Steering WheelSnow White’s wicked step-mother would often ask the magic mirror who the fairest lady in the land. She would be ecstatic when the mirror affirmed that indeed she was still the most beautiful woman, but would throw a tantrum when the mirror would answer otherwise.

As a motorist, use the magic mirror and ask if you are the best or worst driver in the land. To help you do preliminary self-evaluation before consulting the magic mirror, here are the characteristics of a good driver.

Good Drivers:

1.  Possess well-developed physical skills

Driving requires learning a set of skills. Good drivers exhibit correct learned responses. These are acquired through constant practice and through having a good role model. Drivers must be able to manage how to safely split their attention between basic car control (steering, braking, shifting gears, etc.) and concentration on changing road situations or conditions.

2. Have good coordination

A good driver has good coordination with a variety of motor skills. On the road, a driver may be required to make split second decisions. For example, a child may suddenly run across the street in pursuit of a ball, and the driver will have to simultaneously steer and brake and even use the clutch or shift gears. Such split second decisions don’t have to result in fatal injuries, nor will it cost lives if the driver was paying enough attention to the road, and not speeding.

3. Are in good physical condition

A person’s physical condition will substantially impact his/her ability to drive competently. Good drivers will be aware of their own physical limitations and will compensate appropriately (i.e., wearing corrective lenses, taking medications on time) or will avoid driving entirely when fatigued, sleepy or intoxicated.

4. Have good mental skills and attitudes

While car handling skills are important, driving is primarily a thinking task and is more about good decision making and good risk management than physical skill. Good drivers use their eyes effectively to observe their surrounding and to get the big picture. They are always on the lookout for potential hazards. They make sure others see them. They communicate their intentions to other drivers by using turn signals, lights, horn and even through eye contact or body movement.

In contrast, novice and bad drivers tend to underestimate the risk of specific actions, such as tailgating, speeding, and driving impaired and overestimate their ability to safely handle the possible consequences of risky behavior.

Good drivers understand and acknowledge their level of experience and their own limitations.
Studies indicate that novice drivers take between five and seven years to become mature drivers. Drivers learn both desirable and undesirable behaviors mostly through experience.

  • Teenagers do pick up their parents’ driving habits. Drivers, ages 18-21, whose parents acquired three or more traffic violations were 38% more likely to have violations on their own driving records than teenagers whose parents had no violations.
  • Teenage drivers often begin driving with dangerous habits they learned from their peers, especially excessive speeding. These habits are especially dangerous to novice drivers, because they do not have the experience to correct their mistakes.
  • Experienced drivers develop sensitivity or feel for the road and for how the vehicle handles in any given situation.

The driving experience will change if the driver is in a car different from the one he/she normally drives. This is also the reason why a driver should be extra careful when driving in new terrain – a different city or in a weather condition like snowing, raining, etc.

5. Avoid risky behavior

Studies of young drivers show they are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors than adults. Reasons for this could be because they do not have the skills and experience to recognize risky situations, they are apt to believe that they are invincible, and therefore will not be involved in a crash, or that they perceive they will gain admiration from their peers for risk seeking behaviors. Risky behaviors include excessive speeding, following too closely, and weaving in and out of traffic.

Numerous studies indicate that in collisions involving young drivers, the specific actions causing the collision include

  1. following too closely

  2. failure to yield

  3. improper lane use

  4. improper turn; and

  5. improper backing/starting.

Young people are not always bad drivers, and bad drivers are not always young. If you are no longer a novice driver, yet you possess the characteristics of a bad driver, I am sure you will not be surprised by the reply of magic mirror.

Been involved in a car accident lately? Get a free consultation by calling Christensen & Hymas at (801)506-0800.

Image “Skoda Steering Wheel” copy right of Martin Kozak.