Our roads are clogged with distracted, drunk, texting people pretending to drive but really just aimlessly pointing their vehicles. You don't have to be one of them. Jalopnik readers picked out ten things you can do to become safer and faster behind the wheel.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
10.) Test your car's limits in a parking lot
Suggested By: Viperfan1
Why it works: Go to a large empty parking lot after it has rained or snowed and start to test out the limits of grip for your car. Practice getting the wheels to spin, then ease off the power and let them come back to you. This is will prepare you for driving in poor conditions on the road, and it's good fun, too. Just be mindful of other people and light poles.
Photo Credit: Valerie Reneé
9.) Video games
Suggested By: WarpedHorizon
Why it works: Before you even have a license, start by playing lots of video games. It won't prepare you for the chaos of America's highways, but it will teach you some important lessons: practice makes perfect, focus on your line, and manual is always better. Again, this medicine isn't bitter.
Photo Credit: Ketil Johansen
8.) Learn to drive manual
Suggested By: absolutedelta12
Why it works: Driving with a stickshift adds another layer of involvement between what you do with your hands and feet, and how you put power to the wheels. It makes you think about how the different parts of the driveline interact with each other, and it gives you more information about what the car is doing.
When you're learning, you feel like you have to pay twice as much attention to everything else on the road. You never think of how people always stop too close to your bumper at stoplights until you're learning to get used to the clutch at a twelve-lane intersection on a slight incline.
Photo Credit: Jordan and Lee
7.) Put your phone in the glovebox and turn off the radio
Suggested By: WantToHoon
Why it works: Distracted driving is a killer, but it's hard to know how to stop. Every text seems so short and you could read just this one at the stoplight. Simply leave the phone in the glove compartment so you don't have to look at it. As long as you're committed to practicing your driving, turn off the radio, too.
Photo Credit: Mike Babcock
6.) Driving school
Suggested By: Trochoid Moon
Why it works: Going to a high performance driver's education day costs you some money, but it will teach you car control in a safe environment, and you'll be learning from someone who is much better than you behind the wheel. We've been to places like Skip Barber before, and they're excellent.
Photo Credit: Flyover Country
5.) Rally school
Suggested By: 48 Spoons
Why it works: Rally school is like high-performance driving days, only you learn on dirt. The emphasis isn't about finding the limits of the car; it's about controlling the car once you've greatly exceeded the limits of traction. This is not only awesome, but a great lesson for driving in poor conditions.
Photo Credit: Jason Paur/Wired.com
Suggested By: Kiwi_Commander
Why it works: Autocross lets you test your own car in a safe environment on the cheap. It's fun getting to hoon your car around a parking lot, but it's also a way to make you more aware of your own limits and those of the car.
Photo Credit: Nick Young
3.) Just pretend everyone else on the road is trying to kill you
Suggested By: Ash78 is down with OBD (yeah you know me)
Why it works: Even in the rare event when another driver decides to indicate before turning, it's usually in the wrong direction. Assume that everyone has no idea what they're doing, that they will forget to signal, and that they will easily run you off the road. You won't be far from the truth.
Photo Credit: Duel/Universal
2.) Know what's around you
Suggested By: XKSteeda - GoJJ48
Why it works: After weeks of skidding your car around deserted corners and empty parking lots, you could imagine yourself an expert at car control. This will mean very little on the road. Reader Sylvor Gryphon explains why it's important to know what cars are around you and what they're going to do.
Learn and practice "Situational Awareness". It's important in many aspects of life, but even more so behind the wheel of a car. The mechanics of driving a car isn't' all that hard to figure out, it's being aware of everything that's going on around you, that requires real attention and focus.
Start by just trying to be aware of ALL the road signs you pass. Next, make sure you know where all pedestrians, especially kids, and bicyclists are, and anticipate their movements. Then add being aware of all the cars around you, then add what kind of cars they are and the performance capabilities of each. Make sure you see all the motorcycles out there too.
This is one of the key points taught in race schools everywhere along with car control. But car control is meaningless if you don't know what reaction you need to make because you weren't aware of your surroundings.
I guess this is really just an amplification of the "no texting" thing that was listed initially, but it really is the number one thing to improve upon while driving. I don't believe you can ever be too aware.
Photo Credit: Duel/Universal
1.) Drive more
Suggested By: Nibby4WD
Why it works: The best thing you can do to become a better driver is to keep these lessons in mind and start driving more. Bill Caswell chimed in with this advice:
There's no substitution for seat time. Its like playing an instrument or skiing or any other sport. if you play 4 days a year you are going to suck at it - unless you are Mozart or Senna. Think about the years where you skied one or two days, no improvement. But spending 30 full days on the mountain allows you to build muscle memory and improve. And the kids that grow up in mountain towns? It's not their genes that allow them to ski so well. It's seat time.
Get out and practice, and drive safe.
Photo Credit: Donald Macleod