How to tell if a person is a good driver

Jason · Mar 4, 2021 05:00 PM

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To me, driving has always been a point of pride and satisfaction to me. It has always been about the journey, never the destination. Since the day I got my license, I have always been looking, finding, trawling for ways to improve and be a better driver. My logic was simple, having better drivers out there means a safer road environment for everyone. 

An entire day under the sun, inhaling dust, exhaust and tyre smoke, who'd do that?!

It was on the premise of improving road safety that I pursued being an Advanced Driving Instructor. So why am I here? Well, I'd like to think that knowledge, is to be shared. Especially if it helps others to learn. But before that, let's get into some pet peeves.

Common bad habits

I know, I know, you will probably tell me Malaysian drivers have an endless list of bad habits. Even so, from my observation, here are the some of the most common bad driving habits:

  • Poor seating position.
  • Wrong line of vision.
  • Have a weird dislike to indicate.
  • Harsh throttle and steering control.
  • Driving with one hand (or none).

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Do understand that in some cases, many drivers do not know these are bad habits, unless someone points it out to them. Plus, I totally understand there are many who want to better their driving, but know not where to start (I personally was in such a position myself). That said, these are some of the habits that good drivers practice.

Be seated well, look far

A good driving position looks like this

A good driver, first and foremost, is always seated properly to ensure all major controls are within reach. If you do not know how to adjust your seating position, I have touched on this subject before. Being seated properly gives you a better chance of avoiding accidents, or mitigating injury should the worst happen. 

Not like this, not like this!

As for line of vision, a good driver will have his/her eyes looking as far as possible, and they're always looking at where they're headed. Many driver fixate only on the car immediately ahead, which doesn't give them enough reaction time should anything untoward happen.

Look as far ahead as you can

When you look far at where you wanna go, you will notice that somehow, time 'slows down'. This is because by looking ahead, you now have more time to plan and react to traffic in front of you, and you are more relaxed, more smooth. Speaking of which....

Smooth like butter

You'd hear driving instructors tell you to be smooth, but how do good drivers execute smoothness? Put simply, your driving inputs ie your steering, throttle and braking. Sounds simplistic enough, but actually in many of the advanced driving courses I've conducted, there are a surprising amount of drivers out there who cannot grasp this concept.

The golden rule is, to not treat the throttle pedal like an on/off switch. Modulation and progression is required. Understand that this finesse comes with practice and awareness. Even when trying to accelerate to join traffic or the expressways, there is no need to stab the pedal to the firewall. The idea is to 'squeeze' the throttle, not crush it.

As for braking, be firm and assertive when braking (but don't brake as if you're doing a time attack). Get good pressure in early, then ease off the pressure as you slow down, instead of starting soft and ending strong. I commonly find drivers doing the opposite, strong throttle and soft braking.

With regards to steering, using the right technique and hand position are important to be smooth. I always advocate a 9 & 3 hand position (10 & 2 is more old-school, but works too) and a over-hand steering technique (this is rather controversial, as some prefer the push-pull method).

All I will say is, over-hand technique is faster, smoother and gives you more control. That is not to say that push-pull is wrong. Any steering technique that advocates having both hands on the wheel is a good place to start. 

Conclusion

This is by no means the be-all and end-all of driving. Because everyone's driving level is so varied, this will serve as a general guide that will help cover a broad base of drivers. What is important is to recognise that one can always improve and be a better driver (I am constantly discovering new things). Learning never stops, and neither should you.

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