Friday, June 23, 2017

Sharing the Road: Young Drivers and Big Trucks

With winter just around the corner, many young drivers will experience cold weather road conditions for the first time; add large trucks to the mix, and odds are you’ll see a great increase in accidents that occur. Even if a truck driver receives the best CDL training possible, they are still relying on all of the young drivers around them to be aware of big trucks.  As a former truck driver, I know that 9 in 10 fatal truck crashes happen when smaller passenger vehicles are involved. If you’re new to driving, or just need a refresher course, here are the 4 B’s that drivers of all ages can keep in mind when sharing the road with large trucks.

Avoid Blind Spots

All young drivers know that cars have blind spots. For big trucks, especially those hauling trailers, these blinds spots are exponentially larger. This area is called the No-Zone. If you remember nothing else about blind spots then remember this: If you can’t see the truck driver, then the truck driver can’t see you!

• There are blinds spots on the left and the right of a truck’s cab. If you can’t see the trucker in the side mirror, then you’re in the blind spot, and you need to get out.

• Behind the truck is the largest No-Zone. The trucker cannot see you and you cannot see what is ahead of the truck, thus greatly reducing your reaction time.

• In front of a large truck is a dangerous place to be as well. Unlike small cars, trucks need considerably more time and distance to come to a stop.

Be Predictable

When driving a massive vehicle, operators need more time and space to react to anything happening out on the road. Others can make the roads safer by making sure their moves are steady and predictable. This is especially true when drivers need to pass through a blind spot.

• Always maintain a constant speed while driving around large trucks. When you enter a blind spot, maintain your speed and be visible and predictable.

• Change directions slowly and deliberately. Do not weave in and out of lanes. Driving a truck requires enough focus without having to keep track of erratic drivers.

• Signal plenty of time before making moves in traffic. This gives everyone else time to react to your change in lane or direction.

Be Alert!

Being alert while you’re behind the wheel is an absolute must. Fatal traffic accidents claim countless lives every year, and if you’re frequently inattentive when you drive, you’re only contributing to the problem. Rather than concerning yourself with your phone or your stereo, try focusing on what’s happening in front of you; it can save lives.

• Don’t text (or talk) and drive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 21 percent of fatal car crashes, involving drivers ages 15-19, were due to cell phone distractions.

• Don’t be a Rubbernecker! This occurs when something of interest catches your eye and you whip your head around to see more. This causes immediate loss of focus on the road. Also, when you turn your head, your hands instinctively turn in that direction which could cause you to drift out of your lane.

• Keep in mind that there are many other ways to be distracted by influences in and out of the car, especially if you are getting up early in the morning to drive to school.

Be Considerate

This one may seem obvious but often forgotten when tempers flare on the roads. Just remember that everyone needs to get somewhere; that’s why you’re all driving in the first place. Big trucks are not on the road solely to make your life more difficult.

Driving on our roadways requires a lot of trusts, and the only way we can establish that with each other is by working together and being respectful of one another’s boundaries. Reading this article means that you have taken a great first step in ensuring your own, and everyone else’s safety.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Road safety during wet weather

Being prepared for general wet weather

Driving in wet weather can be very dangerous. You should prepare and frequently maintain your vehicle to make sure you will always be as safe as possible when driving in wet conditions.

To get your vehicle ready for driving in wet weather make sure:
  • you have good tire tread (at least 1.5mm deep across the whole tire width)
  • all of your vehicle’s lights work well
  • your windscreen and lights are clean.

Driving safely in general wet weather

We recommend you look at weather forecasts and road condition updates, and plan your drive before heading out on long trips. This will help you to avoid driving in and around unsafe conditions. However, our weather can change dramatically, even within the space of a short drive. When you find yourself in unexpected wet weather (such as a quick moving storm), follow these safety tips.

In wet conditions:

  • drive slowly—to avoid aquaplaning and skidding
  • drive with your lights on low beam (it is easier to see with a low beam in fog)
  • use your air conditioner or demister to keep your windscreen clear of condensation
  • double the distance between you and the car in front
  • avoid breaking suddenly or accelerating or turning quickly—to reduce your chances of skidding
  • do not drive on unsealed roads
  • use road line markings to stay in the middle of your lane—in wet weather, it is more important than ever to stay in the correct position on the road
  • do not drive on roads covered with water (even partially covered)
  • watch out for landslides—heavy rain can cause layers of rock and soil to move
  • stay away from the stagnant water by the side of the road (it can be very bad for your health).

Drive slowly

When driving in wet weather, you should always remember that the signed speed limit is the maximum safe speed in ideal driving conditions so you may need to drive slower in wet weather.


Aquaplaning is where there is a build-up of water between the road surface and your tires, causing them to lose contact with the road surface completely. If this happens, you may lose control of your vehicle.

To reduce your chances of aquaplaning in wet weather, slow down and do not use cruise control.


If some of your vehicle’s tires slip, but you still have some traction on the road, you are skidding. If your vehicle starts skidding, it may become difficult to control. Wet surfaces can increase your risk of skidding. When you are driving in the wet, reduce your speed and allow all of your tires to grip to the road at all times.

To prevent skidding:
  • accelerate smoothly
  • brake smoothly
  • corner smoothly.

Double the distance between you and the car in front

If you drive too close to the vehicle in front of you, you are likely to crash if they brake suddenly. Keep far enough back so that, if they do something you are not expecting, you can still stop in time.

: Image of 2 cars on the road, with a power pole. The image indicates that there should be 2 seconds between the rear of the first car passing the pole and the front of the second car passing the pole.
In good weather, make sure there are at least 2 seconds between you and the vehicle in front.

If you are driving a standard car, you should drive at least 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. In wet weather, you need to double your stopping time—so you will need to travel at least 4 seconds behind the vehicle in front.

In good weather, make sure there are at least 2 seconds between you and the vehicle in front.

Heavy vehicles, trailers, and caravans

If you are driving a heavy vehicle, you should drive at least 4 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. In wet weather, you need to double your stopping time to at least 8 seconds. If you are driving a vehicle with a trailer or caravan attached, you should allow at least 2 seconds for your car and 1 second for each 3m of your trailer/caravan in normal conditions. In wet weather, you will need to allow at least 4 seconds for your car and 2 seconds for each 3m of your trailer/caravan.

How to judge the distance

To work out how many seconds you are behind the vehicle in front of you:

  1. Pick a mark on the road, or an object close to the left side of the road (such as a power pole).
  2. When the back the vehicle in front of you passes the mark or object, count ‘one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three, one-thousand-four’. This takes about 4 seconds.
  3. If the front of your vehicle reaches the mark or object before you finish counting, you are too close and need to drop back.

Driving safely in floods

Floods can occur almost anywhere in Queensland and can rise over days, or in minutes in a flash flood.

Do not travel in flooded areas unless it is essential. If you must drive in or near a flooded area, try to view updates on road conditions and closures before heading out—so that you can take the safest possible route. But importantly, never attempt to drive across a flooded road.

Flood road signs

To keep you safe and protect our roads, we must carefully manage roads that have been flooded.

To do this, we may:
  • close roads
  • put load restrictions on and around flooded roads
  • put traffic controls at and around flooded roads.

If you need to drive in an area that has been flooded, signs will warn you of the roads that are unsafe to use. Always follow the directions of flood road signs and drive with extreme caution. Learn the flood barriers and signs.

Flood safety tips

If you must drive in a flooded area:
  • never drive on a road or bridge covered with water—floodwaters can be fast moving and contain debris
  • always take extra care when driving on a road or bridge that has been recently flooded—as it may be damaged or still drying out.
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hand Signals Guide

Whether you're making a lane change or turn, state laws require you to signal your intentions to other drivers on the road.
Use this guide to learn more about using hand signals when turn signals are not an option.

Hand Signals & Definitions

Signaling helps make other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians aware of your intentions on the road. This improves safety and can help to avoid an accident.
Below are the basic hand signals you may need to use if you are a cyclist or a motorist whose turn signals aren't working properly.

Left Turn
When making a left-hand turn or changing lanes from right to left, you'll need to make a left-hand turn signal by:
  • Extending your left arm sideways from the driver's window, keeping your arm straight and your fingers extended.
  • Try to make your arm as visible as possible.
Right Turn
When turning right or changing lanes from left to right, make a right-hand turn signal by:
  • Extending your left arm out of the driver's side window.
  • Bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle so that the hand is pointing up and your palm is facing forward.
  • Try to make your arm as visible as possible to those around you.
Stopping or Slowing
When you intend to stop or slow down, signal your intentions when pressing on the brake by:
  • Extending your left arm out of the window.
  • Bend your elbow and point the hand down toward the road with your fingers extended.
  • Your palm should face the drivers behind you.
When to Use Hand Signals

While it might not seem like hand signals are needed most of the time, there are instances when they are both necessary and helpful in order to abide by state traffic laws.
These include:
  • When a tail or brake light isn't working.
  • When the morning and evening sunlight makes it hard to see signal lights from other vehicles.
  • Operating a bicycle or other vehicle that doesn't have turn signals.
  • Motorcyclists who have tail or brake lights that may not be visible to all other vehicles on the road.
Tips for Using Hand Signals

Here are a few tips you'll want to keep in mind when using hand signals:
  • States have different guidelines for when you should signal a turn. Make sure to read up on your state's specific requirements.
  • FOR EXAMPLE: In California, you're required to begin signaling at least 100 feet from an upcoming turn.
  • Continue signaling until the turn or lane change is complete.
  • Remember to use signals when pulling to or away from a curb.
  • Signal even when you don't see other vehicles around you.
  • Signal before you begin to break.
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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Driving corners fast

Once the optimum route through the corner has been determined, it’s time to negotiate the turn in the quickest way possible. To do this will, you need a decent knowledge of your car’s limits, some time to learn the track, and a combination of car control techniques.

It might be worth reading our introduction to the racing line before reading this article.

The corner (including the sections of track immediately before and after) can be divided into distinct zones which are shown in Diagram 1 below.
  • Acceleration zone (prior to cornering)
  • Pedal transition
  • Braking zone
  • Gear change
  • Turn-in point
  • Neutral throttle (or trail braking for experienced drivers)
  • Apex point
  • Acceleration (after hitting the apex)
  • Full power

Diagram 1: Driving the racing line

Acceleration zone

To get the best times on the track you need to be either accelerating or braking at all times while on the straights – any coating means you’re losing precious seconds! Try to accelerate all the way up to the braking zone and use maximum throttle up to the last point.

Pedal transition

Before you can begin braking, there is a short break as you release the throttle and apply the brake with your right foot. Left foot braking is an advanced technique which can reduce this time to the bare minimum.

Braking zone

Apply the brakes hard at your predetermined breaking point using the threshold braking technique. Due to the forward weight transfers, there is a possibility that you may lock up one or more wheels (or activate ABS), but as you’re traveling in a straight line this will not necessarily cause any detrimental effects. Ensure that you have come off the brakes, or reduced braking to a minimum before you turn in. As you learn the track and your tires warm up you will be able to leave the braking point later.

Trail braking

Once you have mastered the racing line and the various stages of driving through a corner shown in Diagram 1, you might consider taking things one step further with trail braking. This involves braking later and continuing to break into the early phase of the corner before the apex. This can help improve your lap times but also pushes your car closer to the limits of grip.

Trail braking should be considered in the following situations:

  1. If you have a car which is prone to understeer when turning into a corner
  2. If you have accidentally left your braking too late and need to further reduce speed to be able to take a corner
  3. If you have perfected the racing line and the phases of cornering and are looking to further improve lap times
  4. If you have a car which naturally has a tendency to understeer, feathering the brake into a corner will maintain a forwards weight transfer and can provide additional grip at the front wheels. This can sometimes allow a faster cornering entry, but the success rate depends on the setup of your car.
  5.  If you find you have plowed into a corner too fast and feel that there is a risk you might not be able to remain on the track, trail braking can help. Remember though that the less braking you can get away with mid-corner the better. So only use as much braking as you absolutely need to – this will leave you with greater reserves of grip which can be used to keep you on the track while cornering. This technique should be treated as a method of recovery rather than a matter of habit.
  6. Once you have cornering down to a fine art, trail braking is a method of further improving your lap times. When performing this technique at speed, it’s important to remember that the majority of the braking should still be completed in a straight line. However, to squeeze every last ounce of performance from your car, you can start to leave your braking point slightly later and continue to use the brakes in the corner prior to the apex. Before you turn in, progressively start to ease off the brakes until they are fully released at the apex ready for the acceleration phase. Some cars do not react well to trail braking, especially those prone to lift off oversteer – although there will be more grip available at the front wheels while trail braking, the rear will be more prone to break loose. Beware!

Gear change

Before you turn the corner you’ll usually need to change down. The golden rule here is to select a gear which will allow you to accelerate out of the bend efficiently. Heel and toe shifting can be a useful technique to master here as it allows you to brake and change down simultaneously while avoiding transmission shock loads which can unbalance the car and cause unwanted weight transfers.

Turn in point

When turning in, ensure your steering motion is smooth and progressive. The perfect corner involves tightening the steering until the apex (see diagram above) and then gradually unwinding the steering lock. If you find yourself increasing or correcting the steering lock as your traveling through the corner after the initial turn-in you’ve probably taken the wrong line.

Balanced / neutral throttle

The largest demand on the grip reserves of your tires occurs between the turn in point and the apex. It is vitally important not to place additional demands on the tires by accelerating or braking. This isn’t to say you can’t retain a constant speed, but the important factor is that the car is in a neutral state until after the apex. Understeer or oversteer are most likely to occur at this point.

Clipping the apex

When hitting the apex don’t be worried about cutting the corner slightly. During a corner, the weight is transferred to the outside wheels, and thus these are doing most of the gripping. Putting the inside wheels onto the rumble strip or slightly into the gravel shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Post apex acceleration

Once you’ve hit the apex, you should be able to start reducing the amount of steering lock. As you are doing this progressively increase the throttle up to the point of full power. The point at which you can apply full power depends on your car. Some cars will be able to apply full power straight after the apex, depending on the severity of the corner and the conditions.

The next corner

By now you should already be thinking about the next corner and position your car appropriately to allow you to use the racing line, this may affect your route and the first corner may require a compromised line.

Factors which affect cornering speed

The overall speed at which you can take a corner depends on a vast number of factors including your experience, the handling of your car, and the conditions of the track. For example, a turn with a beneficial chamber can dramatically increase the speed that can be sustained. It’s really important not to second guess cornering speeds but build up the pace gradually lap by lap until you feel the limits of grip approach.

General note

All of the above guidance depends on your driving style and the car you’re using. You will not be able to use all the power of a Bugatti Veyron or McLaren F1 until you’re completely in a straight line, however, if you’re in a lighter less powerful car you can apply the gas much closer to the apex point. It’s very rare to achieve the perfect corner, it takes knowledge of the track and the car and a great deal of practice!
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Thursday, June 1, 2017


Driving stick is an art, so to speak. Mastering it might not bolster your reputation as a motor enthusiast, but remaining ignorant to the ways of the manual transmission could knock you down a few pegs with just about everyone.

It’s true, you can almost always navigate from point A to point B without utilizing a stick shift and a clutch, but there will undoubtedly come a time when your only option will be something other than an automatic. Perhaps you’ll be forced to drive your friend’s pickup truck home after he or she had a bit too much to drink. Maybe you’ll find yourself looking at the perfect hatchback at your local dealership only to discover it is, in fact, equipped with a manual. Or, you might need to rent a car in Europe.

Knowing how to operate this type of gearbox will serve you well — and it certainly can’t hurt, anyway. After all, manuals are easier to maintain and are known to help with fuel efficiency given their direct level of control. Here’s our simple guide on how to drive manual, so you can operate everything from compact economy cars to forklifts using a clutch pedal and a stick. There’s truly no substitute for the first-hand experience, but our simple instructions are a great place to start.


Assuming you possess or have access to a vehicle with a manual transmission, sit in the driver’s seat and take note of the various features and components while the vehicle is off. Get a feel for the clutch, the extra pedal that’s located directly left of the brake. Familiarize yourself with its resistance and when you can feel it grip. Afterward, locate the gear shifter or “stick,” typically located in the center console between the front seats or adjacent to the steering wheel. Make sure your seat is adjusted so you can easily reach all three pedals, and as always, ensure your seat belt is buckled.   

Next, examine the shift pattern, likely embedded on top of the gear knob. This diagram generally showcases a series of lines and numbers that correspond to each gear. Note the placement of the individual gears, most notably reverse, often accessed by shifting down from fifth gear. Occasionally, on many Volkswagen vehicles, for instance, the reverse is located by pushing down on the shift knob (or pulling up on the shift boot) and moving down from first. There’s also a neutral gear located in the “gray area” between every notch, allowing you to release the clutch pedal while keeping the car running. Pressing the clutch and positioning your shifter between first and second gear, for example, will move you into neutral. Automatic transmissions do all of this… automatically.


Here’s the golden rule of manual transmissions: shifting begins with the clutch but ends with the gas. With the engine still off, press the clutch to the floor and move the shifter into first gear. Then, release the pedal while slowly pressing down on the gas. If the engine were on and the brakes were disengaged, this would propel the vehicle forward.

To move into second, release the gas and press the clutch down again. At this point, you’re just repeating the previous step, only you’re moving into second, then third, then fourth, and so on. Put simply, shifting gears requires the following three actions:

  1. Depressing the clutch with your left foot.
  2. Manually shifting with the right hand, typically in gear order.
  3. Slowly depressing the gas pedal with your right foot while simultaneously releasing the clutch.

The faster you’re driving, the faster you can ease back the clutch, but keep in mind that smoothness counts more than quickness. Beginners should get in the habit of shifting from first gear directly to second gear.


Accelerating requires shifting to higher gears. In general, manual transmissions require shifting when your vehicles reach 3,000 RPM, or when the engine seems to be overworking; keep an eye on the tachometer if you’re not sure when to shift. With the engine still off, practice accelerating to 15 mph or so and switching from first to second to third gear. Practice depressing the clutch and manually shifting up through fourth gear. Practice releasing the clutch while simultaneously giving the engine gas. Imagine you see a traffic signal in the distance.

Downshifting requires shifting into lower gears. If the engine seems to be puttering, you’ll need to downshift in order to bring the RPM up and access more of the engine’s power. Depress the clutch and carefully maneuver the gearshift from third gear to second gear to practice downshifting. Just like accelerating, make sure you slowly depress the gas pedal while simultaneously releasing the clutch.

Coming to a complete stop requires drivers to depress the clutch and maneuver the gearshift into neutral, the position conveniently located in between gears. Neutral isn’t typically indicated on the gear shifter, but once you maneuver the stick into the correct position, you can take your foot off the clutch while keeping the car running. Again, you’ll want to shift gears when your car runs at roughly 3,000 RPM. 


Practicing with the engine off is a great start (no pun intended), but it doesn’t quite compare to the real-world scenarios you’re likely to face on the road. The next step is to actually practice driving, preferably in a flat area relatively devoid of traffic and pedestrians — parking lots, back roads, etc. Secluded and low-traffic locations provide plenty of time should you stall the engine as well. Try not to panic when it happens though; engine stalls inevitably go hand-in-hand with learning to drive a stick.

Although you could practice alone so long as you possess a valid drivers license, consider bringing a friend who knows how to drive stick. To start the vehicle, make sure the car is in first gear, press down the clutch, and turn the ignition key. Slowly drive forward when the car starts, releasing the clutch while simultaneously pressing the gas pedal. Whatever you do, don’t accelerate too fast. When the RPM gauge reads more than 3,000, or you’re going roughly 15 mph, press down on the clutch and shift from first to second gear, and repeat until you reach your desired speed.


The most complicated part of driving a car equipped with a manual transmission is starting on a steep hill. That’s because you need to operate the clutch pedal to engage first gear, the gas pedal to get the car moving, and the brake pedal to keep the car from rolling backward. It’s tricky unless you have three feet.

This is when the handbrake — typically located directly between the front seats — is useful. After you come to a stop, pull up on the handbrake so the car doesn’t roll backward. When it’s time to move again, start like you normally would on flat ground while simultaneously releasing the hand brake. Timing is key here. Releasing the handbrake too slowly will prevent the car from moving while releasing it too quickly will cause the car to roll backward. Get it just right, though, and the brake will keep the car still long enough for you to pull away.

Don’t sweat it if you stall; it happens to everyone. Re-engage the handbrake, put the car in neutral, start the engine, and give it another shot. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be stick-shifting your way through downtown San Francisco in no time.

Good luck and shift safely!
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Summer Driving Tips

Before You Go Get your car serviced Customary support, for example, tune-ups, oil changes, battery checks, and tire revolutions go fa...