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Ten worst driving habits

Safety experts tell us that 2009 will be a bleak year for road toll statistics in most States in Australia.

So we thought we’d do our bit to help the cause of safe motoring and enlist the help of the experts on how we can improve our driving standards.

James Stewart is the Senior Driving Instructor at Driving Solutions International Pty Ltd

This company undertakes both Safe Driving and High Performance Driving Courses at the Eastern Creek Driver Training Complex located at Eastern Creek International Raceway in Western Sydney.

So we asked him to list the ten worst examples of bad driving that he comes across in his wide experience of driver training.

He responded as follows:-

1. Tail Gating

If you conducted a survey on the top ten bad driving habits I would put money on the fact that Tail Gating would feature in everyone’s list. It is a dangerous and intimidating driving habit which, without doubt ,causes accidents. The number of rear end accidents would be drastically reduced if we all stuck to the 3 second rule (4 seconds in poor conditions). This means that at 100kph you should allow a gap of at least three seconds between you and the car in front of you.

2. Using Devices whilst Driving

We are all aware that using mobile phones in any way when driving is a distraction and handsfree kits don’t solve the problem. However I regularly see people using other devices such as GPS systems and many seem oblivious to the fact that they are just as much of a distraction.

3. Keeping to the Left Lane

Having just spent a few weeks in the UK, this issue is even more apparent and almost seems to be a cultural difference between the two countries.

When driving on a dual or three lane carriageway the rules are simple:- keep to the left unless overtaking.

Why on earth should our respective governments spend millions of dollars creating motorways with three lanes each way if we are only ever going to use two of them?

4. Poor seating position

When purchasing a new car it is essential that you spend time ensuring that the drivers seat can be adjusted to suit you, this is an aspect that is so often overlooked. The correct seating position is something that is essential to facilitate good driving.

On average I would say that at least 50% of those who attend our driver training courses arrive with their driving seat set up incorrectly. This ranges from the stereotypical 19 year old male who has his seat set so far back that he can hardly reach the pedals, let alone see over the steering wheel, through to the (again) stereotypical Grandma who sits so close to the steering wheel that she could steer with her teeth if she ever gets a cramp in her hand.

The correct seating position is quite simple:-  arms should have a slight bend in them, with shoulders back in the seat, and legs should also have a slight bend at the knee when pedals are pushed to the floor.

A great development in modern cars is the ability to adjust seat and/or steering wheel height to ensure that the driver has full vision out of both the front and side windows.

Even if you are going to drive the car for a short distance only, ensure that you adjust the seat for your comfort and safety .Remember that the vast majority of accidents occur within 15kms of the driver’s home

5. Speeding

Everyone knows the dangers involved with speeding, however what many of us forget is how modern vehicles can exacerbate the problem.

Improved insulation and suspension mean that cars don’t “feel” as fast as they used to and you can have reached the speed limit before you realise it.

This seems to be an issue especially with younger drivers who really do not seem to have any feel for what speed they are travelling.

Regular glances at the speedo  help to solve the problem and a clear organised dash board is a great benefit in any car.

6. Indicating

Contrary to what seems to be a commonly held belief, turning on the indicators does not activate an invisible force field around your car.

Many drivers seem to think that all they need to do when wanting to change lanes is to indicate and then they are free to pull out.

Equally annoying are those drivers who indicate at the last minute or don’t bother to indicate at all.

The old saying of “Mirror, signal, manoeuvre” still stands. Having said that, always bear in mind that the other driver may not realise that their indicators are on.

Never assume that they are going to make a move until you see the wheels start to turn.

7. Motorway merging

Merging on to a motorway and allowing for other vehicles to do the same is an area that many drivers seem to have difficulty with.

There are two rules here.

If you are merging onto the motorway make sure you use the full length of the slip road to increase your speed to that of the traffic already on the motorway, and for those already on the motorway, move into the middle lane to allow vehicles to merge.

This may all sound like common sense but next time you are on the motorway watch what happens and you will be amazed at how many drivers do not follow these simple rules.

8. Poor vehicle management

A poorly maintained vehicle can be as dangerous as any bad driving habit. Vehicles should be regularly serviced by a professional.

When buying a second hand vehicle always ask to see the log book and make sure services are not only up to date but were carried out at the recommended intervals.

Remember to also make sure you do the basic regular checks, including water and oil levels, tyre treads, windscreen wipers etc.

9. Driving for the Conditions

As I touched on earlier with tail gating, it does take longer to stop a vehicle in wet weather.

Too many drivers seem to think that the only change they need to make to their driving habits in wet weather is to turn on the windscreen wipers.

I recommend that drivers cut their speed when driving in poor conditions and if necessary pull over until conditions improve.

Clearly you also need to slow down in wet weather to adjust for longer braking distances.You will be surprised how much longer it takes, as we demonstrate on our skid pan (see pic. alongside) at Eastern Creek

This applies equally to night driving, where visibility is reduced and driving on country roads or in areas where animals or young children may run out on to the road.

10. Drink Driving

I don’t need to preach here as we all know not to do it, so why is it still the biggest contributing factor to road related deaths on Thursday through Saturday nights.

The most recent RTA statistics show that 54% of road deaths on these nights are alcohol related.

How many times have we all heard someone say “I’ll be OK as long as I don’t get caught” perhaps they should be saying “as long as I don’t kill anyone”

Well, that’s one expert’s thoughts.

But then we all believe we are experts when we get behind the driver’s seat.

So what do you think?

Do you agree with James that these are the ten worst?

Or do you have your own pet hates?

If you think your own pet hate should take the place of one of James’ then have your say here

If you want to know more about the courses that James conducts then click here 

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