Saturday, April 23, 2005


Safe Driving#4: Your Vehicle

My comments refer to any vehicle, but I will talk about cars for brevity.

Modern cars require virtually no maintenance compared to those of 20 or 30 years ago. That's good news for lazy people like me who are not mechanically minded, but the problem is that people forget that they are in control of a complex and highly developed mechanical device. Because they never look under the hood or change a wheel, they don't develop a sense of mechanical sympathy and have no idea of the capabilities of their vehicle.

At the very least you should regularly walk around the car and make sure your tires are properly inflated and don't have any obvious damage such as bulges in the sidewall. Do you have a spare tire, is it inflated correctly, and do you know how to change a wheel? That could be the difference between waiting 3 hours for recovery stranded in a dangerous location and being home for dinner, albeit at the cost of a ruined pair of pants.

Do you know where the switches for the various lights on the car are located? This is particularly important when picking up rental cars. Don't start trying to figure out where the windshield wash/wipe or headlights are while on the expressway.

Before driving off, what can you see in the mirrors? Are they positioned so as to be of any use at all? Is your seat positioned to allow you to sit close enough to the wheel to allow you to press the brake pedal all the way to the end of its travel? Can you see over the wheel? I see many people driving vans and SUVs which are far too big for them to control safely.
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