Other People: Don’t trust them, inside your car or out. Other drivers will signal when they aren’t turning and not signal when they are. Or, you think they are turning at your common intersection, but they are really turning after they go straight past you. If you assume they’re not, you will be hurt. Mentally, if not physically.
How to tell where another vehicle is headed? Watch its front wheels; they’re what turn the vehicle. When I pass people (common occurrence) I watch their front wheels to ensure they’re not going to encroach into my lane.
Don’t let people in your car affect what you know to be correct and safe, i.e. NO SHOWING OFF (1). Men use cars as dick extenders. This is dumb and lots of people can and do get hurt this way. If you want your dick to appear bigger, date a midget.
The two most common “last words’: “Watch this…” and “What the…” The most common last phrase: “Hold my beer for a second…”
(1) Note: Whatever car your dad is letting you drive is not fast. Don’t try to prove otherwise. Those pesky laws of physics.
Passing People: This is OK when done safely. But, not on the right, where people don’t check their mirrors. If you absolutely must pass on the right, keep your hand poised by the horn and watch their front wheels.
You know you shouldn’t ride in drivers’ blind spots, another reason not to pass on the right. But, if you pass someone – even on the left – don’t pull into their blind spot. Example: I’m on a 3 lane hwy. I pass someone who is in the middle lane. There is a car in the right lane up ahead. I don’t pull back into the middle lane until I am in front of the car in the right lane. He needs to see me.
Blind spots: As alluded to above, most people have no idea about properly adjusting mirrors on either side of their cars. Simple proof: as you go down a road, check to see how many times you cannot see the other driver’s face. If you can’t see him, he can’t see you.
If you are not sure of being seen, turn on your lights. Note, however, that flashing lights often mean to others that you want to let them in. Or, that there is a cop ahead.
Dealing with Police: Never argue. He’s holding all the cards plus your license and registration. Be nice, apologize but don’t admit guilt. After you’ve paid for two or so tickets and the accompanying insurance surcharge, we will revisit this topic…assuming you are still alive.
Dealing with Incidents: You, as a new, unproven driver will be wrong. It might not be said to your face, but we’ll all be thinking, “Stupid kid.” My friend teaches motorcycle riding. He tells each student: “If you’re in an accident, it’s your fault. No matter what happened, it’s your fault because you have the greater risk.” Now, I’m telling you the same thing.
No Surprises: Surprises on the road are like surprises in business, rarely good and often tragic. Do what other drivers expect; never what they don’t expect. If it’s your turn to go, go. If it’s your turn to stop, stop. Confused people make mistakes (i.e. my wife for marrying me). Mistakes in business are rarely fatal; this is not true in cars.
Always Signal: Even in NYC, where some people believe that if you signal, other drivers will try to stop you from getting where you want to go. I signal pulling out of my drive-way; it’s habit forming and it’s a good habit to cultivate.
Adjusting your Mirrors: This is best done when at a light, from the middle lane of a 3-lane highway. Or, a parking lot. Almost all cars have mirrors that, when properly adjusted, result in NO blind spots.
For example, when a car passing you on the right leaves your interior mirror, it should simultaneously appear in your side mirror. You can extrapolate this to the other mirrors and other sides of the car, can’t you? If not, don’t drive.
What this mirror stuff means is what I said earlier: If properly adjusted, your outside mirrors shouldn’t show any portion of your car.
It is not proper to have to turn your head to see what’s behind you, for a few reasons. First, in some (emergency) situations, there will be no time. Second, if your head is turned, you can’t see where you are going. Third, as you get older your head won’t turn so easily and your eyes can’t adjust quickly enough to changing focal points. Third, as you get older your head won’t turn so easily and your eyes can’t adjust quickly enough to changing focal points and you will get forgetful and begin to repeat yourself.
SUVs: Stay out of them, don’t drive them. If your friend or your friend’s parents offer to drive you in one, politely ask if they could take a safer vehicle. If they object, tell them that the smartest person you ever met (um, that would be me) told you to avoid them. SUVs: Have twice as many single-car accidents as cars; are 4 times more likely to roll over and rollovers kill 10k people/year and are among the most lethal type of accidents; can’t stop or turn or handle as well as cars; don’t necessarily protect you as well as cars (certainly not well enough to offset their other problems); cause more damage to pedestrians, other cars’ occupants, motorcyclists, etc. Did you know that in inclement weather, SUVs are involved in about 80% of the accidents? Plus, SUVs drivers help support terrorists, are selfish and most Republicans. I made up none of this.
Whenever I raise my objection to SUVs, their owners invariably say the same thing, “Well, I drive really careful.” Ignoring their grammatical shortcomings, I point out that in an emergency evasive steering maneuver, one simply must turn the wheel sharply and that’s when the SUV goes out of control. Plus, SUVs take about 2-3 car lengths longer than cars to stop from 70 mph.
AWD and 4 wheel drive only help for about the first two feet in snow. They don’t help you turn or stop better at all. In fact, because vehicles so equipped don’t remind you of how slippery the road surface is, their drivers get overly confident about the available grip. Story: My wife once borrowed my company car (4WD Tercel Wagon) in the snow. About 6 minutes after I warned her about the overconfidence 4WD engenders, she slid the car into a curb. Luckily, it was a company car, but it wasn’t my company.
Which reminds me of my definition of an All Terrain Vehicle: Any rental car.
Bottom Line: Front wheel drive is the best combination of traction and handling.
Tires: I’ve already told you to check pressures often. Bear in mind that tires lose air pressure whenever the weather turns cold; every 10 degree drop is a bit over one pound, so make sure to check pressures in the fall and winter.
Tires have “wear bars’ in the grooves of the tread. When the wear bar touches the pavement, your tires are officially “bald” and illegal. Tires are pretty cheap on a cost per mile basis, so buy really good ones (you can ask me for help) and do not let them wear too far down. Any tire over 8 years old, no matter how it looks, should be replaced; the rubber gets hard and loses grip. Again, your tires are the only part of the car touching the road…unless your exhaust system needs work.
Driving Position: In air-bagged cars, sit as far back as is comfortable. In non-air bag cars, inflate an inner tube and slip it over yourself; you’ll probably have to move the seat way back.
Slide the steering wheel between your hands, i.e. do not cross your arms in front on it. If the airbag goes off, your arms will break.
Do not smoke a pipe. Would you want a Kaywoodie jammed down your throat when the airbag explodes (which is what they actually do)? BTW, I don’t know how to spell Kaywoodie, but it’s a funny word.
Yes, yes, keep both hands on the wheel at all times. Assuming you’re driving, otherwise you’d never get out of the car.
10-2, 9-3 position? I don’t care, just use both hands. With power steering, hand position is less important.
When Turning Left, or Right: Here’s one you probably won’t hear from anyone else. Most people pull into, say, the left turning lane with the wheels already pointed left. Not so good. What happens if someone hits you from the rear? You are pushed into oncoming traffic. This is not a positive development. Keep your front wheels straight until it’s actually time to move the car.
Remain Emotionally Neutral while in Drive: Don’t try to “punish” other drivers for their bad behavior. It won’t help, believe me. Other people have tried to “educate” the dumb driver and it clearly hasn’t change his/her behavior.
If someone is tailgating you, don’t slam on your brakes. Either move over and let the guy (it’s always a guy) pass or continue doing your safe speed and ignore him. Sometimes, I put on my flashers and tailgaters get the hint, or not. Don’t speed just because you are being tailgated. Act as normal as your teenage hormones will allow. Do not let the other guy control the situation or you.
Drive as if your photo, address and phone number are prominently displayed on your car. In other words, be polite. Act as if you were walking in a crowd instead of driving in one. (See “Defensive Driving,” below.)
If someone gets mad at you, as will surely happen given your meager skills and limited intelligence, try to look sorry or smile lamely or something. Do not retaliate; the other driver may be from CA or NYC and have a gun. Did you know that LA has handgun vending machines?
Thank people when they let you in. Let other people in. My rule of thumb is that everyone gets in ahead of me if they have their blinker on and they’re not driving an SUV so big it blots out the sky.
Parking: It’s easier than you think and I can’t teach you here. Use areas of your car as landmarks about when to turn the wheel.
Parking with a Girl/Boy: It is not proper to punch a hole in the exhaust pipe so he/she will be overcome by carbon monoxide. It’s unfair and you’ll be affected too. When I was young, the girl in the back seat threw up on the guy trying to kiss her. Sort of the ultimate defense system, like a skunk’s, but way funnier.
Controlling a Skidding Car: Learning to steer into a skid to allow the front tires to regain traction is best practiced in a large, empty parking lot in the snow. With your dad or some other adult with you. And, not in my car.
Driving a Stick Shift: It’s good to know how because you might need this skill in an emergency. Or in Europe where rental cars are manual shifts. A business associate of mine once had to pay for a 200 mile cab ride to meet me in Venice because he couldn’t drive a stick. Of course, a rental car is just the ticket for learning a stick. But, not in my car.
I have lots of hints about driving a stick, but given that you may never even see one, I won’t cover them here. But, should situations change, you can ask me.
Defensive Driving: I’m sure they cover this in school. But, I’ll remind you of a simple fact: If they’re not near you, they can’t hit you.
People are pack animals. It’s not as if they like carrying heavy things, it’s that they run in packs. Look at cars on the NJ Turnpike or GSP for example. They tend to bunch together; it’s the herd mentality which is how a jerk like Bush got elected (once).
I stay between groups of cars on the highway, going a bit faster or slower as needed. While this makes me more vulnerable to radar/laser guns, it ensures that that if I get into an accident, it’s entirely my fault and no one else’s.
“Sophmoritis”: After you’ve been driving a year or so, you will begin to think that you’re pretty good and know all you need to. Unless you’re my nephew, who crashes quarterly. Let me gently explain that you will be wrong and stupid. Driving is a lifetime of learning skills. Even a great driver such as your writer continues to learn.
Well, kids, that’s the end of what I can think of at the moment. Just bear in mind what I’ve said and that I will soon be contacting your folks. I will tell them that unless they send me lots of money, I will teach you to drive fast but not well.
Quick Quiz: What are the three sports that have “face offs”?
(Answer: Hockey, Lacrosse and Shark Wrestling.)