Home » How Are You Making Yourself A Better Driver? Autopian Asks

How Are You Making Yourself A Better Driver? Autopian Asks

Autopian Asks Making Yourself A Better Driver
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Like anything in life, developing skills behind the wheel is a continuous experience. There’s always something new to be learned, or something to be tuned up or tweaked. Whether you’ve been driving for five years or 50 years, there’s always something to do, and it can be as simple as regular medical examination or as elaborate as trackdays.

I’ve already dropped some coin this year on something that should improve my driving — a regular bi-annual eye exam. An up-to-date eyewear prescription and both glasses and contacts to match may not be cheap, but subtle eyewear changes can make a big difference out on the road. Likewise, I’ve also signed up to run a season of autocross, as practice in a controlled environment is a great way to safely learn the limit handling characteristics of a new chassis.

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In addition, my office share has a few fancy simulator rigs, and I’ve been using them here and there to stay on top of techniques like trail braking and looking through the next corner. While a good simulator rig is a chunk of change, it’s cheaper to hit reset than it is to re-shell a car after a shunt on track.

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So, how are you making yourself a better driver? Whether you’re dropping bad (i.e. unsafe) habits, picking up new skills, or making sure you’re in tip-top shape, we’d love to hear from you.

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Andrea Petersen
Andrea Petersen
2 months ago

Lately it’s been getting drive time in the right hand drive RX7 to get some practice before I pop over to England and pick up my next car. The biggest thing I’ve caught myself doing is when I shift from 1st to 2nd with my left hand, my right naturally wants to also pull from muscle memory. So it’s erasing that habit.

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
2 months ago

I want an Efini RX7 so bad..that’s my only takeaway from this

Andrea Petersen
Andrea Petersen
2 months ago
Reply to  Turbotictac

We have two, RHD and LHD. Needless to say, I’m spoiled.

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
1 month ago

That would be nice. I have two Miatas, but 0 RX7 lol

Spikersaurusrex
Spikersaurusrex
2 months ago

I’m definitely a worse driver than I used to be. As I’ve gotten older my reflexes have slowed. My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. The pressures of life tend to make the mind wander, so while I don’t use my phone while driving, I can’t say I’m never distracted. In addition to all that, I get less practice because I work from home 80% of the time.

How do I mitigate these things? I try to drive when I’m fresh. I (try to) focus on driving when I’m in the car. I don’t drive aggressively. If my exit is a mile ahead, I don’t zoom around the guy in front of me because he’s going 2 mph under the speed limit. I definitely avoid my phone while I’m driving. There’s nothing so important that it can’t wait until I’m parked.

Tarragon
Tarragon
2 months ago

Signed up for the SCCA Autocross School again: https://www.scca.com/pages/starting-line

I had 0 experience walking in and it was amazing. I learned a lot.

The way it worked was first half of the day was skills on an oval and a slalom. The second half of the day was 12 (I think 12) runs on the same track they used for the event the next day. And it includes registration for that event the next day.

This was my first autocross event and it was an amazing introduction. I regret not doing it years ago.

Greg
Greg
2 months ago

Recently started wearing glasses, especially at night. I also don’t have a smartphone anymore and don’t text and drive as its too hard with t9.

Now if I could stop staring off at all the pretty scenery.

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
2 months ago
Reply to  Greg

The textile feedback from having a physical keyboard should actually make t9 texting easier. Texting under the desk without looking was all the rage at school in the pre-dumb phone days!

Greg
Greg
2 months ago

In college I could text without taking my phone out of my pocket. These new phones keys don’t hold up though, and I can’t trust it to type out what I want every time. Be nice if Motorola brought back their early to mid 2000 phones, they always held up for me.

FrontWillDrive
FrontWillDrive
2 months ago

I try to keep my skills sharp on a daily basis, I take any excuse I can to drive somewhere, it isn’t ever a chore to me, I always enjoy it. I used to autocross more regularly and I’m going to start again this year, because I miss it. I put a lot of miles on all the types of roads we have here in the Chicago area, I feel like it helps being near both city and country roads and interstates where I am, it gives me a variety of places to drive depending on my mood, and which car I’m in. Which also helps me work on my skills by driving a mix of very different cars. The most important thing I’ve learned is to always be calm and relaxed, driving stressed or angry can definitely affect safety in my opinion.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
2 months ago

Slowing door and realizing driving like a manic will eventually catch up. I realized this before that stage though now people call me an old man driver. I ask “How many accidents have you been in over the last 10 years?” A bit smug but some get the hint.

Also learning to use driver assist tech correctly. Lane assist really shows how much you are pinballing while going down the road.

Auto braking in reverse shows that no matter how many times you check, things can change in a second.

Finally better health and learning to drive with my various issues, A manual is no fun with a broken ankle and arm. Showed me why it is important to have one automatic in the fleet.

Sir-Barks-A-lot
Sir-Barks-A-lot
2 months ago

I bought a plug in hybrid and have the regenerative breaking menu staring me in the face on the dash. Now its a game on how much battery I can regenerate coasting to a stoplight or in traffic. As a result, I’m paying more attention, not up on the wheel driving in a hurry, I’m much more relaxed.

Raptor
Raptor
2 months ago

I had a Ford Fusion Energi For a couple of years, and realized that trying to drive as economically as possible to minimize gas engine runtime was actually a fun game of sorts. I suppose it’s a different type of enthusiast driving.

Tarragon
Tarragon
2 months ago
Reply to  Raptor

They even have leader boards. I tried to place, but I never made it. I just didn’t have enough days that I need to drive.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

After more than a decade of not playing music while in the car to keep me from speeding, I bought a gps with speeding alarm. I drive basically a large billboard advertising my company, so that knowledge (plus the sticker with a # to call) has helped me both slow & calm down.

my work van weighs 8500lbs, so my following distance is 6-8 car lengths at minimum. I noticed the other day that I’m doing the same thing in my cars now. (I never actually tailgated, but that distance has definitely increased). After years of hitting the snooze button repeatedly, I now go to bed early so I can get up early and not be rushed & hating my life in the mornings.

As both I and my parents have aged, I’m finding it much easier to be charitable regarding older drivers. Hopefully we’ll all survive to be them someday.

As far as fun driving goes, I had horrible habits from my years of cheap fwd low-powered beaters. I started consciously braking before curves rather than just scrubbing speed off a few years back when I bought my first >200hp car, then got a proper rwd 2-seater last year and have been very vigilant about brake & throttle control since as it doesn’t have any nannies at all

Jeff Homolka
Jeff Homolka
2 months ago

Riding motorcycles for years has made me a much better driver.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Homolka

You nailed it – if you learn to ride properly, you learn to be aware of everything on the road, and it’s a skill that sticks with you for cars too.

Or even walking. I look all over when I’m using a crosswalk even, watching to make sure the cars are actually seeing that stoplight, etc.

Drew
Drew
2 months ago

I’ve already dropped some coin this year on something that should improve my driving — a regular bi-annual eye exam.

This is a good one. I just had mine last week and I’m still doing well for driving, but they prescribed some glasses to reduce eye strain at the computer. Maybe I’ll be a little less irritable after work, which will be better for everyone.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
2 months ago

Patience.

I’ve dropped my speed a little bit, made less single lane passing maneuvers (I commute down rural roads with passing zones). But most of all, I’ve taken speeding in cities/villages completely out of my repertoire. The limit in my city is 30mph, and honestly, that’s too fast for a lot of the streets here. I want people to be comfortable walking and biking here. The reality is that speeding in town doesn’t significantly decrease my travel time, and it just makes walking around uncomfortable.

Now on interstates I don’t really care, and those limits are honestly too low. But I won’t get into that.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
2 months ago

I’ve made a conscious effort to do this too, highways too. I spent the last decade trying to go fast. Eyes always on the horizon for that LEO. But now, I keep a legal speed and find that it is less stressful and allows me to focus instead on the road around me. I notice so many more interesting cars now and get to enjoy the drive instead of trying to keep it at 10/10ths. Also get to see more of the countryside instead of just racing through it.

highways are 65 or 70mph around here which seems fast enough.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
2 months ago

I’m not usually interested in trying to haul ass on the highway, but when it’s fairly wide open (ours is 3 lanes through a not so busy area) it’s sort of hard not do to 75 (we only have 55-65 zones around here).

With more congestion I’m not really pushing it. But I agree, it gets exhausting trying to “make good time”. It’s usually not worth it.

Greg
Greg
2 months ago

learning that someone going fast behind me can be solved by slowing down and waving them past me as I go in the breakdown lane has been a game changer.

TwoThousandMiles
TwoThousandMiles
2 months ago

I think that people who only drive to their destinations and never spend much time walking or biking on city streets forget the unease and hypervigilance that pedestrians and cyclists experience when a driver is driving too fast, inattentive, not slowing down and looking for pedestrians at crosswalks (or even not at crosswalks on streets where people frequently cross regardless of the white bars). Being a pedestrian and a cyclist frequently in my city makes me better aware of peds and cyclists when I’m driving in those same areas because I know the experience of the people around me who aren’t in the multi-ton metal box capable of injuring or killing them with a momentary lapse of attention or carelessness. Sure it might be slightly inconvenient to slow down and scan the edges of the street, but my inconvenience is not comparable to the anxiety and real possibility of harm that someone outside of a car experiences if I am not looking out for them. Assume there is always a pedestrian/cyclist wherever you can’t see or aren’t looking. In your A-pillar blind spot, in the bike lane next to you, peeking around a parked car to cross the street. 9/10 times there won’t be anyone there, but that 1/10 time could be disastrous if you aren’t paying attention.

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
2 months ago

I continually try to drive my manual Civic smoothly. There was a scene in Initial D where Natsuki compliments Takumi for not making her car sick, that stuck with me and has been a goal ever since. Even when driving aggressively I try to keep the car balanced and smooth. As the clutch continues to wear out it becomes even more challenging, but once I replace that this summer it should be golden.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Max Headbolts

I’m the same. I love how it feels when everything is just smooth…upshifts, downshifts, braking, etc. You really feel like you’re in control, and start to notice how many people aren’t really.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jack Trade
Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
2 months ago

Setting aside the couple years I put into Baja SAE, where I mostly just learned to power-slide and jump, I think the biggest factor in my skills has been getting a simulator. I’ve learned how understeer feels and how to control the front slip angle, as well as being able to really dial in limit-handling techniques, just like you with trail-braking.

In the real world, I find that driving like a chauffeur engages a lot of the same brain/muscle functions. Blending the brake pressure and heel-toe together to get a smooth stop, plus limo-stopping (where you ease off the brake at the end to reduce jerk) are habits that yields great results in the sim on top of being fun in traffic. Another skill I’ve practiced gratuitously just for fun was left-foot braking, in this case using my left foot to begin deceleration and trying to switch off to the right foot without fluctuating brake pressure. In this case using the technique doesn’t help with comfort or anything, but it’s fun and doesn’t detract from it if done right.

Lastly, I was taught from an early age to be a defensive driver, and I constantly, actively practice it. That means not trusting indicators (or their absence), controlling the space around me, and NEVER leaving it up to others to avoid me. If someone else had to make any course or speed adjustment, you didn’t merge safely. 100% ideal defensive driving is impossible to attain, but any amount of its application goes a long way. Lessons only become habits if you follow them.

I also pull fat slides on private land with the proprietor’s permission in the snow sometimes. For “safety practice”.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

Driving so that others usually don’t have to brake or accelerate to accommodate me is one of my games I play to help keep me attentive at all times.
also, I heard somewhere, “actions become habits; habits become character “ -seems to be working so far

Black Peter
Black Peter
2 months ago

One. I actually got an eye exam and filled the prescription. Kinda shocking as I had no clue how much I needed them.
Two. My car has actually trained me to increase following distance and I’m slowing down more when someone in front slows to turn. Completely Pavlovian, as the brake warning alarm is so jarring, I’ve modified my behavior in aversion to it.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago

I’ve been learning to be more patient. These days I set my cruise control at 67-68 (in 65/70 zones) rather than 70+. The time gain is marginal for a less-marginal loss of fuel economy. How bad could being a little late be? Speeding and recklessness will risk way more than being late will in most circumstances.

Plus, driving a Prius means I know that, unlike my old van, I’m not likely to *win* any accident I’m involved in.

Installing a clip-on wider-view rear-view mirror and convex blind spot mirrors on the side mirrors also lets me reduce neck strain and get a better rear view.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
2 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Years ago I learned that if I drove like a maniac, I could get my commute down from 35 minutes to … 31 minutes. So may drivers (especially in urban areas) act like weaving and cutting people off is NECESSARY for them to make it somewhere on time, when in reality they are putting a ton of people in danger to potentially save a few minutes of their time.

Not to mention the stress relief of being content in the right lane. I removed myself from the rat race and I’m much happier for it.

Sam I am
Sam I am
2 months ago

I’m trying to remember to honk the horn more frequently.

Iotashan
Iotashan
2 months ago

Using the radar cruise control. It’s seriously reduced how closely I follow the car in front of me, along with my anger levels with slow cars.

Sklooner
Sklooner
2 months ago
Reply to  Iotashan

I have two nearly identical vehicles, one with and one without this- I love it even though I am sure it eats up the brakes and mileage

Iotashan
Iotashan
1 month ago
Reply to  Sklooner

Love it in my EV

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 month ago
Reply to  Iotashan

Yeah there it would be great

Drew
Drew
2 months ago
Reply to  Iotashan

That’s a feature I was super excited about having and have grown lukewarm about using. Perhaps I should train myself to use it.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

I just go with the flow now. I love the area between the slow cars and the people riding each other’s bumper. In some cases, it’s like a clean freeway for 1/4 mile and I’m in the middle of the clean area. Sure, I’m not doing 80mph but usually 75mph is fine. 5mph is only a minute or so difference on my commute.

Cerberus
Cerberus
2 months ago

Was going to write the same thing. I get there not much later, much less aggravated, and having used less fuel. 75 also seems to be about the sweet spot for the car in terms of mileage and getting somewhere without people wanting to run you off the road even in the 2nd lane.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

If you think the gains at 75 are good you should try 55. I see gains from 25 mpg to nearly 30 just dropping from 70 to 55.

Cerberus
Cerberus
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

That speed would get me run off the road by old ladies in Priuses if I could even tolerate it. I average over 30 from a tank with a lot of highway at 75 (and some town driving and bouts of acceleration) maybe 33 at 65 under the same circumstances, which has to be about the non-hypermiling ceiling on a car rated for 27 highway with short gearing as most I got was just under 34 mpg driving about 60-65 thanks to traffic flow and that was almost all highway and trying pretty hard without obnoxiously hypermiling to see how well it could do.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

If you could even tolerate it? I’m sure you’ll do just fine.

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I don’t think I have ever driven that slow without being constrained by traffic on the highway and even 65 is hardly tolerable and for what?—to get tailgated and cut off by everyone, including tractor trailers to gain 2 mpg? Yeah, that’s exactly why I bought a sports car.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Well you do you as long as “you” is the posted speed limit or below.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
2 months ago

Another thing I often do is ignore what the maps app says. If it wants me to save 2 minutes by making an impossible left turn and crossing 5 lanes, I just ignore that instruction and let it recalculate. I’ve found that the stress incurred by a trip is a far greater burden than its temporal duration, and if I can trade 2 minutes for a dangerous turn or a frustrating intersection, I do it every time. Especially turning out of parking lots, I often turn right and make a U-turn or go around the block rather than turning left when it’s sketchy.

Drew
Drew
2 months ago

I’ve been working on staying calm and not getting as angry when somebody dives into the safe following distance I leave between my car and the one ahead of me. I’m not one for significant tailgating, but getting mad just makes me worse at noticing things and worse at driving.

I’ve also been trying to improve my driving position/posture. I haven’t always done the best job of that, but I’m actively considering it and doing much better.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
2 months ago
Reply to  Drew

It’s a fact of life that if you leave three car lengths between you and the car in front of you then four cars will try to squeeze into it.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
2 months ago
Reply to  Drew

I find one way to avoid getting mad is talking to other drivers in my head as if they’re toddlers. “No buddy, we don’t do that” or “alright now let’s use our big-boy blinkers” makes me chuckle instead of seethe.

Drew
Drew
2 months ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

That’s a good (and amusing) strategy. My favorite is when someone lays on the horn: “Aww, is somebody having big feelings?”

I need to get better at doing that when I want to flip someone off.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
2 months ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

Hahaha, I do this exact same thing after having kids. “No thank you, sweetie.” “Let’s be safe today, okay?”

Ben
Ben
2 months ago

I’m always trying to remember that I make mistakes too and not road rage too hard when someone does something stupid.

Piston Slap Yo Mama
Piston Slap Yo Mama
2 months ago
Reply to  Ben

Fun fact: a few weeks ago I somehow clicked “follow” on your profile and now all your comments land in my email. Initially I didn’t realize I’d done this (sloppy clicking?) then realized that your comments are generally genial and well thought out.

This one especially so.
;^)

Last edited 2 months ago by Piston Slap Yo Mama
Ben
Ben
2 months ago

I’ll do my best to use my access to your inbox responsibly. 🙂

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
2 months ago

I am Never in a hurry when driving. I am Not going more than 2-5 mph over and mostly driving the speed limit. I am trying to keep physically and mentally fit. I am trying to stay calm and not get angry at other drivers.

MarcK1973
MarcK1973
2 months ago

The way God intended – Playing as much Grand Theft Auto as possible!

Alexk98
Alexk98
2 months ago

Weight reduction, the personal kind. Sure carbon parts are neat and all, but that stays with one car, and costs a lot. Also Debating getting something JDM and very small somewhat soon, and as a tall person, loosing 15-20 pounds wouldn’t hurt.

10001010
10001010
2 months ago

Back as a teenager the simulators weren’t that great but there was a subdivision where they built all the roads and street lights and beginnings of driveways then ran out of money before building any houses. We would go there at night and practice our handbrake turns and Rockfords and “drifting” back before it was called that.

It sounds like just teenage-based mayhem but it was a great way to learn the limits of your car and came in handy during more than one emergency situation. I wish I had a similar training ground now.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
2 months ago

I’m playing more mellow music, which puts me in the mindset of enjoying the drive and taking things easier.

This does not mean I’m not doing 80+ on the freeways anymore.
It means I’m not following as closely & not weaving between traffic. If some idiot in an Altima wants to go faster than me – I now care somewhat less and have no issue w/ pulling out of the fast lane as long as it’s safe to do so.

Last edited 2 months ago by Urban Runabout
10001010
10001010
2 months ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

My wife recommended this to me years ago back when we would burn CDs for each other. She made me a disk with the likes of Hermans Hermits and early Beatles and such. I made my own disk with much, much more aggressive tracks and labeled it “GET THE F&%K OUT OF MY WAY!!!”

She says I missed the point of the exercise ¯\\_(ツ)_/¯

Sklooner
Sklooner
2 months ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

For long trips at night I would avoid Enya and go for Rammstein

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
2 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

Reasonable for nighttime out between cities.
Not so great for rush hour or driving thru the city at night.

Spikersaurusrex
Spikersaurusrex
2 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

For long trips at night I get a hotel. I still like both Enya and Rammstein, but I can’t drive at night like I used to.

Sklooner
Sklooner
2 months ago

Yeah I used to think nothing of 14 hours behind the wheel, now 5 seems like a stretch

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