What makes professional drivers so much better than the rest of us? Well, the hours of training in specialized cars certainly help, but people who earn a living in the driving industry take driving seriously – very seriously. The road can be a very dangerous place. With these driving tips from the pros, you can do your part to help keep yourself and other drivers safe.
One quick look at any highway and you'll see what driving pros say all the time – most drivers treat driving as an afterthought. “That vehicle has the potential to kill others or yourself if you aren't careful, so focusing on the responsibility of driving is a huge part of staying safe,” says Dan Strollo, executive director of InControl, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, hands-on crash prevention training program.
We’ve rounded up some expert tips to keep you safe while driving.
7 Pro Driving Tips
1. Keep Your Car in Shape
Before you get on the road, it’s important to make sure your car is ready for it. Our first pro driving tip is to be sure to maintain your car and check on your car often.
“Much of my personal approach to safe driving occurs proactively before I even start the vehicle,” says Strollo. Aside from automatically snapping on his seatbelt, Strollo maintains his car for safety. That means making sure wipers aren't deteriorating, headlights are working, and tires are properly inflated to prevent blowouts from uneven wear and to allow for good traction and steering control.
2. Get Your Head in the Game
No, you don't have to run through a manual checklist like a professional driver, but you should take a deep breath once you get in that driver's seat and shift your attention to driving that car. “Too many drivers approach driving with the intention of finding things to do with their brains while the vehicle takes them to their destination,” says Strollo.
With so many distractions these days, focusing on where you are and where you’re going is an important step to remember when driving.
3. Be an Engaged Driver
Years ago, says Strollo, engineers didn't design auto cup holders because they couldn't imagine drivers doing anything else but driving. With today's drivers talking on the phone, jotting notes, texting, flipping the radio station, putting on makeup, eating, and drinking coffee, there's lots of distracted driving going on. Pay attention, says Strollo.
“I don't care how well maintained your car is, how much you understand about the safety features in your car, how much room you give the cars ahead of you and/or how seldom you speed,” says Strollo, “if you don't focus on driving when you're behind the wheel, you're eventually going to crash.”
4. Know Your Anti-Lock Brakes
“Anti-lock brake systems (ABS) are one of the most important technological advances to vehicles in our time,” says Strollo. Your ABS keep your tires from locking and sending you into an uncontrollable spin when you make a fast stop. To engage the ABS properly, your foot must remain on the pedal. “Never pump the brakes if your vehicle has ABS brakes,” Strollo says.
Unfortunately, people unfamiliar with ABS release the pedal when they feel the normal vibrations of an engaged ABS. Make sure every driver in your house, especially teens and seniors who might not be familiar with the vibrating, knows how to use the ABS and what it feels like.
5. Stay Back
You know how aggravating it is to have a driver driving so close you can't even see the car bumper in the rear-view mirror. But have you ever thought of how dangerous it is? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) classifies tailgating as an aggressive driving behavior that poses a danger to others on the road.
The faster you're driving, the longer it takes to stop the car, says Strollo, and following someone so closely doesn't mean you'll make it to work on time. “Tailgating has never gotten you somewhere faster,” says Strollo.
6. Know Your Limits
Recognize when you aren't in good shape to drive. Alcohol and drugs are huge impairments for drivers, and it's illegal to drive under the influence. But did you know driving while you're tired can be hazardous, too? According to the NHTSA, “drowsy driving in 2013 caused about 72,000 crashes, 800 fatalities, and 44,000 injuries.” Take a nap before you hit the road.
7. Be a Good Example
You have to earn good-driver status. “We have a lot of experienced drivers, but very few of them are skilled,” says Strollo, and many often laugh about it. Don't joke about your old speeding tickets or near misses with your kids. Even if they seem like they're ignoring you, kids notice when you cut someone off or send a text behind the wheel. They will drive like you drive.
“Driving is the most dangerous thing we do,” says Strollo. “It's the number one killer for most of our lives.” And even if your car has the technology to practically steer you across the country, the reality is that isn't a realistic option right now.
“We've still gotta drive,” says Strollo. Use these driving tips from a professional driver to do it safely.
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