Driver's Ed Refresh: Top Ten Behind-the-Wheel Skills
Anyone behind the wheel has basic driving skills. Accelerate, brake, signal, don't rear end the idiot in front of you. But here are 10 other, more advanced skills to keep fresh, especially as a Colorado driver.
Turn into your own lane. This isn’t that difficult, yet drivers seem to still have problems with it. If you need to change lanes right after you get through the intersection, feel free. That’s different from turning into a different lane as you go through the intersection. As a general rule, don’t change lanes in any intersection, turning or not.
Go the speed limit. I understand if you’re new on that road and it’s sort of scary. But speed limits are set generally so you can drive them for the whole road (except maybe the worst turns). Step on the gas a little more. And please, don’t be that person going 2 miles an hour under. We could all do with being a little more patient, but you probably won’t teach it too well by irritating everyone.
Maintain a nice following distance. The general rule of thumb is to be at least 3 seconds behind the car in front of you. This isn’t always feasible, I understand - for example, in heavier traffic you’ll probably have to be closer so people don’t pass you constantly. But if there’s light or even moderate traffic, you don’t have to look like you’re trying to park behind me. That’s for stoplights and the side of the road, not South Broadway going forty miles per hour. Laziness isn’t an excuse for anything. Every driver on the road is banking on everyone else’s desire not to get into an accident translating into following the rules of the road.
Turn right on red (unless otherwise noted). Yes, this is legal, for those of you who don’t know. Downtown Boulder gets a little more tricky with all the one-way streets. But for the most part, following this rule will help with the flow of traffic and everyone's tempers.
Push a car (high-centered or just stuck). If you don’t know what high-centered means, you’d better go do some quality car pushing research so you know how to fix it when it happens. The bottom line is that especially with all the crazy snow we get in Colorado, you should be able to get a car un-stuck, whether it’s some crazy tourist or your own vehicle. Don’t be those kids who go 4-wheeling in the snow, get stuck, and only have shorts and flip flops. That towing bill won’t be cheap. Pack a shovel, and be prepared.
Shovel out a car. Speaking of shovels, can you use one? Hopefully you never have to test this, but it would be a good thing to bear in mind. And practice, if you come across another stuck someone. But don’t go sticking your car so you can try to dig it out. That’s a bad idea.
Scrape (and defrost) a windshield. I’m not sure where you’re going if you can’t see. But somehow people miss that detail anyways, or don’t do a very thorough job. Seeing well would help you drive better, so for goodness sakes, scrape it and defrost it. Apparently you need all the help you can get.
Use your headlights appropriately. There is nothing worse than a driver who can’t use his headlights. If the sun isn’t around, turn them on. But if you’re using your brights, please turn them down for oncoming traffic, or if you’re behind someone else. Other drivers would like to be able to see. Feel free to use them, just use them correctly.
Pass a cyclist. Certainly there are several right ways to go about this, but there are also several less-than-ideal ways too. Don’t be that guy who speeds past and practically knocks the bike over because you didn’t leave any room. But you don’t need to drive entirely in the other lane either (though the thought is nice). Slow down a little if you need, but there’s no need to take extreme measures usually.
Drive in the wind. Or snow. Or rain. As a Colorado driver, you probably have realized by now that the weather changes more than a girl in 16 pops acts. So maybe you should be able to hold your own in said shifting weather. Remember everything they ever taught you about driving in snow, and go for it. Practice makes perfect, guys.