Merriam-Webster defines the word habit as a usual way of behaving or something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way. There are good habits, then there are bad habits. Bad habits behind the wheel however, could spell disaster.
A new year brings in a new set of resolutions. To start things off, one can kick five bad driving habits for a fresh start to the new year. After all, there is a saying that goes, “New year, new me”.
Improper driving position
We've all seen this: Hand at the 12 o'clock position on the wheel with the seat leaned back. While it looks cool in movies and music videos, it actually compromises you when you have to do an emergency maneuver. Having just one arm on the wheel limits the range of movement on the steering wheel. Also, is in the way of the airbag, making it very dangerous in an event of an accident. The inflation of the airbag sends your arm straight to your face, causing more injury.
So what is the proper driving position? For starters, your hands at the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock position while your arms should have an angle and not straight. Your backrest should be slightly inclined plus your legs should be able to reach the pedals fully depressed.
Seatbelts, or lack thereof
There's no denying the fact that seatbelts save lives. They hold you in place in a sudden stop and prevent you from flying off in your seat into the hard parts of the car's interior. Why then do some people not wear it? Some say that you don't need to wear one when traveling short distances, while others say they're traveling slow enough not to need it.
What's more disturbing is that, these days, some cars come with a seatbelt chime reminder but some people simply latch it for it to stop beeping. A sudden stop at 20 km/h is enough for people and objects to fling forward so imagine an impact at 60 km/h. Granted, a lot of cars get good scores in their crash tests, but only with the use of this life-saving device. Whether driving to the shops or going on a road trip, always wear your seat belt. You can always be careful behind the wheel but, remember, not everyone is.
We all want to make the most out of fuel economy, especially on long drives. There are several ways to go about it such as being easy on the gas pedal, improving your anticipation and driving smoothly. Freewheeling however, isn't one of them. Freewheeling is putting the car in neutral and letting the gravity maintain the car's momentum. Why is it dangerous? Let us explain.
When your car is in neutral, there is no power being sent to the wheels, meaning that if you have to step on the gas to avoid something, you will not be able to accelerate out of harms way. With no drive to the wheels, there is a higher risk for the car fishtailing out of control. If you do decide to put it in gear in an emergency, freewheeling increases your reaction time as you have to shift the car into gear while doing the maneuver.
There's a reason why there are signs that say 'keep distance' on the highway. At higher speeds, more distance is needed for a car to stop and should the car in front stop or slow down suddenly, you have time to react and take evasive action. If you tailgate, there is less room for error and thus, increasing risk of a collision. This also applies in traffic too, especially on an incline. Stand to close to the car in front and the car in front may roll back and hit your bumper.
Out on the highway, the ideal gap between two cars is three seconds or about three car lengths. This is more than enough time to react to an emergency situation.
Burning the brakes
A common mistake when driving downhill is riding the brakes to maintain your speed. This dangerous practice can lead to the loss of braking performance, as well as the loss of control. What this does is burn the brakes and boil the brake fluid. This is what you call brake fade and the binders on your car are not up to their full performance.
To maintain speed downhill, practice engine dragging, more often known as engine braking. In a manual transmission car, shift to a lower gear until you find a speed you are comfortable with. In automatics, set the car in either 2 (if applicable) or Low, normally the last slot of your automatic transmission. Some automatic transmissions come with a manual mode and to slow down at descents, downshift to maintain speed. That way, you preserve the brakes and are up to full performance should there be an emergency.