Be a Better Driver

Good drivers are both common and uncommon. It is possible you might encounter rash teenagers to truck drivers to overly-cautious senior citizens; yet all contribute to how we can learn to be better drivers.


  1. Focus. Paying attention to the traffic around you, frequently surveying your mirrors, and anticipating what other drivers are going to do is the most important step to becoming a courteous and safe driver.
  2. Allow someone to pass, if you happen to see them going beyond the speed limit. This is no 1950s drag race. Proving your need for speed leads to dangerous circumstances between your car and other cars. You should almost always be in the right-most lane, except when passing others. The exceptions would be if you are anticipating a left turn, or a left-sided exit on the expressway. Staying in the right-most lane will allow others traveling faster than you to get around you safely and avoid them having to pass you on the right side, which is discouraged as it is not as safe a maneuver.
  3. Use your turn signals, and use them at the right time. Notify other drivers of your intent to turn or to change lanes early enough that they are able to take appropriate action. Sitting at a red light is NOT the right time to turn on your blinker; if you had done so earlier, the person behind you would have been able to change lanes and avoid sitting behind you when the light turns green.
  4. Never switch lanes when in the middle of an intersection. Also, time your entry into an intersection so that you don't get caught blocking it once the light turns red (i.e. "don't block the box").
  5. NEVER try to "beat the light." If the light turns yellow and you have enough space to stop safely, then stop. Cyclists, pedestrians, and even other drivers expect you to be completely stopped by the time the light turns red. You endanger yourself and others by running yellow lights, only to save a minute or two, it simply isn't worth it.
  6. Keep in mind that it is courteous to allow a vehicle to turn into traffic if the driver is waiting for a break. Do not, however, suddenly slam the brakes in moving traffic in order to let a driver enter. This will most likely lead to a fender bender or worse, a collision from the unsuspecting driver behind you. This occurred at least once, killing the driver who drove behind the car that had suddenly braked in constantly moving traffic. Drivers in moving traffic never expect a sudden brake. Be extremely careful.
  7. Remember: maintaining a decently comfortable distance between you and the driver ahead of you is an excellent rule of thumb. You should keep at least 2 to 4 seconds distance between you and the person in front of you. You can use the signs or the paint dashes to judge this distance. Perhaps if the vehicle in front suddenly stalls or stops, you as a driver have enough room to stop safely, or turn into the next lane without causing a backup in traffic. Other weather-related conditions, such as snow and rain, also make it wise to prevent collisions by keeping a safe distance behind for slippery, sliding and swerving cars.
  8. Note that residential areas are common grounds for children to run spontaneously into the streets without looking for oncoming cars. Their minds focus on retrieving their ball in the street or catching up to friends by suddenly crossing roads on bikes, for instance. When driving through residential streets, be wary of unpredictable objects and people in the streets.
  9. Remember that trucks often give their drivers difficulty stopping, turning, or backing up, we, as drivers, have all witnessed this. When passing a semi-truck, keep in mind that the truck driver has more difficulty braking. It is best to wait until you can see the truck in your rear-view mirror before completing a pass. Also avoid remaining beside a truck when in multi-lane traffic, if you cannot see the truck driver through his/her mirror, then he/she cannot see you.
  10. Be courteous of the senior citizens, as well. Senior citizens need to drive just like everyone else. This is especially the case when they have no other means to obtain essentials. Most senior citizens, however, tend to prefer driving during early afternoons when there is less traffic and more daylight. When driving behind a senior citizen, always keep a safe distance and watch for unexpected moves, such as lane changes. Some seniors may change lanes without prior signaling.
  11. Make an effort to change lanes when safe if you see utility work, police and emergency vehicles up ahead, or see a lane starting to slow down to a crawl while the opposite lanes are open or have less traffic. Odds are there's an accident, stalled car, or on the shoulder someone is pulled over, broken down car etc. By doing so you make yourself less prone to be in a secondary accident and it helps people who are in a dangerous or bad situation.
  12. Understand that the majority of drivers just aim to get to their destination, just like everyone else does. Accidents happen, but you can take a few steps to prevent many of them from occurring, either to yourself or others. By understanding the way various drivers react, you will have a better grasp of how to be a better driver. The best drivers learn to anticipate possible changes in traffic, and prepare for them in advance by adjusting their speed, their lane/direction, or where their attention is directed.
  13. If you are signaled to stop by the police, be nice to the officer and they may let you go despite violating a traffic law. It will depend on what you did and the traffic conditions as to the offense. Not all officers are out to write tickets.
  14. Don't use the shoulder or median to get around people not moving with traffic. You will get nailed no matter how many cars you pass.


  • Residential areas include kids. Children are unpredictable, especially on the roads. Be watchful, and drive slower than usual.
  • Make it a habit to lock your doors as soon as you hit the seat.
  • Do not tailgate, no matter how badly the driver angered you. It is better to be mad for a short while than to pay thousands in monetary damages (or worse, suffer pain of injury) for an accident that could have been prevented.
  • Never leave your doors unlocked in a state you don't know. Always lock your doors.
  • If you are approached by anyone, including police, open your window just low enough to allow them to hear you speak and show you their badge before proceeding.
  • Keep an empty gasoline can in your car. If you run out of gas, you can walk to the nearest gas station or call for help. Your empty gasoline can will come in handy.
  • If you do not have a cell phone to call for help if you are stranded on roadside, keep the hood of your car propped up to signal to police that you need help. Whenever possible, move a broken-down car OUT of traffic, frequently able-bodied fellow drivers will gladly help out.
  • When you see, hear or smell a possible malfunction with your vehicle, immediately move to the right-most (or left if you drive on the right in your country) lane. This gives your car easier access to the shoulder in case your car breaks down.
  • Likewise, without a phone, be prepared in various seasons for the possibility of inoperable cars. In summer, keep lots of water with you, a large "help" sign and have a red triangular flag to tie to your antenna to indicate an emergency situation. In winter, store blankets in your trunk, snack foods and water, and keep your blinkers on until help arrives.
  • If you are in the fast lane, do not drive slower than the other cars in the same lane. Likewise, do not expect to be the fastest car on the road when driving in the slow lane, wait for your chance, then pass safely.
  • If you are tailgated, give yourself extra space from the car in front of you. If an emergency arises, you will have more time to stop or slow down so the tailgater does not rear-end you.
  • Honking does not remedy any situation. It may make you feel better, but chances are, the driver is not even phased or did not hear the horn.
  • Always have a spare key to your car or an alarm system.
  • Think with your brain, not your brake pedal. Watch for dangerous situations and be prepared to take evasive action, but resist the temptation to tap the brakes unless you really need to slow down. Swerving, or just continuing on your way, is often a better option than slowing down anyway.
  • Always look in your mirrors, don't expect someone to stop for you.


  • Never expect anyone to do anything you think they will. If someone has a turn signal on, make sure you see them physically start turning before you pull out. If someone has their brake lights on make sure they're actually braking and not subconsciously riding their brakes, and vice versa: if they don't have their brake lights on it doesn't mean they can't slow down very quickly.
  • Be careful and always pay attention and look both ways. avoid having accidents.

Related Articles