Thursday, May 18, 2017

Have You Driven While Distracted? 8 Culprits to Avoid

In 2013, 3,014 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous driver distractions, but it's not the only one.

Here are seven other unsafe habits to avoid: 

  1. Grooming: Pressed for time, some people conduct grooming activities in the car, such as putting on makeup or using an electric shaver. Do yourself and other drivers a favor by completing your morning routine at home. 
  2. Eating and drinking: Your steaming cup of coffee spills or ingredients slip out of your sandwich—any number of distractions can arise when you drive and dine. Stay safer by saving the refreshments until you're parked. 
  3. Monitoring passengers: In a recent State Farm™ Distracted Driving survey, 40% of drivers indicated that attending to children in the backseat was very distracting, while 53% of drivers said the same thing about having a pet in their lap while driving. Passenger distractions are particularly important for teen drivers to avoid: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm teamed up to analyze a sample of 677 teen drivers involved in serious crashes. The study found that drivers who had peer passengers were more likely to be distracted before a crash as compared to teens involved in accidents while driving solo. 
  4. Rubbernecking: Slowing down to look at a traffic accident could cause an accident of your own. The same thing goes for lengthy looks at billboards, a street address or a great mountain view. 
  5. Listening to music: Playing your radio at a high volume or wearing headphones take your focus away from the road. These distractions reduce the likelihood you'll hear car horns, emergency vehicles or other key noises. 
  6. Infotainment systems: Similarly, with cars getting smarter, DVD players in the back for kids, and other passengers' devices, more distracting sounds than ever before may be coming from various parts of the car. 
  7. Daydreaming: If you've ever realized you just missed an exit because you weren't paying attention, you've experienced a common distraction: daydreaming. Resist the urge to drift off while driving, and keep your attention on the road. Vary your typical driving routes. A change in scenery and traffic conditions could help you stay alert. 
  8. Nodding off: According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation®, an estimated 60% of Americans have admitted to driving while drowsy, and 37% have nodded off behind the wheel. If you feel sleepy, pull over. Walk around to rouse yourself, switch drivers or find a safe place to nap before you resume driving.
Follow our site to give more direction: driving directions

Friday, May 12, 2017

Top 10 Ways to Become a Better Driver

Every time you get behind the wheel, you're operating a very dangerous piece of machinery. Whether you're an experienced driver or you've just finished driver's ed class, there's always room for improvement when it comes to driving. Here are ten things you can do to hone your safe, smart driving skills.

10. Take a Defensive Driving Course

Not only can online driving courses save you money on your car insurance or take points off your driving record, they're actually pretty good refresher courses for anyone who's been driving for a while and the answers to those driver's license tests are just a hazy memory. Do you know how to eyeball how far ahead the vehicle in front of you should be based on your speed? Know the difference between a DUI and a DWI and how many drinks can impair you for each? Stuff like that is covered in these courses, usually around $35.

9. Park with Precision

Parking is (usually) easy once you get the hang of it, but in tight spots or when you're new to driving backward, it helps to know a few tricks. Here's an infographic on parallel, reverse, and forward parking; and step-by-step directions for parallel parking. If you'd like even more help when parking, consider these DIY sonic sensors for your car.

8. Keep Your Hands on the Wheel at the Proper Positions

For decades, driving instructors taught students to keep their hands on the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 positions on the clock. In the last few years, those guidelines have changed, so you're now supposed to keep your hands lower, at either 9 and 3 or 8 and 4. This gives you more control and stability when driving, and is also the most ergonomic position to hold your hands for long periods of time. Muscles more relaxed and having more control over your vehicle? Instantly, you're a better driver.

7. Adjust Your Mirrors to Cover Your Blind Spots

Similar to the above, there's a better way to position your mirrors than you might have been taught: Adjust the side mirrors so far outward so they're just overlapping your rearview mirror. Here's an illustration.

6. Don't Drive When You're Sleepy (or Otherwise Not Alert)

We all know the dangers of driving after drinking, but a serious lack of sleep could also impair you just as much (some people even sleep drive!)—and one out of every six fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver, according to a study in 2010. Any time your mental facilities could be compromised—whether from alcohol, poor sleep, new medication, or even having a horrible cold—is a time to stay off the road or find an alternative to driving.

5. Don't Bother Speeding

We all want to get to our destinations sooner, but all speeding really does is increase your risk of getting into an accident or getting a speeding ticket, it turns out. Here's the math behind it, and why you're better off just driving at or below the recommended speeds.

4. Know the Best Way to Merge in Traffic

Inefficient lane merging causes traffic, road rage, and accidents. Some people are aggressive lane cutters, while others politely take their place in a lane long before an exit. The best, most efficient solution for all of us is to stay calm and zipper merge, each one taking our turn. (It was worth a try. At the very least, when merging or when others are trying to merge, be patient but also don't be that guy holding up a whole lane. We can work together to improve traffic for all.)

3. Handle Tough Driving Conditions Like a Boss

Even the most experienced drivers can get thrown off by hazardous conditions. Here's how to drive in extreme winter weather (including steering through slippery snow), how to see better while driving at night, how to safely pass a car on a two-lane road, and why you should wear sunglasses but not use cruise control while it's raining.

2. Ditch the Distractions and Know Where You're Going

By now, we all know texting while driving is both dangerous and against the law. It's possible to drive safely while using your cell phone, but you're better off just turning it off and sticking it in your bag if you don't need it for navigating. Your cell phone isn't the only problem, though. If you eat while you drive, fiddle with the radio, or have a too-talkative passenger, you won't be able to drive as well. The danger of texting while driving is rightfully getting a lot of attention, but distracted driving, in general, is the main issue.

Related to this: the distraction of not knowing where you are or exactly how to get where you want to go. Even with your phone's or car's navigation system, you could find yourself saying, "Wait, which highway am I supposed to get on?" and in a panic make a sudden, dangerous move. Try to scope out your route as much as possible before you start driving—even using Google Street view so you're used to the landmarks and tricky intersections before you get in your car.

1. Practice

Finally, as the fine folks at Jalopnik point out in their driver skills article, the top way to becoming a better driver is to drive more—conscienciously, of course, keeping the above in mind. It is, after all, a skill—one we shouldn't take too much for granted.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Driving in Italy: Car Rental Information & Tips

Driving Overview

Highway Information

Italy has an excellent network of roads and highways that is one of the most extensive in Europe, comprising nearly 4000mi/6400km of express highways and 180,000mi/288,000km of secondary roads. The country's famous super highways or 'autostrade' ('autostrada' is the singular form) run the length and breadth of the peninsula. These toll roads are supported by an excellent network of secondary roads, classified into different categories of national highways ('strade statali'), provincial roads ('strade provinciali') and municipal roads ('strade communali'). Due to the success of companies like Fiat, Italians have a high level of car ownership. This can create congestion in some of the northern areas and in cities. But in southern parts of the country, the roads are less crowded.

Rules of the Road
When driving your rental car in Italy, it is nice to know traffic travels on the right, similar to the US. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, police are empowered to collect fines on the spot making it necessary to keep cash on hand. More information about driving in Italy can be found below or in our Italy Travel Guide.

Gas stations are open from 7 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:30 pm to 7 pm. Most stations are closed on Sundays. There are 24-hour stations along the highways.

The 'autostrade' is Italy's toll superhighway and toll cards can be purchased at banks or at Automobile Club d'Italia (ACI) offices.

Street parking is confined to the right side of the street. In blue zones, a parking disk, obtained at tourist offices, ACI offices or gas stations must be displayed on the dashboard. Parking in this zone is limited to one hour.

Speed Limits
Speed limits in Italy are as follows:

  • City - 30mph/50kph
  • Open Roads - 66mph/110kph
  • Highways - 81mph/130kph

Italy Driving Tips

Don't Panic If You're Tailgated 
Tailgating in Italy is common practice, so don't become shaken when this happens. Do your best to keep up with traffic, but do not drive faster than what makes you comfortable.  Tailgaters will pass you at the first opportunity, so just keep your cool and give them room.

ZTL Zones - Where You Can and Can't Drive  
Many larger Italian cities have instituted ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) zones in order to reduce traffic congestion in major city centers. These areas are surveyed by traffic cameras and the instant your vehicle crosses this zone, a ticket is issued and forwarded to your home address. It's important you know where you can and cannot drive in Florence, Rome and other cities with ZTLs in order to avoid traffic citations.

Watch Out for Scooters and Mopeds in Italy
In addition to speeders and tailgaters, you'll have to watch out for scooters and mopeds while driving in Italy. Don't be surprised if they pull right out in front of you from a side street without warning. Defensive driving is important when touring Italy by car, be on the lookout at all times and be prepared for anything. The swell in traffic during the busiest tourist months can make navigating the streets by the car a bit more difficult, so wary travelers would do well to research the best time to visit Italy depending on what you're looking to see and do.

Don't Use Mobile Devices While Driving
Use of handheld cellular devices is strictly prohibited while driving in Germany, and if caught you may face steep fines. Hands-free devices are permitted, but it is still recommended to avoid the distractions of cellular devices unless completely necessary. 

Tolls in Italy
There are numerous toll roads in Italy, and it can be tricky to understand since there isn't one single company in charge of collecting money. Individual stretches of roadway are monitored by separate companies, with the toll amount depending on the distance traveled. It's advised to always carry cash on you when driving in Italy in order to pay tolls. Credit cards are accepted at some locations, but not at others.

Gas Stations in Italy 
Gas stations that are located along the Autostrade are usually open 24 hours a day. Some stations along other Italian roadways are open from 7am-7pm, with a break around noon. When picking up your rental car in Italy at the local rental counter, be sure you know which type of fuel your vehicle requires and that you're up to speed on the company's fuel return policy.

6 Little-Known Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life

Driving a car, or getting run over by one, is still one of the most popular ways to get killed in the modern world. Despite the fact that cars are safer than ever, they are still driven by human beings who, let's face it, often have trouble retaining even the minimal techniques and rules required to operate a vehicle.

But if you're reading this, hopefully it means that you are intent on doing what it takes to survive in a world full of such drivers by being just a little more careful. So for you, here are some advanced tips that everyone should know, even if most people don't ...

6. Don't Have Your Car Visible Anywhere in Your Mirrors

This is one of those things that takes next to zero effort to do right, but that almost everyone does wrong.

You hopefully already know that the "blind spot" is the name for the area on either side of a car that is invisible to wing mirrors. It's such a frequent cause of accidents that higher-end car models have adopted fancy radar or camera systems capable of detecting other vehicles in your blind spots and delivering the information to you in furiously urgent beep-screams as you swerve in terror and/or crash anyway.

Just gritting your teeth and flooring it isn't the answer.

However, the technology isn't the problem -- the necessary equipment to eliminate blind spots was around back when Henry Ford was still producing cars and anti-Semitic newsletters. All you need are your car's wing mirrors -- which most people have adjusted incorrectly.

You see, blind spots can be put into full view of your side mirrors, provided that these mirrors are adjusted to contain no part of your own car. Just angle them away from you until the point where your car is no longer visible in either one and leave them there. That way, there's no overlap between them and the rearview mirror, and any car that's passing you on either side will remain in at least one of your mirrors until it enters your field of vision.

Admittedly, this seems less like a "tip" and more like "the most obvious piece of instruction of all time," but nobody freaking does it. Manufacturers have to let you adjust the mirrors (due to things like differences in driver height), and most people simply don't know how to do it. That's why those same engineers are spending millions on technology meant to eliminate blind spots -- they have simply failed to teach people not to point their goddamned mirrors at the sides of the vehicle they're attached to.

5. Pay More Attention to Traffic Than Road Signs

If you saw someone blow past a yield sign into traffic and vanish in an explosion of steel and glass not unlike one of the Iron Giant's volcanic diarrheas, you'd be tempted to blame the crash on the driver who ignored the road sign.

But what if the yield sign wasn't there, like those intersections where there's nothing but an esoteric flashing yellow light and everyone stops and stares at each other? There would probably still be the odd person who flies through, but average drivers would become extremely cautious as a result of having no clear instruction of what to do. They would instead just intuit their next move based on the traffic around them, which is kind of the point of stoplights and road signs to begin with -- to force you to stop and look.

"What the hell does 'yield' mean, anyway?!"

In other words, you may be better off without the signs.

There are experts who believe that the overabundance of signs and signals just make you complacent, because you're fixated on blindly following instructions printed on reflective metal rather than not killing your fellow drivers. And we've all seen it happen -- drivers with a green light will plow through an intersection and T-bone another car that was clearly in their path, simply because the pretty colored light told them they had the right of way. And think about how people will lose their freaking minds if traffic and/or weather conditions have them driving slower than the posted speed limit, routinely causing accidents by trying to weave their way back up to maximum warp, even though the speed limit is literally just a number on a sign that takes absolutely nothing into consideration beyond what a few civil engineers came up with on a calculator 30 years ago.

"15 mph is fast enough for anyone. Those buggy drivers are out of control."

The Dutch city of Drachten decided to test out the theory by replacing 20 four-way intersections with 20 roundabouts free of any road signage, and the results were surprisingly nothing like The Cannonball Run. One intersection that typically killed two to four people every year saw no injuries for the next six years, and another intersection went from 36 accidents in the previous four years to just two in two years. All this just from putting more responsibility into the hands of drivers and forcing them to interact with each other in the absence of indifferent commands from stoplights and signs (although it could also be related to the fact that nobody in the Netherlands has a The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift poster on their bedroom wall).
Since the success in Drachten, a number of other cities have tried out similar concepts, most notably London, whose recently debuted Exhibition Road looks like the guy in charge of painting lines on the streets was tripping balls that day.
We're still not clear on how this is supposed to help, but there you are.

We're not saying that you should ignore stoplights and road signs, but that you shouldn't rely on them to make every decision for you. Just because you had the right of way at an intersection won't make you any less dead if you pull in front of an 18 wheeler, and refusing to slow down for pedestrians because they aren't crossing in a designated crosswalk won't put you any less in jail if you chop them in half with your Daewoo.

Or maybe we should just put it this way: Obey the signs, but assume that nobody else is doing so.

4. Listening to Techno Makes Your Driving Worse

Every car comes with a stereo and speakers, but you don't find much in driving manuals about what you should or shouldn't do with them. So it's easy to assume that it's safe to bump some jams while driving, as long as you're focused on the road and not constantly messing with the knobs or looking at yourself in the rearview mirror while you're singing. But research shows that your tunes are probably making you a worse driver, even if you just like a little ambient music in your Prelude.

"These whale songs are so ... *yawn* ... so ..."

An Israeli study connected test subjects to heart monitors and put them through a driving simulator while they listened to the music of varying tempos. A no-music control group experienced significant heart rate fluctuation while driving -- that is, their heart sped up when things got exciting, like if a moose turned up in the street or something. But those who were listening to any type of music saw their heart rate stay level (except during the Les Miserables soundtrack, when their heart rates soared with bittersweet triumph).

At first glance, this suggests that the drivers who were listening to music were calmer, and thus more careful drivers than the control group. But it was the opposite -- the music group Dukes of Hazzarded their way through the virtual driving course like they were running moonshine for a one-legged banjo player. They were calm (maybe), but only because they were less focused on driving than the control group -- they were placated by the music.

Which is why your creepy uncle always told you that mood music was the key.

The study also showed that drivers who were listening to higher-tempo music (between 120 and 140 beats per minute, the speed of most dance and techno music) were twice as likely to blast through red lights and had twice as many accidents as those who were listening to slower music or the deafening echo of their own thoughts. Drivers who were listening to dubstep were 84 percent more likely to believe that there was a Transformer behind them trying to mate with their car.

3. Always Have Your Headlights On

According to a recent study, you can reduce your risk of being involved in an accident by up to 32 percent simply by driving with your headlights on at all times. This seems like common sense -- obviously, something that is lit up is going to be more visible, regardless of the time of day. And as long as other cars are driven by tired, distracted human beings, greater visibility equals less chance of having a hood ornament embedded in your skull. Yet almost nobody drives with their lights on during the day (and cars with automatic lights won't flick on until the sun goes down).

"How will I sneak up on unsuspecting motorists now?"

Other drivers are simply less likely to pull out in front of you if they can instantly see the glare of your headlights in a quick glance (unless they were planning to cut you off, in which case they are shitheads and the accident was unavoidable). This also counts for pedestrians and cyclists, who statistically will sometimes miss their own oncoming death unless there are bright lights attached to it.

In countries like Canada, Sweden, and Finland, all new cars are required to have automatic running lights that stay on at all times, and you can get them on some new car models in the U.S. But the majority of drivers still have dusty old manual headlights, so if you're one of those people, you'll just have to dig deep and flick your lights on and off every time you drive (we know, we know -- it hardly seems worth all the effort, but trust us, you'll be much safer).

"LIGHTS?! Are you crazy? I'm already late for work!"

2. Your Parking Break Stops Working if You Don't Use It Regularly

Of all the aspects of driving, parking should be the most straightforward. Basically, you take the keys out of the ignition and get out of the car (hopefully after putting the car in park, hopefully not in the middle of an elementary school).

Oh, and if you're on an incline, maybe pull the parking brake. If you don't, you might end up like this guy, which is simultaneously a worst- and best-case scenario.

Inexplicably, the next shot is him bending back down to continue filling the gas tank.

But here's something most people don't know: You should probably put on the parking brake, regardless of whether you've stopped on the taxiway of a Delta terminal or at the summit of the Grinch's mountain, just to keep it in good working order.

You see, the parking brake is also commonly called the emergency brake, and as the name suggests, it can be used in a situation when your brakes fail or have been otherwise disabled by enemy agents. It overrides the hydraulic mechanism normally used to control the brakes and stops you with cables, which are demonstrably better than hydraulics because hydraulics never cut anyone in half in a Die Hard movie.

But the problem with steel cables is that they often rust and corrode, particularly after long periods of disuse. The way parking brake cables are designed, if you don't engage the brake every so often, the corrosion builds up and will cause it to fall apart like the bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

You'll want to skid out regularly, and with a gun so you feel extra cool.

So if you bought your car back when the cast members of Harry Potter were still children and have never used the parking brake, and then suddenly throw it on to bail yourself out of an honest-to-God emergency, such as barreling down the switchback of Lombard Street toward a rampaging atomic monster bursting out of San Francisco Bay, the cables will probably just snap under the strain and result in a headstone that will seriously confuse future archaeologists. Unless the monster wasn't just a one-time thing.

1. Don't Brake During a Blowout

The knee-jerk reaction to pretty much all panicky driving moments is to stand on the brakes like goblins are trying to crawl out of them, and in most cases, this is absolutely correct.

Unless you're in a Speed-like scenario

That being said, imagine you're cruising down the highway at about 65 mph when all of a sudden you hear your rear tire explode like you just ran over a tiny landmine. As you fire the shit out of your pant leg like a muddy trumpet, you can feel that the car is about to go out of control. If you follow your instincts, you'll probably hit the brakes, but in this case, your instincts have tragically failed you.

See, if you brake during a blowout, you're almost certain to fishtail (and maybe flip), possibly into another fast-moving car or the median (or both). This is especially true if your rear tire has blown out, which is more likely than a front tire blowout (front tires wear out more quickly, but people see that and replace them, while leaving the rear tires in place for years and years as part of their plan to just drive the car until it slowly disintegrates).

"Still here, eh? Well played, car."

So in the event of a blowout, you must do the very thing that makes the least sense: hit the gas. But don't drop an elbow on it like Macho Man Randy Savage; just squeeze it firmly for a couple of seconds to regain control, keeping the car as straight as possible. A completely blown or otherwise flat tire drags on the ground like an anchor -- if you slam on the brakes, the anchor catches at 65 mph or however fast you're going, and you're screwed. Ditto if you smash the gas pedal -- picture a cigarette boat tossing its anchor down at top speed. Give the car just enough speed to stay in control and then gently let your foot off the gas, turning into the blown tire (if you steer the opposite direction, the anchor catches). The tire that betrayed you will eventually bring the car to a stop on its own, and then you can get out and throw your pants into the woods.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Driving Laws in the UK

If you're planning to book a rental car in the UK during your next vacation, becoming well-versed in local driving laws in the UK is crucial to enjoying a hassle-free road trip. In this section of our United Kingdom travel guide, we'll delve into the UK driving laws and child safety guidelines to assist you in avoiding fines while simultaneously maintaining a high level of comfort and safety while on the road. For additional information and answers to your questions, visit our UK Car Rental FAQ page.

  • In the UK (and much of Europe for that matter), a child must use a child seat until they're twelve years old, or at least three and a 3.5 feet tall. Child seats in the UK must meet European Union guidelines, indicated by a large label showing a capital 'E' in a circle.
  • Talking on the phone while driving is illegal in the United Kingdom and can net you a minimum £100 fine.
  • Turning on a red light is forbidden in the United Kingdom. Whereas you may be able to make a "right on red" in the USA or Canada, you may only make a "left on red" in the United Kingdom when there is a specific arrow designating that you may.
  • Passing in the left lane (which is the slow lane in the UK) is forbidden in the UK except when the right lane is traveling slower than the left. If you do pass on the left lane, return to the right as soon as possible.
  • Insurance for your British rental car is required by law and can be attained through your credit card company, purchased locally upon arrival, or can be purchased in addition to your car rental when you book with Auto Europe.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other mind-altering substances, including prescription medications, is strictly prohibited and met with zero tolerance in the United Kingdom. Similar to the US, a legal blood-alcohol concentration in the UK must be below 0.08%.
  • Driving laws in the United Kingdom are dictated by the Highway Code, a set of mandatory rules and regulations, guides, recommendations, and other information for anyone who may be driving in the United Kingdom. The Highway Code applies to drivers, cyclists, commercial vehicle drivers, pedestrians, and even animals, so it's applicable to anyone (or anything) that may be on the road.

Tips for Driving in the UK

Driving in the United Kingdom, or any new place for that matter, can seem scary and intimidating at first, but after perusing our tips for driving in the UK, you'll find yourself enjoying a hassle-free vacation and driving like a Brit in no time! If you're looking for recommendations on where to stop while on your self-guided road trip, or are looking for more general information about traveling in the United Kingdom, check out our comprehensive travel guide to the UK.

  • Driving on the Left Side of the Road

Driving on the left side of the road means many of your normal habits, such as turning, yielding, and knowing what direction to look for incoming traffic, will be backward.
  • Local Driving Habits

Driving in London or other large cities, especially during rush hour, can be hectic and other drivers on the road are likely to be less pleasant towards foreign drivers holding up traffic.
  • Navigating Roundabouts

If you've driven in New England or Ontario before, you're likely familiar with roundabouts; vehicles already in the roundabout have the right of way in every situation, except when marked otherwise.Take your time, and if necessary, drive around the roundabout several times until you're confident you're making the correct turn in the appropriate manner.
  • Avoid City Centers When Possible

A vast majority of automobile collisions in the United Kingdom occur in congested urban areas, and for that reason, Auto Europe advises drivers to avoid city centers when possible, especially if they're still uncomfortable navigating roundabouts and driving on the left side of the road. If you want to drive in downtown London between 7 AM and 6 PM., you'll have to pay a congestion charge of £11.50 per day.
  • Utilize Carriageways and Motorways

Also known as highways, carriageways and motorways are the most time-effective and safest way to navigate the UK by car. Highways in the UK are organized by primary and regional destinations, where motorways (larger highways) connect primary destinations such as major cities, and carriageways (smaller highways, typically never more than two lanes in each direction) connect smaller destinations, such as junctions and smaller towns and cities.
  • Overtaking/Passing

Overtaking other vehicles in the UK is a slightly different process than in the United States or Canada, as the law prohibits passing on the left except when the vehicle in front of you is signaling to turn right. The strict regulations are in place to protect other drivers, motorcyclists, bikers, and pedestrians.
  • Wear Your Seatbelt

Wearing a seatbelt is a requirement by law for all UK drivers, you'll be fined a whopping £500 if you're found driving without your seatbelt.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Using a hazard routine

A hazard routine is a basic drill, or system of actions, that you will use each time you approach a hazard.

A hazard is anything that causes you to change your speed or direction, for example, junctions, parked cars, animals on the road, etcetera.

By taking a routine approach, you will be sure that it is safe to carry out any action that may be necessary to deal with the hazard safely.

The basic routine for driving in the UK is Mirrors Signal Manoeuvre, abbreviated to MSM. The full routine, however has more abbreviations... These are MSM - PSL - LAD. The sequence of actions that make up this expanded Mirrors Signal Manoeuvre (MSM) hazard routine is:

  • Mirrors
  • Signal
  • Position
  • Speed
  • Look
  • Assess
  • Decide (and act)

MSM in action

The example below describes how you would use this basic routine to make a right turn (the diagram shows a car in the UK where we drive on the left).

MSMAs soon as you are aware that there is a hazard ahead, you must check your mirrors to see what is happening behind. Just looking is not enough; you must ask yourself the question: 'Is it safe to carry out my manoeuvre?'

When you are sure that it's safe to proceed, ask yourself if there are any other road users who need to know what you intend to do. If the answer is yes, give the appropriate signal (by indicator, arm or brake lights). After signalling, check your mirrors again to find out how drivers behind are reacting.

Check your mirrors to make sure that it's safe to move into the correct position for the manoeuvre.

Speed and Gear
Use the footbrake to ensure that you have plenty of time to change gear before the hazard. If things seem rushed, you're going too fast. Make a final observation check all around and then complete your manoeuvre.

Look, Assess, Decide, Act.
While carrying out the hazard routine you must keep a constant look-out for other road users. Doing this will help to ensure that you have all the information you need to make the correct decisions about your intended actions.

Note that mirrors have been mentioned at least three times in the routine above - there is no set number of times to check your mirrors; the important thing is that you MUST always know how your actions will affect following drivers and how their actions will affect your plans. Use your mirrors as often as necessary during the routine.

Friday, March 31, 2017


Safe driving is not only essential for the safety of yourself and the vehicles occupants but with ever increasing insurance costs, an accident may increase your car insurance premium drastically.

 Upon passing the driving test, bad driving habits soon accumulate and become part of normal driving for many of us. These bad habits may seem trivial, but it’s these bad habits that are the result of most road traffic accidents.
Explained are essential, but simple safe driving tips designed to enhance your driving skills, confidence and awareness leading to a better, safer driver.

Although there are many more drivers on the roads these days, there are fewer fatalities. This is due to safer road conditions, safer vehicles and in part, the higher standards needed in obtaining a driving licence.

Many of the bad driving habits unfortunately remain with many and below details the most common causes of road accidents and how they can be prevented.


Driving too closely to another vehicle in front (tailgating) is dangerous and is one of the main causes of road accidents as it simply does provide a driver with enough reaction time to stop in the event of the vehicle braking or stopping suddenly. Tailgating is also illegal. In the event of sudden braking or stopping, it not only increases the chance of you hitting the vehicle in front but the vehicle behind you is at risk of hitting you also.

Safe Driving
Maintaining a safe following distance increases your thinking and stopping distance. If you are unsure of a safe following distance, the 2 second rule is an easy method for such safety aspects.Other than safety factor, driving too close to a vehicle in front causes greater brake and disc wear due to the constant accelerating and slowing, increases fuel consumption. A safe following distance allows the car more often to slow down without the need to brake and as a result less acceleration is needed.If a vehicle is driving too close behind you, increasing the distance from yourself and the vehicle in front of you will allow you to slow down over a greater distance, therefor giving the driver behind more time to react. Along with keeping a safe driving distance, safe braking techniques such as progressive braking makes for safer driving, and reduces wear on braking systems and tyres. As it enables you to keep better control of the car.


40% of all road accidents are due to drivers failing to look properly. A typical example of why these accidents occur is a lack of appropriate observations before changing lanes. Most of us look into the mirrors before making a lane change but can forget to check the blind spot. A car can easily be obscured by either the left or right blind spot plus smaller vehicles such as motorcycles and in towns and villages cyclists.

Safe driving
Before changing lanes in any situation whether on motorways / dual carriageways, multi-lane carriageways in cities and even at busy roundabouts, check the mirrors followed by the applicable blind spot side. See the car blind spot for further information.


Speeding related accidents result in around a quarter of all fatalities. Speeding is not only dangerous but significantly increases fuel consumption and the time gained by speeding is often much less than you might think. For instance, driving at 80 mph instead of the legal limit of 70 mph on motorways can increase fuel consumption by up to 25% and over a 60 mile trip will save just 6 minutes.

Safe driving
It’s much safer and cheaper to plan your journey and to allow plenty of time to complete it. If you are late, think, does it really matter? Is what I am late for really worth the potential risks of speeding? Remember the next time you are speeding it will:

  • increase the possibility of an accident that will affect others and not just you
  • increased fuel consumption
  • high risk of speeding tickets by static cameras or mobile patrols


A loss of car control is often due to a driver traveling too fast for the road or weather conditions. A massive one third of all road accidents are due to this.

Safe driving
We are all aware of how perilous the roads can be in winter, but many lose control during the warmer months. A road that has been dry for a long period will produce a build-up of oil and grease which when dry is not an issue. As soon as the road surface comes in contact with water, the oil and grease will rise to the surface of the water making the road hazardous until it is washed away. During such conditions, significantly reduce your speed, especially on bends and increase the stopping distance from yourself and the vehicle in front.


Another issue associated with wet weather is aquaplaning. Aquaplaning is when a layer of water forms between the road surface and the tyres and depending on certain factors, can lead to a complete loss of car control. If ever experienced, aquaplaning is perhaps one of the most terrifying moments. Read the guide on minimising the effects of aquaplaning and how to regain control.

How to adjust seating to the proper position while driving

Many drivers do not position themselves correctly in their cars and therefore seriously lack control and comfort while driving. A good driving position can actually help preventing accidents, improve safety should an accident occur, and improve driving comfort. To adjust to the proper seating position, use the following tips.


1. Wear proper clothing. Driving should be done with clothing that doesn’t limit the driver. In the winter, coats can interfere with proper steering as well as with proper adjustment of the seat and the operation of seat belts. Choose light and comfortable clothes.

  • Footwear is obligatory. The shoes have to be placed snugly on the feet (unlike slippers) and fit nicely on the pedals (unlike boots, muddy soles, or high heels). A shoe with a thin but slightly dense sole is ideal.
  • The driver is also advised to wear a set of pants that run all the way down to the knee, even if it means wearing a set of pants over shorts or a swim-suit.

2. Position yourself correctly in the seat itself. Make sure you sit straight and that your buttocks and back are square and completely squeezed into the seat. This helps to avoid backaches, possible back injuries and maintains awareness during long drives.

 3. Adjust the seat distance. The seat should always be positioned with regard to the pedals. Press the brake pedal fully with your right foot and fully depress the clutch (in a manual transmission car) or dead pedal (in an automatic). The distance should be adjusted so that with fully depressed pedals, your knees remain slightly bent (about 120 degrees).

  • To make sure your check is accurate, start the engine and press on the brakes a few times before performing the check to build up pressure.
  • If the knee straightens, you are too far back. If it's bent close to 90 degrees, it's too close.
  • A fully extended leg results in the knee locking-up. This reduces the leverage and feel of the pedals, increases effort, and puts you in risk of severe injuries to the feet in a collision;the straight knee will be fractured whereas the bent knee would fold down. Furthermore, the bone would project the shock up to the pelvic and lower spine.
  • A knee excessively bent (when the driver sits too close) at an angle of about 100 degrees, does not support the body effectively and results in bad blood circulation. It can also hit the under-dash in a collision.
  • The thighs should be placed as far apart as is comfortable. In small cars, most people can create a wide enough base as to lean their knees against the center console on one side and the door on the other.
  • The feet should be placed with the heels on the floor and the balls of the feet pressing against the pedals. The right foot in particular should be able to pivot between the throttle and brake pedal while the heel is placed roughly in front of the brakes. This might mean that you don't cover the brake pedal fully when pressing it and that pressing the throttle is done with the foot at an angle, contacting the pedal close to its lower edge. This is the correct way to utilize the feet.
  • The left foot should be resting over the dead-pedal whenever not working on the clutch (or, in an automatic, at all times). This increases support to the pelvis and allows the driver to brace the body by applying pressure against the footrest in corners or in events of strong braking instead of hanging onto the pedals or steering.

 4. Adjust the rake of the seat. This should be as parallel as possible to the steering. It is impossible to reach a perfect adjustment (and it's also not really necessary), but by adjusting the rake of the seat to an upright angle of about 110-95 degrees, we can reach a suitable adjustment.

  • We cannot reach a perfect adjustment because placing the seat too upright will put pressure on the lower vertebrae, place our head too high, and because the steering itself is placed in an angle. We can adjust the seat back to a relatively upright position and then use the adjustment of the steering itself to place it as parallel to the back as possible.
  • After adjusting the seat, including the height and the adjustments to the steering itself (below), we check the adjustment in the following manner: We place the wrist of our hand just over the topmost portion of the wheel. We should be able to place the wrist flat over the wheel and even bend it somewhat over the rim, while still keeping the shoulders (shoulder-blades) against the seat's back. This should be done with the arm straight but without putting in excessive effort.
  • If our wrist only touches the face of the wheel (rather than be placed flat over it), or it we can only put the heel of the palm on the wheel, or if we need to lean our scapulae (shoulder-blades) forward -- we are too far back. This will make us lean forward somewhat when we steer.
  • If we can touch the top of the wheel with our forearm or touch the top of the wheel with the wrist with the hand bent, we are too close to the wheel.
  • In vehicles with large, horizontal steering rims (mainly trucks), we cannot reach such a posture and we just need to check that we can grip the topmost portion of the wheel without locking the elbow fully and without bouncing the scapulae forward.

 5. Adjust the steering height. Where adjustable, the steering height should be adjusted to as parallel to back angle, and to a clear view of the dashboard through the rim. The ideal adjustment should also allow us to grip the wheel properly (at 9 and 3, see below), with our palms just lower than our shoulders.

 6. Adjust the steering distance. Where adjustable, this should be adjusted with the steering wheel height, to as parallel to the back as possible. While gripping the wheel properly, our elbows should be bent at about 120 degrees. There should be a minimal clearance of 10" (and preferably 30cm) between the center of the steering hub and the base of the breastbone (sternum). It should also not be further away that 45 centimeter (17.7 in).

7. Adjust the seat height. This should allow us to see forward clearly, while still having a clear view of the dashboard, and proper height relative to the wheel and pedals. In most cars, the proper height for forward vision should allow us to place five fingers (a hand width) between our head and the ceiling.

  • In cars with open or high ceiling, adjust so that you eyes are placed just above the center of the glass, without the visor obstructing your forward vision when open.
  • After readjusting the height, recheck the feet to make sure the height adjust had not compromised it.

8. Adjust the head restraints. Place the headrest to a height just above your eyelids, and (more importantly) -- as close to the head as possible (2-3cm). A head-restraint further than 7 centimeter (2.8 in) increases the risk of whiplash. Keep in mind that while driving our head bends forward a bit more. If you cannot adjust the head-restraint to the proper distance, you need to compensate by increasing the backrest tilt.

 9. Make additional adjustments as necessary.

  • Lumbar support: Should provide equal pressure across the whole length of the back. For drivers with lumbar problems without such an adjustment, you can use one or two rolled towels.
  • Side Bolsters: Should be adjusted for the maximum possible hip support without limiting the ability to depress all pedals fully.
  • Seat base reclining: Should keep the thigh in full contact with the seat. Avoid too much reclining which will create pressure behind your knees, or interfere with strong braking (you should not apply pressure against the seat).
  • Pedal adjustments: Should allow operation of the pedals as described above as comfortably as possible. You should be able to place your heel roughly in front of the brakes, place your foot on the brakes with the slightest possible offset to the right, and pivot as easily as possible towards the throttle pedal on the right, while keeping your knee bent at about 100 degrees.

 10. Position your hands properly. Your hands should both be on the wheel, at the 9 and 3 position. This increases the leverage on the wheel to a maximum. Your palms should be placed against the outer diameter of the wheel and the thumbs should be lightly hooked on the cross-brace of the wheel.

  • Grip and stabilize the wheel not only with the thumbs and/or palms, but mainly with your fingers and fingertips. In general, keep the grip of the wheel as light as possible without losing your control over the wheel. This results in better control and less fatigue.
  • Keep both hands on the wheel. Steering with one hand makes the weight of the hand work on the wheel, for which the shoulder muscles must be used to keep the wheel steady, resulting in a twist of the spine, especially if you get into the (bad) habit of holding the wheel from its top.

 11. Wear your seat belt properly. Adjust the lap-belt as snugly as possible over the waist. The belt should be physically tightened and placed as low as possible, on the pelvic bones, rather than the soft belly.

  • The shoulder strap should be adjusted to the height, so that the mounting is higher than the shoulder, and that the strap itself is placed over the acromion (middle of the shoulder), which is felt as a socket midway between the arm and neck.
  • If the shoulder strap is placed on the neck or even on the collar bone (clavicle), it is too high and will cause fractures to the clavicle and cuts the neck.
  • If the strap is placed too low on the shoulder itself or on the arm/under the armpit, it will not support the body and cause severe cuts to the arm.
  • All passengers should be strapped, and little children need to be harnessed in the suitable child seats and boosters. There are also special straps for pets. There are also other points that are worthwhile for the passengers:
  • Head restraint adjustment
  • Window adjustment
  • Proper placing of limbs relative to airbags: Avoid placing feet over the passenger's airbag or placing hands in the way of the lateral or curtain airbags, etc...
  • Proper distance from the dashboard
  • Full and erected seating: Full contact of the back and the seat, and an erected rake angle for the front passenger, to avoid "submarining under the lap belt.
  • Awareness: Falling asleep is dangerous for passengers. The front passenger should be awake to monitor and assist the driver, and to avoid acute abdominal injuries in a collision, which are intensified when the person is asleep.
  • Not all seats of the car are equally safe. The middle-rear seat is considered safest, followed by the seat behind front passenger seat, then the seat behind the driver, the front passenger seat and the driver being in the greatest threat. This division changes in cars with additional seats (minivans) or when the middle-back lacks a diagonal or adjustable belt or a head-restraint.

 12. Check your visibility. With this position, your eyes will be placed in front of the center or upper half of the glass for improved visibility. Keep your eyes relaxed rather than trying and focus, and keep the eyes up rather than down. You will see more and further away, while still being aware of your surrounding with your peripheral vision.
Adjust your mirrors to give you a broad field of vision to the rear and sides (see in links below) at the glance of an eye or a slight tilt of the head (if you have a narrow field of vision due to illness or age). In some cars, you might also need to be ready to lean slightly forward or take a slight peek to the side ("Shoulder check") to make sure you see everything around while driving.

 13. Keep objects in the car low, on the floor, preferably at the front seat. Do not keep anything around the driver's seat, because it might slip under the pedals.

  • In general, anything not stock is not wanted: A convex mirror mounted on the center mirror, a padded cover of the steering wheel, things dangling about on your rear-view mirror -- these are all bad things that can also prove hazardous in an accident.
  • Windows, in this respect, are best either completely closed, slightly opened or almost fully opened, rather than half-way down, in which case the head of the driver or one of the passengers might hit it. Always keep one of your front windows slightly opened for fresh air.
  • Open windows on highways can create drag that impairs fuel consumption and even the stability of the car, so it's best to only keep one or two windows slightly opened at most.
  • On rugged terrain, the windows should be fully closed or fully opened to avoid rocking the window's bushings.
  • Windows, lights and spectacles should be kept clean.

 14. Adjust your rear-view mirrors to a minimal overlap and maximal visibility.

  • While it is possible to fit a quality, vacuum-adhesive interior mirror to view the back seat, in long drives with the whole family, it's best for the front passenger to be the one in charge of the inside of the car, and for the driver to focus himself on the road. Do not adjust your stock interior mirror to see the back seat and do not use wide-angle convex mirrors as well.
  • Likewise, avoid placing a child in the front seat, regardless of child restraints or airbags.

 15. Use the air-conditioning to demist fumes on the windshields, and to provide a comfortable environment. It's better to use the car heat in the winter instead of driving with heavy clothing that interferes with steering and with the function of the seat belt. Keep one window slightly open for fresh air both in the summer (for oxygen) and winter (for fresh cold air).

  • The air conditioning is there to be used -- open the A/C periodically, even in the winter, and open the heating periodically -- even in the summer -- to ensure proper mechanical function of the two over time.
  • A/C air recirculation is very efficient because is blows large amounts of air. However, you need some fresh air through the driver's window. Likewise, if the windscreen is very heavily misted, opening the A/C for fresh air (along with an open window) can do better. Using external circulation is also efficient when you try to cool down a very hot cabin before entering it.
  • The A/C can also clear out bad smells. A few minutes before you turn off the car, close the air conditioner and air circulation, but keep the fan blowing air. This will channel out waste in the air ducts via a little hose inside it. Likewise, in a hot summer day, it's worthwhile to keep the heating blowing full time with all windows and doors open, to refresh the cabin.
  • The heating is also a good choice for when the engine starts to overheat. In highways, stopping on the hard-shoulder is so perilous that it is better to keep on driving towards a safe stopping place, even in the price of causing damage to the car (like overheating the engine). Using the heating to disperse engine heat can help reaching a safe stopping place without the engine reaching critical levels of heat.

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