Top 5 Bad Driving Habits - and How to Avoid Them
13 Jan 2020
As well as those strong memories of buying your first car, perhaps with the help of a car loan from your local, friendly credit union, most people can vividly recall the stress of learning to drive. The blazing rows with your tutor (usually a parent or older sibling) as they pump an imaginary brake pedal in a vain attempt to slow down the car. The endless attempts to reverse around a corner. The three point turn which takes at least eight manoeuvres to complete.
The heart palpations of the test itself. The tips and strategies employed to give yourself the best possible chance of passing (firm handshake – check; eye contact with tester – check; pre-test casual conversation – check; over emphasised checking of rear view mirror – check).
However stressful it might be, most of us emerge from the experience as model drivers. We carefully work our way through gear changes. We gradually slow the car down as we approach a junction. We give way to other drivers.
Sadly, over time, some of these good habits lapse. Like a college student who has crammed for an exam, there can be a tendency to forget all we have learned and let some bad habits creep in. Here are five bad driving habits that many of us are guilty of.
Riding the Clutch
We know that we’re supposed to fully release the clutch after changing gears but many of us are guilty of both coasting (driving with the clutch fully depressed) and only partially releasing the clutch. But why does this matter? Well, for starters, as well as potentially causing damage to the car (it can cause excessive wear and tear), it can be dangerous as the driver loses the ability to quickly accelerate if needed.
A poor driving position can often encouraging some dodgy clutch practice so ensure that you’ve set your seat at the right distance and resist the temptation to have a ‘heavy’ left leg.
The Hand Brake
We all know that the car should be fully stopped before pulling up the handbrake but there can be tendency to deploy as the car rolls to a stop. On the other hand, many of us neglect to use the handbrake on a hill, preferring instead to hold the car with the foot brake. Again, this is one which can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the car. And of course you don’t need us to remind you of the damage which can be caused by driving with the handbrake on.
There is some debate on whether it’s acceptable to pull the hand brake without first pushing the button (the noise, the noise!). It turns out what is a pet peeve for many, may simply be the way the ratchet system is designed to work. For the sanity of your passengers and to keep everyone happy, it may be more socially acceptable to simply push the button!
Mirror, Signal, Mirror, Manoeuvre
As embedded as the words ‘crouch, touch, pause, engage’ were to rugby fans of a certain genre, we’ve all had the ‘Mirror, Signal, Mirror, Manoeuvre’ mantra drummed into us at some stage, and with good reason. It can only take a split second for someone behind you to appear out of your blind spot, particularly if you’re looking to overtake a slower vehicle in front of you.
This one’s a long game. Not checking the mirror that second time may never cause an issue, but it only takes one sudden manoeuvre behind you for this to become a real danger.
As soon as you sit into the driver’s seat for the first time, one of the things that’s hammered home to you is hands at ‘ten to two’. Undoubtedly, you’ve had “Feed the Wheel” shouted at you at some stage as you desperately strive to manoeuvre the car into position.
In truth, this is one of the first bad habits that can creep in. Many of us have become adept at steering with one hand, our wrists, or letting wheel run freely through our hands.
There can be no doubt that however tempting or relaxing it might feel to do otherwise, keeping both hands on the wheel at all times and ‘feeding the wheel’ ensures you have maximum control over your car. It will also remove any temptation you might have to check your mobile, put on makeup, brush your teeth or any other dangerous practice which could well earn you some unwanted penalty points.
Slamming on the Brakes
While it might be necessary to slam on the brakes in an emergency situation to avoid a potential collision, by allowing sufficient distance to a car in front of you and by slowing the car gently, you should generally avoid the need to stop suddenly.
Hitting the brakes too hard, repeatedly, can cause significant damage to your car. It can wear out your tires, your brake pads, your Anti-Lock Brake System, not to mention the patience of everyone else in the car.
Most of these bad driving habits are just that - habits. In the same way that we pick them up by doing them repeatedly, we equally can shed them, firstly by recognising that we’re guilty of them. As well as being a much safer option, and this is particularly important given Ireland’s road safety record, it will definitely help us to avoid being hypocritical when we’re called to pass on our driving knowledge to a son, daughter, cousin or friend.