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The most important skill of any good driver is possessing and showing the correct attitude behind the wheel. Do not be discouraged by what men generally say about women being poor drivers. There are probably as many male drivers who are equally hesitant on the roads.
If you are one of the growing numbers of women motorists who regularly drive alone, it becomes even more important to ensure that you drive correctly and safely. We offer you some practical tips, most of which are applicable to male motorists too.
Ensure your driving posture is correct. Do not sit too close to the wheel. Sit up straight and you will feel more alert and more in control. Stretch your arm forward – the bottom of your wrist should touch the top of your steering wheel. Slide the seat forward until your elbow is slightly bent when your hands are on the wheel. Your leg should not be straight when stepping on the clutch – there should be a slight bend at the knee.
Wear proper shoes while driving – you should change to flat shoes while driving. Your platform shoes and high heels are a no-no.
Go through the route that you want to take to avoid having to make sudden lane changes along the way. Keep a good street atlas for reference.
Look ahead so that you will have advanced warning if you need to take action. For example, when driving in the city, look two cars ahead of you (refer to illustration). In the event that Car C meets with an obstacle and needs to brake suddenly, you would be forewarned and have the same reaction time as that of Car B.
Communicate clearly your intentions to turn, change lanes or stop. Give other road users time to observe and react to your actions.
When approaching bends, slow down. Cornering places heavy demands on the tyres. To minimise this, adjust your speed and select the appropriate gear before the turn. When turning corners, use the push-pull steering method. It gives you better control. Place one hand at the 12 o’clock position and pull down while pushing up with the other hand.
Overtaking demands a clear knowledge of what is ahead as well as behind your vehicle. The secret to safe overtaking is to anticipate what can possibly happen during the overtaking process. Adjust the mirrors when you are properly seated with the seat belt secured. Hold the edge of the rear view mirror and adjust it so that you have a good view of the horizon through the rear windscreen. Adjust the side mirror until the horizon is slightly above the centre line. Part of the body of your vehicle should be seen in the mirror.
There are two areas on the right and left of your vehicle which cannot be viewed from your mirrors. These are known as “blind spots”. You have to turn your head and look over your shoulder to the left or the right to check for traffic in the “blind spots” before changing lanes, overtaking or turning. Seriously consider participating in the Advanced Driver Training or Defensive Driving Course. These courses will help you become a much better driver. Check out AA’s Defensive Driving Courses that are held regularly.
Keep doors locked at all times when driving. Never offer lifts to strangers.
Carry a personal alarm. Don’t hesitate to use it. Sound your car horn if necessary. Loud noises often frighten away potential attackers.
Keep someone informed of your travel plans and estimated time of departure and arrival.
Park in well-lit areas.
If you are facing car problems, stop at a well-lit area. Use your mobile phone to call for help. If you are in a tunnel, make use of the SOS phones provided along the tunnels.
Avoid a breakdown. Keep your car in good working condition. Pick up a course to learn about your car and how it works. Learn basic maintenance practices for your car. AA conducts practical lessons like “Know Your Car” course and “Ladies Car Care” clinic on a regular basis.
Search for a reliable mechanic and service your car at regular intervals. Look for evidence of qualified mechanics, for example, trade school diplomas or training certificates. Ask around for recommendations from family and friends or check our list of AA Approved Workshops.
Become an AA member. This means you can call for reliable help 24 hours a day for vehicle breakdowns and even changing of tyres and battery delivery.
Lastly, do not be intimidated by male drivers. Confidence comes with practice. Offer to drive your family around for more experience. Practise defensive driving.