’ve been a very impatient driver. Lead, follow or get out of my way was pretty much my motto. I’ve been changing that the last few years, basically telling myself that anyplace I’m going will still be there even if I chill a bit and enjoy the ride. Doesn’t always work, but it works most of the time

    If anything will f-up my serenity is left-laners, you know who you are

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    I’ve read that drivers on the roads tend to act one of three ways: like a child, like a parent, or like an adult.

    That has a ring of truth to it.

    Now knowing this, I try to drive like “an adult”.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    My biggest current pet peeve concerns not highway driving, but undivided lane highways (is that what you call them? two lanes total, one in each direction, divided by yellow line). I do 80% of my driving between upstate NY towns on such a highway these days. Speed limit 55.

    There are three types of drivers. There are the cruise control types, anywhere between 58 to 64 mph. No preblem there. There are the speed limit ones, who tend to oscillate between 55 and as low as 45. No problem when alone. And then there are people like me, with decent horsepower, and inability or unwillingness to stay behind someone.

    The problem is when the slow, second types, travel in caravans of anywhere between 3 to 6 cars. Very close to each other. Makes passing more spectacular than it should be, and quite a problem actually.

  • avatar
    2fast4u

    I too get lazy and hold the steering wheel close to the bottom. I’m also probably far too reckless of a driver. But, I have noticed that being a car enthusiast has helped me when I drive. One night, I saw a new CLS63 AMG in the right lane about to end, while I was driving past him at full throttle in a Honda Civic. I knew the moment I saw him start to accelerate, in my rearview mirror, that he would pass me. So i braked and let that idiot pass to avoid an accident. I would not have been able to anticipate that if I didn’t know how powerful the car was

  • avatar
    Fat Man Of La Mancha

    Here in texas everyone cruises in the center lanes because no one knows how to merge into traffic. Whats so difficult about; keep distance between the car in front of you to allow other in, speed up to highway speed on the entrance ramp, and slow down if you see someone trying to merge in front of you? Most of the time I see the situation reverse where the cars on the highway speed up to get in front of the merging car or the merging car slowing down to let a car behind them pass.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    I run a lot of miles in many different places. My rule is simple, I assume every other driver out there an idiot and will do something stupid. So I constantly mentally go through all the possible scenarios that each driver could do to put me at risk.
    Since it is World Series time think of it like baseball and your playing shortstop with one on and one out. If the they do x then I do abc, if they do y then I do cde, and so forth.

  • avatar
    KennethofGA

    My personal assessment,
    I need to be more focused, diligent, and attentive.
    As a commercial driver I put a lot of hours in behind the wheel and though by and large I think I do well and sometimes very well I also know that I suffer from what some call “old hand syndrome”. As some one who racks up 90,000 some odd miles a year (120,000+ when I was OTR) in an eighteen wheeler plus another 15,000 or so in private cars I get complacent easily, “I GOT DIS” but I also know better than most that I DON’T got dis and neither does anyone else really. My overall driving is pretty good to be honest I stay out of the way obey most traffic laws but I do add about 5 to 10 mph to the speed limit. I’m also good about keeping up with what’s ahead of me but my hand position, gauge scan, and mirror checks get stagnant after a while. I’m still better than a lot of drivers I know but not perfect. I know no one is but I also know I need to try harder.

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    I go an read a car blog and the first sentence is the author telling the reader he gained a 100 pounds since high school. Boy that’s really something to brag about! Tom better stick to just face photos.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Well, it was the second sentence and would you rather have lies and posturing?

      I only respect Thom all the more when he mentions things like that.

      BTW, how’s *your* blood sugar, bro? Every American is on the same slippery slope ’cause we’re pigs. ‘Cause that’s fun and the “food” industry plays to it.

      • 0 avatar
        BobinPgh

        Why would you respect a writer because he says he weighs 100 more than he used to? You ask about me, I weight about 60 more, that is 140-200 lbs and I know that is too much. Any more and I would have blood sugar issues but I do what I can to prevent that. Oh, and I know Tom does because he bragged before about his diabetes in another article. As for the high school I don’t mention mine because it is one of the lowest rated in PA. But we do have an award winning cafeteria and quad A football team!

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I think the point of the post was being honest about ourselves and our driving habits. Telling the world you’re a 100lbs up from high school gives the writer credibility and opens the forum to honest dialog. Being honest about ourselves is without a doubt the most difficult evaluation we can make. Have you ever tried it?

  • avatar

    On the highway, one hand at 4. In the city, not possible as it’s a manual and I have to shift with my right hand. In the city, 2 hands, usually at 4.47ish.

    Blinkers? 50% of the time. Guess that almost makes me a zealot as blinker use around here is close to 0%, not to mention that depending on the situation to blink is a message to other drivers to accelerate and close the gap.

    Tail gaiting? Usually no, but sometimes I have to. To overtake in a 1.0 larger engine cars this attitude comes with the territory.

    Overtaking on the right? Yes, all the time. I know it’s illegal and dangerous but I think almost nobody else does. The right lane is usually the fastest in my area in Brazil.

    Always alert to other cars around me and looking out for traffic ahead and behind. So for that I get points. That is also why I become more aggressive in overtaking when there are SUVs, PUs, buses, trucks and CUVs in front. I like to be able to see ahead.

  • avatar
    jdhall

    Forty-six years driving. One accident in which I wasn’t at fault.

    I’ve slowed down a bit over the last four or five years. I used to be a 80+ mph freeway driver, now I’m more comfortable five mph or so slower.

    My biggest concern is city driving and pedestrians. I look for cars at intersections, but have noticed a recent tendency to overlook people on foot. The one way streets around here don’t help.

    I agree that riding motorcycles helps keep you focused.

  • avatar
    Timothy

    I read this article as I was winding down my day in the office yesterday and thought about all the things I do when driving to ensure that I am safe and those around me are safe. I always signal, I leave plenty of room between myself and the car in front of me, use extra caution in poor driving conditions, keeping my car in perfect working order, etc etc etc. Sometimes you can do everything right and the shit still hits the fan… like last night as I was stopped for a red light.

    One of the things I always do when stopped at a red light is to leave a car length in front of me. I also keep my wheel straight even when making a left turn (so if I am hit I don’t careen into oncoming traffic). And I ALWAYS keep one eye trained on my rear view mirror.

    All of these can in handy last evening when the butt head in the 1987 Camero (oh yes, a real gem of a car) failed to recognize stopped traffic, was speeding, and was operating a vehicle in poor mechanical condition. I stopped and he didn’t causing extensive damage to the right rear on my still new 2013 Focus ST.

    Thankfully no other drivers were involved and I was clearly not at fault. Thankfully I wasn’t seriously injured (crumple zones are wonderful thing and the oft maligned Recaro seats held me in place while the seatbelt locked me into the chair). I’m estimating between 5-6k provided the suspension and frame are in the clear. If they are not it’ll be totaled.

    Long story short, no matter how many precautions you take and how good a driver you are, it’s the other assholes out there that will truly ruin your day.

    Still managed to get home in time to see the Sox crush the Cards. GO SOX!

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    Nice article, and, I think, useful self-examinations/exposes by everyone.

    Made me think of my deficiencies, and I came up with three clear ones:

    1) My night vision isn’t what it used to be (as is the case with anyone over 40). I don’t have to wear glasses or anything, but I KNOW my night vision isn’t nearly as good as it was, yet I have made no concessions to that I can think of in my driving. Hmm.

    2) If I’m familiar with the circumstances, I can get lazy. Example: Stop sign at the end of my residential street that I always roll through because there’s never any traffic. EXCEPT when there IS a car- in which case I’m often caught having to brake and/or apologize via gesture.

    3) After years of driving overseas in places where the rule was, essentially, “driver is entitled to everything s/he can see in front of her/him, keeping in mind that all drivers behind or to the sides of her/him are entitled to same”, I still haven’t internalized that US drivers expect more “courtesy” and thus often change lanes and merge without proper respect for the way US drivers do those things.

    On the self-congratulation front, I am pleased to report that for the past three years or so I never get so angry enough at other drivers that I try to “retaliate” in any way (gestures, slowing down, flashing brights, “re-passing” them, whatever). I did that for years, though. Definition of stupidity.

  • avatar
    another_pleb

    As an Approved Driving Instructor, I can say that while the standard hand position on the wheel is the best for overall comfort and control behind the wheel, it is much more important to understand how the wheel is being turned. Furthermore, there is no section on the DL25 Driving Test Report form for hand position.

    Methods which give less control include crossing arms, pawing at one side of the wheel and worst of all, letting the wheel slip through your fingers when straightening up after a corner.

    On faster roads, where the wheel is only turned a few degrees, I encourage my pupils to scan to the limit point of vision and back and let their hands follow their eyes. For close quarters driving at slower speeds and sharper corners, I advocate the pull & push method, using both sides of the wheel and both hands equally.

    On dual-carriageways, the rule in the UK is to keep to the nearside unless overtaking or where signs / road markings say otherwise, you can overtake on the near side if you are in very heavy traffic.

    My worst habits, are probably facetiousness, today I gave a business card to a man who I saw having great difficulty reversing his BMW and my tendency to park my car where I shouldn’t, resident bays, double-yellows etc.

    My bottom line is that attitude and judgement are far more important for safe driving than knowledge and skill (and much more difficult to teach).

  • avatar
    brettc

    I had my share of accidents when I was a new driver back in the mid to late 90s. Three accidents I believe, and they were all to my parents cars (sorry mum and dad, I still feel bad!). After those occurred, I’ve learned to be a much better driver. Part of that reform involved teaching myself how to drive a manual transmission in a Jetta diesel. When you’re driving a manual equipped car with 52 horsepower, you learn to take your time and plan a lot better as to what might happen in the next 1 to 15 seconds and beyond based on your actions.

    That being said, fast forward 15 years and I’m now driving a much more powerful car. But people just seem to get dumber and less attentive with all of the digital distractions that exist now. So it’s still very important to anticipate what other drivers will do. So far so good in that department. I stay in the right or centre lane as much as possible and pass on the left when I can. But sometimes I’m forced to pass on the right when it’s the only choice to get away from clusters of morons.

    I try to practice the Smith system although I recently realized that I wasn’t using my brake lights enough to let people know if I was slowing down (it’s just a lot of fun to coast in a TDI). So I’ve started to tap my brakes to indicate to the morons that can’t judge that I’m slowing down. I try to keep about 2-3 seconds at a minimum between my car and turn all lights on whenever it’s inclement weather or darkish out because DRLs don’t turn on the tail lights! I do drive about 5-15 MPH over the limit but usually it’s just to keep up with traffic flow. I had a speeding ticket (48 in a 35) back in 2004 but nothing since I’ve slowed down in rural podunk areas with bored cops. And I do my best to keep my hands at 9 and 3 as much as possible.

    http://www.smith-system.com/downloads/Drive_Different.pdf

  • avatar
    ixim

    I drove a cab in NYC many moons ago. That’s when I learned how to drive safely. I. Know, sounds funny. Look, keeping your hands in one position on the wheel indefinitely isn’t happening. I usually drape my right hand over one o’clock and the left grips at eight. Always ready for a quick change of direction. Now the hard part – constantly check your mirrors and windows and clock all vehicles around you. Constantly note any changes. Always leave an escape route for yourself in the next lane. Expect problems – another vehicle darting in front of you; a breakdown in your lane; a taxi or truck stopping for business – that escape space will come in handy then. Always signal turns or lane changes; be ready to let a car or two pass you then. Always leave enough space between you and the next car so you can stop or change lanes in time, and smoothly. NOW – to drive smoothly, safely and quickly, do all of this by reflex. BTW – my worst habit, aside from pontificating about driving, is “rolling stop” signs/right turn on red. Cops truly hate it.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Night driving is by far my biggest challenge..I get off work at about 2230
    and the drive home is NEVER boring.
    Even though my car has great headlights…the fear of kids crossing the busy street always is on my mind.
    Freeway driving at this hour is not the least bit relaxing!
    My eyes,and reaction times have deteriorated due to age.
    Just not a fun trip!
    the only consultation has been my purchase of a BMW 740iL(very used)that I feel safe driving.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I used to be a one hand at 12 driver. After a few days on tracks and a massive amount of GT5, I’m now 9-3 pretty much all the time. I’m most relaxed there because that’s where I feel most in control. However, I can understand using a different position as most manufacturers don’t make it easy to use a proper 9-3 or 10-2. To get to where your arms are in the proper position for steering control, you have to get uncomfortably close to the pedals. I drive with bent knees to get close enough, though I’d rather be even closer.


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