Drivers Fact Sheets

Advanced Driving Techniques

There are valuable techniques which can be used to get the best out of your car. This is where the application of advanced driving techniques comes in.

Eliminating Blind Spots

Most people like to adjust the wing mirrors so that they can see along the side of the vehicle from the normal driving position. Unfortunately, there is a blind spot between the view you see in the mirror and the view you get out of the side window. A car may be lurking in this area and may surprise you when you go to change lanes. One method to overcome this is as follows:

Lean up against the driver door, put your head against the window, and adjust the driver wing mirror so that you can just see along the side of the vehicle.

Move to the passenger seat and do the same thing.

This reduces the amount of overlap between the rear view mirror and the wing mirror, but means that the wing mirrors see further out into the blind spot. As a vehicle moves from your rear view mirror, it appears in one of your wing mirrors. As it moves from the wing mirror, it becomes visible out of the corner of your eye.

Use this technique with caution! Because there is less overlap between the various mirrors, you will find that you have to check in both the rear view mirror and the wing mirror before changing lanes.

Double Declutching

Are you ever cruising along in fifth and suddenly you come across an obstruction? You want to whizz past, but even changing down into fourth won’t give you the power you need. What’s needed is a quick change down into third or second gear. Doing this, however, runs a serious risk of damaging your gear box. This is where double declutching comes in.

In ordinary declutching you use the clutch to change from a higher to a lower gear. It’s what you do all the time. Double declutching is a little more elaborate:

Push the clutch to the floor

Put the gear lever into neutral

Lift the clutch off the floor

Give the accelerator a little blip to rev the engine up

Push the clutch to the floor

Put the gear lever into the desired gear

Lift the clutch off the floor

Why do it? It puts the gearbox into an intermediate state where it is better able to slip into the new gear, and matches the engine speed to the new speed required by the lower gear.

The same process in reverse, but without the extra blip of the accelerator, is used to go up to a higher gear. You’d do this when you’ve passed a slow moving vehicle.

For really ambitious drivers, you might try the ‘heel and toe’ technique. This involves braking with the toe of your right foot. When you get to the point in the double declutch where you need to rev the engine, you use the heel of your right foot to blip the accelerator, while continuing to brake with the toe. You might actually find it easier in modern cars to use the left and right sides of the ball of your right foot for this manoeuvre.

Driving In A Low Gear

Most drivers instinctively keep the engine ticking over at between 2000 and 3000 revs per minute (rpm). This ensures the engine is nice and quiet, but unfortunately gives the driver very little control.

For maximum control of the car, you should drive in a lower gear and pump the revs up to between 4000 and 5000 rpm. In this spectrum, the engine will let you know it is doing its job well by roaring. The noise that is produced is not for the sensitive. At high revs, you have more power for manoeuvring. The car will also slow down much quicker if you take your foot off the accelerator, for changes down in speed.

Steering

If you can drive at all, you obviously know how to steer, but there are a few points worth noting.

Where to Hold Your Hands on the Wheel

Traditionally, the recommended position for the hands on the steering wheel was ‘ten to two’, the position of the hands on a clock showing this time. This position was thought to give maximum control of the wheel and is comfortable.

In the last few years, however, many people have recommended that this practice should be changed. Airbags mounted in the steering wheel can injure the driver’s arms as they explode outwards to cushion the driver in the event of a crash. Some think there is evidence that the 9-3 position, which keeps the arms as clear as possible of the path of the airbag, gives less risk of injury. Some car manufacturers even place indentations on the rear of the wheel at these points to encourage drivers to use this hand position.

The jury is still out on whether 9-3 actually decreases the risk of injury, and the best position for maximum control has been debated for decades. If you are just learning to drive you might benefit from not fighting with your instructor and if you’ve driven for years in that position, trying to change habits might pose more of a risk.

It is a good idea, though, to position the driver’s seat well back from the steering wheel and to drive with arms outstretched, because the driver is less likely to strike the steering wheel in a crash.

Brake In, Drive Out

For maximum control on bends and corners, you should brake before the bend and then accelerate as you go around the bend. You are less likely to skid this way than if you are still braking as you come out of the bend.

Position Before Bends

To judge the speed at which you can go around a bend safely, it is necessary to know how sharp the bend is, as well as taking into account the camber of the road. The sharpness of the bend can be estimated by looking at trees or telegraph poles along the side of the road. To maximise the driver’s view around the bend, you should position the car at the left of the lane before entering a bend to the right, or at the right of the lane before entering a bend to the left.

Braking

The best method of braking depends very much on whether you have ABS brakes or not. ABS is an electronic braking system which rapidly pulses your brakes on and off in the event of a skid. It is available as standard in many cars these days. You’ll know when the ABS comes into operation because it produces a very loud rumbling noise and a strong vibration can be felt through the brake pedal. It is worth your while trying out your ABS brakes when you are not in the middle of an emergency, so that you know what they sound and feel like; many people are frightened by the sensation and take their foot off the brake.

If you need to stop very quickly and you have ABS brakes, the way to do it is to jam your foot on the brake and leave it there. Don’t let up, don’t pump the brakes. Keep your foot down hard until the car stops.

If you have not got ABS brakes and you want to stop suddenly, the best way is to pump the brakes: this involves pushing your foot onto the brake pedal, releasing it, pushing again, releasing and so on. This will stop your car in the shortest possible time.

Driving On Ice, Oil Or Other Slippery Surfaces

Try and drive in as high a gear as possible. The wheels are less likely to skid. It is even possible to start your car in 3rd gear on ice.

Use the brakes as little as possible; use the engine to slow the car down.

Make sure that tyres are correctly inflated and have plenty of tread. It is a myth that you should lower the pressure in your tyres to drive on ice – this does increase the amount of tyre surface in contact with the road, but it also plays havoc with the steering, so don’t do it.

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