As we kick off our slippers, slide into our somewhat tighter fitting clothes and get ready to face the traffic once again, we thought how helpful it would be if we could all apply a little of what we’ve learnt over the past few months to our driving. Imagine that? More patient, polite and aware drivers!
Let’s face it, we can all do with a refresher before we hit the open road, navigate the shopping centre car park or even travel to the next suburb.
It’s been months since the roads were this busy and it’s easy to forget the little things that make driving a lot more pleasant and indeed safer for everyone.
These tips aren’t about road rules, they’re gentle reminders about how to be your best self behind the wheel and in turn others will do the same.
Keeping a cool head when driving will improve the experience for you and your fellow drivers. So why not embrace the “after you” mentality. Since we’ve all been in a situation where the right of way rules aren’t particularly clear, or there’s a lane that surprisingly comes to an end or even when you’re bumper to bumper and no one will let you in.
So, the next time you see someone else in that situation - why not take the ‘polite road’, set the example and let them in. Maybe, just maybe that person, will in kind, do the same thing to the next driver and before you know it, we’re all helping each other. And don’t forget the hand movement that comes with the ‘after you’. Look them in the eye and wave them across, “after you!”. And in the case of a disappearing lane, try a ‘zipper merge’ where cars from the lane that’s ending take turns to move into the active lane. One after the other, each car lets in one car. Traffic keeps moving, and everyone is happy.
‘The courtesy wave’
Just as important as the “after you” is the “courtesy wave”. It’s the wave you do, often while mouthing “thank you!” to fellow drivers who let you in.
It’s the unofficial way to show your appreciation for an “after you”. It feels good to be kind on the road, and we can all work on being a little kinder. Truth is it adds absolutely no time to your journey, when you’re helpful and polite.
“Eat well, Drive Safe’
I bet you didn’t think we’d list food as a tip for being a better driver, but the fuel you put in your body before jumping behind the wheel is just as important as the fuel you put in your car. Many of us have may been driving for a long time, but after not driving on busy roads for weeks as many of us have experienced – we may just need to dial up our concentration.
Low blood sugar from not eating, or the drop you feel after eating something packed with process sugar can lead to a quicker temper which can lead to bad driving. A balanced diet will improve your mood and mindfulness.
With school holidays approaching, and most of us restricted to our own state, driving on an empty stomach, or after eating heavily processed and sugary food can also play havoc with your focus. You want to be on the ball when driving, and you don’t want energy peaks and crashes. Starting your day with a low-calorie, high fibre breakfast, such as oats, will set you up for success. Eating a healthy breakfast keeps your blood sugar levels steady, improving your focus, short term memory and mood.
Fruit such as bananas which are high in potassium (good for your brain and central nervous system) and antioxidant-rich berries such as blueberries are an excellent snack to eat before you get in the driver's seat or while on the road.
A cup or coffee or a green tea are fine for an energy boost, but don’t overdo the caffeine which will leave you feeling jittery. For each caffeinated drink, don’t forget to have water (and don’t forget to factor in toilet stops on a long journey).
If you must have servo snacks for the road, opt for water instead of sugary drinks and choose nuts, fruit and dark chocolate. These have fats and sugars, but you won’t have the sugar-induced energy spike of some other foods.
Eating well will help keep you cool, calm and collected on the road.
You are in the driver’s seat.
We hear a lot about the importance of ergonomics in our work environment, but the position of your driving seat is just as important. Correct positioning reduces your chance of repetitive strain, is safest in case of an accident and improves your comfort. It’s just one less thing to distract you when you’re on the road.
Your steering wheel should be as low as possible, without blocking your view of the dashboard instruments. When you’re sitting back in your seat, your wrists should sit on top of the wheel when your arms are straight. This will give them a comfortable bend when you hold the wheel.
When your feet are on the pedals your knees should be slightly bent. Having your knees too straight can cause knee pain and prevent you from operating the foot controls correctly.
Some cars have adjustable lumbar support for your lower back. As a general rule, when you’re sitting up straight in a flat-backed chair, if you push your own hand into the small of your back, this is the ideal natural curve. If your seat’s lumbar support is not adjustable, a lumbar cushion can be attached to your chair which will help maintain your natural spine curve.
Regardless of how comfortable your driving position is, make sure you take a break every 2 hours to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. A 10 minute break will improve your patience, focus and reduce stiffness in your back and legs.
So, there’s the challenge. Keep calm, be polite, be safe and enjoy getting back on the road and back into the new normal. Safe driving!