How To

10 ways to be The Good Driver

What makes a good driver? Here are some things to look for to evaluate the attitude and awareness levels of yourself and your fellow drivers.

What makes a good driver?

I have always maintained it comes down to a “triple-A” mantra: attitude, awareness and ability.

Last first. The ability required to be an excellent driver is well within the reach of anyone with a licence.

It’s the other two As that matter most.

Here are some things to look for to evaluate the attitude and awareness levels of yourself and your fellow drivers.

We’re not talking obvious things, like wearing a seatbelt or not driving impaired, but some more subtle indications that the driver has HAC (half a clue).

To maintain gender neutrality, I’ll refer to TGD – The Good Driver.

1. The car has four black steel rims, if The Good Driver has taken off the alloy rims (none can survive long in a Canadian winter) and replaced them with cheaper sacrificial steel rims, shod (let us hope) with four proper winter tires. Remember: All-season tires are really no-season tires – lousy all year long.

2. TGD doesn’t just scrape a peephole in the snow on the windshield, doesn’t even just brush off the front, side and rear windows. TGD gets all the snow off the car, especially the headlights and taillights for see-and-be-seen visibility, and off the roof, so it doesn’t blow onto the rear window or someone else’s windshield.

3. TGD will not hang anything from the inside rear-view mirror. Not parking passes, love beads, religious symbols, bronzed baby booties, not – God particularly forbid – old CDs. The windshield is for looking through, not expressing yourself.

4. At an odd-angled intersection, TGD squares up to as close to a right angle as possible. For instance, if a street joins a major artery at a shallow angle and there is no traffic light or (we can dream) a roundabout to ease passage through the intersection and the plan is for a left turn, TGD will steer slightly right at the stop line.

The objective is to get the best possible view of traffic coming in both directions.

Now this manoeuvre might confuse following drivers who might think that a right turn is in the offing. Therefore, the TGD will make sure the left turn signal is on (What am I saying? Of course TGD will have it on …) and will keep an eye out to the rear as well.

5. TGD always backs into a parking spot (unless a drive-through spot is available) but will also angle the car within the spot to maximize door-opening arcs, thereby minimizing potential ding damage to all cars concerned. If the spot is particularly narrow, TGD will try to cheat toward the passenger’s door side of the adjacent cars if possible, leaving the larger margin to the driver’s door. Because if one of those cars leaves the scene first, there may or may not be a passenger but there will be a driver.

6. Speaking of positioning, if you see a driver who seems to be meandering around in the lane on a highway, it may not be someone who is impaired, or (still!) chatting on a phone. It may be TGD, positioning the car in the lane to maximize visibility. In the left (passing) lane, for example, this is often best achieved by running as close to the left shoulder as possible in order to see beyond the car or cars ahead.

What if the car ahead is also driven by a GD? Won’t that spot already be taken? Maybe; just consider yourself lucky, and stay far enough back to keep your vision and options as open as possible. Or try sliding to the right of the lane to peek down between lines of cars.

By the same token, TGD will try never to be caught for long behind a van, truck or other “opaque” vehicle. TGD always wants to look through the windshield(s) of the vehicle(s) ahead as well, which gives more advance notice of any potential problem.

7. Another positioning trick will endear TGD to fellow drivers: When approaching a red light in an urban, multi-lane environment, TGD will check the rear-view mirror, and if a following car looks like it might want to make a right turn at the intersection, will make an exception to the otherwise inviolable rule by moving out of the rightmost lane to enable that move. If the lane to the left doesn’t exist or is unavailable, TGD will squeeze as far left as possible, if there’s an overwide lane, to increase the chances for the following driver to make the turn. It only saves a few seconds, but it is always appreciated and it shows that TGD is aware of what is going on.

8. If the dream-of-a-lifetime car (or the only car that can be afforded, or anything in between) happened to come with fog lights because this benighted invention was bundled in a package with stuff intelligent people might actually find valuable, TGD will never, ever, turn them on. A particularly conscientious GD might even remove them, or for the more dramatic, blow them out with an over/under 12-gauge shotgun.

9. If you see a car approaching a traffic obstacle with the four-way flashers on, you can bet it’s being driven by TGD who has been looking far enough down the road to see what’s happening, and has the courtesy to warn following motorists of possible danger.

10. You’ll never hear the grating CLICK-CLICK-CLICK of a parking brake being applied in a car driven by TGD. Instead, the thumb button will be pushed in, the parking brake handle pulled up and set to the desired position, and only then will the thumb button be released. This reduces wear and tear on the parking brake mechanism, and, well, you just never know when a failed or worn component might lead to unfortunate consequences.

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