7 Ways to Become a Better Driver

You’d think the right to operate a 2-ton machine of steel and glass would require more than a few Driver’s Ed classes, a test, and proof of insurance. But it doesn’t, which might explain why there are so many of those drivers on the road. You know, the ones who are oblivious, reckless, or a dangerous combination of both. The problem is, daily driving practice alone doesn’t result in good driving skills, and sometimes a little self-improvement can go a long way. So don’t be one of those drivers. Try these 7 ways to become a better driver, and a better citizen of the road:

1. Adjust your mirrors 

This might sound obvious, but most people set up their rear view mirror right and neglect the side mirrors. Adjusting your side mirrors to their intended positions can make the difference between a near miss and an expensive wreck. Make sure they allow you to view the lane next to you, not the side of your car—and don’t forget about blind spots, which can vary from car to car.

2. Ditch the distractions 

Another obvious tip, but distracted driving is such a problem that laws have been enacted against certain activities like texting and talking on the phone without a hands-free device. Aside from phone use, don’t forget about other less-obvious distractions like eating, fiddling with the stereo, or figuring out confusing directions. GPS devices are supposed to make directions a snap, but they’re notorious for making serious mistakes so it’s best to map your route before you leave and only use your GPS for quick reference.

3. Look ahead

Yes, definitely watch the car ahead of you in case of sudden stops—but don’t focus all your attention on what’s immediately in front of you. Glance occasionally at what’s 50 feet ahead, 100 feet ahead, and even farther if visibility permits, watching out for traffic slowing down, obstructions in the road, and even animals—especially at night. It’s also a good idea to improve your visibility with glare-proof window tinting (most states don’t allow tinting the windshield but clear tints can still cut glare). Staying alert and maintaining eye movement will also stave off fatigue, which relates to the next tip on the list.

4. Don't drive drowsy

Don’t drive drunk? We all know that one by heart. But what about “don’t drive drowsy?” Exhaustion and lack of sleep can impair your driving just as much as a few cocktails. Studies from the NHTSA estimate that 7 percent of all crashes and 16.5 percent of fatal crashes involve drowsy driving. So whether you pulled an all-nighter, started a new medication, or even if you have a terrible cold, stay off the road until you’re back to your fully alert self.

5. Maintain a buffer

It doesn’t matter how slow the car ahead of you is going on the freeway, tailgating never solves a problem—it only causes them. Going hand-in-hand with our tip to look ahead, it’s smart to maintain a safety cushion between you and the car ahead of you. The easiest way to estimate is one car length for every 10 mph of speed. Accidents and traffic slowing can happen quickly so you’ll need room to react. How many fender-benders have you witnessed as a result of another accident up ahead?

6. Don't speed

Speeding isn’t just dangerous and potentially expensive if you get caught—it’s also pointless. Mathematically speaking, speeding only saves significant time on extremely long car trips, not everyday around-town driving. For example, driving a distance of 15 miles in a 35 mph zone would only save five minutes if you cranked it to 45 mph. Driving for 30 miles at 75 mph in a 65 mph zone saves less than four minutes. And if you factor in traffic lights and the universal law that you’ll hit every red light if you’re already running late, the only thing you’ll gain by speeding is increased risk of an accident or ticket.

7. Take responsibility for others

This is a difficult tip for many drivers. After all, why should you worry about how everyone else is driving when your traffic record is squeaky-clean? The real question is, why wouldn’t you worry? Being aware of your surroundings is always good advice, especially on the road. Spotting a car weaving ahead will clue you into a potential drunk driver; watching the cars next to you will give you time to move if one merges without seeing you; and keeping watch on a tailgater behind you will allow you to brake slowly enough to not get slammed. Remember, for almost everyone on the road, it’s been years—decades, even—since they were required to know all the rules. You might be an excellent motorist, but it could be fatal to assume the same for everyone else.

Improve your ride, not just your skills

If you’re looking to upgrade your car with safety features (such as window tint or navigation systems) or slick improvements (new stereo system, anyone?), JC Power Audio can recommend the best products for your budget. Our installation experts have been decking out cars, trucks, and minivans in San Diego for years, so give us a call today!