Posted by: safedriver | December 20, 2014

How to clean your headlight lens and other little things

IMG_20141207_125243There’s a lot we all know, but there are many little things we’re not aware of. Wow, that’s deep. I’ve met many intelligent people in my life. I’ve even taught many of them how to drive. But every now and then we find there are a few little things that can be helpful that many people just aren’t aware of. Maybe this is a good time to let drivers know some of these things.

There’s a gas station I frequent that amazes me. Almost each time I visit there I witness drivers pulling to the pumps in the wrong position. Their gas cap is on the other side of the vehicle so they pull the hose out and drape it across their vehicle. They’re risking having scratches across their hood, trunk and any other part of their vehicle. Here’s the little thing; beside the picture of the gas pump on their fuel gauge there’s an arrow that lets the driver know which side of the vehicle has the gas cap. Neat, huh!

Speaking of gas stations, getting the higher octane fuel doesn’t really benefit your vehicle as much as you think it does. There are enough cleaners in the 87 octane fuel (regular) that will keep your engine running smoothly. Save your money and get the regular.

During winter we all seem to struggle with getting thick ice off the windows after freezing rain has struck. If you sprayed washer fluid from a spray bottle on each window first, then went back to begin scraping the first window you sprayed, it would be a lot easier to get the ice off. That’s cool.

Each time I park my vehicle or have any of my students from Young Drivers of Canada park the vehicle, we always use the parking brake. Some people call it a hand brake or an emergency brake. Whatever you call it, you need to use it. The interesting thing is that if you stop using the parking brake regularly, it stops working. The parking brake is comprised of a cable underneath the vehicle. It can rust and corrode and perhaps seize up with lack of use. The parking brake can stop your vehicle if your regular brakes fail, but it won’t help if it’s seized up.

Over time the headlights of vehicles become dull and yellow. The grime that hits the vehicle makes this happen sooner than we would want. Did you know that regular toothpaste can clean that right up? Just spread toothpaste across the entire face of the lens, let it sit for roughly 30 minutes, then wipe it clean. You would be surprised just how clean the lens can get. Not only will the toothpaste get the lens clean, but it will also make it smell minty fresh.


Posted by: safedriver | December 18, 2014

Do we have the right to “punish” other drivers?

cabGrowing up I’m sure we’ve all been punished for things we’ve done wrong. Getting ‘grounded’ or having a ‘time-out’ was a common thing to have happen when we didn’t follow the rules when we were kids. It’s quite common to do the same things with our kids that our parents did with us when we were kids. But when we get older, do we take it a bit further? Do we “punish” other drivers because we’re not pleased with their driving behaviour?

I recently watched how a driver made a sudden lane change into the left lane on the freeway. The driver they cut off decided to tailgate them. Was this their version of a punishment? I’m pretty certain the driver who made the initial lane change knew what they did was wrong and dangerous, but did their actions warrant punishment from the other driver? We’re entitled to be frustrated, but is it worth the risk to tailgate? If you think so, read this;

Many years ago when I was a youth one of my friends was driving and was annoyed by another driver directly ahead of them who was traveling very slowly in the left lane. The right lane was blocked with parked vehicles so my friend had no choice but to stay behind them. They too decided to tailgate to send the message they were displeased with the actions of the driver ahead of them. This was their form of punishment. They wanted the driver ahead of them to know they were displeased so perhaps they would speed up. It didn’t happen.

The moment the right lane opened up, my friend decided to pull out and pass them but to my surprise, they immediately cut that driver off and then decided to drive directly in front of them but even slower than that driver was driving. What was the point? Was this a message to them that they were being punished? The interest part here is my friend was apparently in a hurry. He felt he was late getting to his destination but decided to act just as the “annoying” driver did to them. Did it really make any sense to do that?

As drivers who travel within our community we need to remember we do not have the power to “punish” other drivers. Whatever their reason to frustrate you, let it go. Change lanes and let the “problem” driver pass you. If they cut you off, this about what your actions can do to worsen the situation. Think before you act. A few years ago I was the guest on an hour long radio show and when the host asked me for advice on becoming a safe driver, my answer was just one word – think. Be the bigger person and act more responsible and mature behind the wheel. Pick your battles and let those with authority do the punishing.

Posted by: safedriver | December 17, 2014

The key points to stopping on icy roads

Hamilton 2-20140218-00744As written for The Insurance Hunters. Please visit their blog.

In today’s society it always seems like we’re trying to get somewhere. It’s a go – go – go mentality for many people. Even though we may seem to be busy or in a hurry, there are times we need to slow down and stop. This is particularly true when it comes to driving. On normal road conditions it can be easy enough, but what happens when the roads become slippery with rain, snow or the ever so dangerous – ice?

One thing to remember is that speed limits are set for ideal conditions. Icy road conditions are not normal and should never be treated as such. Maintaining control of your vehicle is far better than regaining control. This means you never lost control of it. Proactive thinking is one of the best ways to maintain control of your vehicle.

The first thing to remember while driving on icy roads is to do things gradually. This includes gradually easing off the accelerator, gradually applying the brakes and gradually steering. Sudden changes on an icy road means skids. And by the way, you can skid or slide without touching your brakes. A sudden turn of the steering wheel may cause your vehicle to understeer – which has the vehicle going straight even though the wheels are turned.

Since we actually drive with our eyes, keep looking well ahead of where you currently are on the road. If you spot red traffic lights ahead or brake lights well ahead, and not from the vehicle immediately ahead of you, begin slowing down. You know you’re going to need to slow down eventually, so why wait, especially on slippery road surfaces.

Predicting black ice can also give you a jump on braking safely. Shaded road surfaces, on and under bridges are areas which freeze much sooner than other areas and stay frozen well after the sun has risen. This is normally where black ice is formed. Look for black shiny road surfaces and reduce speed and avoid sudden changes of speed and direction in those areas.

If you do begin to slide while braking on icy roads, ease slightly off your brakes to allow the wheels to rotate once again. Look well ahead and aim for open space. This may mean a driveway, parking lot or shoulder. Staring at the vehicle ahead of you may mean that’s where you’ll end up. If you do skid, try this; 

I remember as kid my dad would pump the brake to stop on slippery roads. It would get us stopped, but it would take a very long time to do so. A better solutions is the continuously add pressure to your brakes but begin earlier than you would on dry road surfaces. This continuous pressure will allow your wheels to rotate and allow your tires to continuously grip the road. Don’t rely upon your anti-lock brakes to stop you either. On icy roads they have a difficult time gripping as well. Early braking is still the key to stopping safely on icy roads.

Posted by: safedriver | December 13, 2014

Are you a quirky driver?

004Let’s face it we’re all quirky from time to time. I think some people are quirky more than others, but if you think about it, we all do things that make other people take a second look at us or even laugh at what you did. Drivers are no exceptions. Here are a few quirky things drivers I know have done over the years. See if you’ve done any of these things or let us know what quirky things you’ve done so we can add it to the list.

One of the quirky things people do is while looking for an address… they turn the radio volume down while they look for that address. Does this mean the music stops them from seeing? I’m sure it serves more than that. Perhaps the music poses as a distraction. It even works in reverse. As a kid, my mom would put her glasses on so she could listen to what we were saying. Was she reading our lips or did the glasses allow her to hear things more accurately? Who knows.

While in my late teens and early twenties, I was one of my friends who could drive regularly to our places of interest. Everyone had their driver’s licence but couldn’t always get the family car to go to the movies or just hang out. One of my other friends always seemed late getting to the same place I was going, even though he may have left before me. It turns out he didn’t want to turn left. He preferred to make right turns over left turns. This meant whenever he had to turn left, he had to make 3 right turns instead, provided it was possible. I thought maybe it had something to do with the old car he was driving, but he said he just didn’t like to go left. I guess this made his driving “all right”.

I once had a student driver who was very superstitious, even while behind the wheel. The first time I came across this was when a cat, black in colour of course, walked across the road ahead of us. My student stopped the car and said they couldn’t continue because of the cat. She explained that we could not cross the path of a black cat. Ah, now I understood. After realizing the anxiety this was causing my student, we had to do a 3 point turn and go the opposite direction. Whatever makes you happy, right?

With my student’s strong superstitious beliefs, I also found out they have to lift up their feet while going over railway tracks and must hold their brief while passing a cemetery. In the city in which I live, there’s a very old and very big cemetery. My student and I drove past it during slow rush hour traffic one day without me realizing this superstition. It almost killed her having to hold her breath that long.

So what do you do that’s quirky? What have your friends or family said about your driving that seems to be quirky or unusual compared to rest of the world of drivers? Let us know here at The Safe Driver. And if you want to know about this weird world of being a driving instructor, read this;


Posted by: safedriver | November 25, 2014

Win the parking lot battle

tire change 004

As written for The Insurance Hunters. Please visit their blog.

There’s something we all do as drivers that many seem to overlook as being risky – driving through the dreaded parking lot during the holiday season. For many drivers during this time of year it becomes an all-out combat zone to find that one remaining vacant parking space. Driving manners seem to be thrown out the window, but there are things you can do to win the battle.

Driving up and down the aisles during this busy time of year means you’ll find pedestrians walking between vehicles to get to and from the stores and their vehicle. Larger vehicles such as vans and SUVs can hide the pedestrians from you and you from them. To help keep everyone safe, reduce your speed and drive toward the centre of the aisle. By driving away from the parked vehicles, you’re improving the angle you and the pedestrians have of each other. It allows each of you to see each other sooner and will also give more response time for both of you in case either of you have to stop. Ensure you drift back toward the right side of your aisle when oncoming vehicle approach and as you approach any intersecting aisle. This will protects you from vehicles turning sharply into your aisle as it will give them more space to enter.

Treat the aisle you’re driving in as you would a roadway. Yield to pedestrians and cross traffic, signal your intentions so everyone else knows which way you’re planning to go, including your parking space once you find one. To find that parking space, it’s best to start at one end of the parking lot and work your way to the other side. Be prepared to park further away than you may like during peak times, so ensure you’re wearing good walking shoes.

bad parkingPerhaps the best tip to find that elusive parking space is to decide when the best time to get to the mall would be. If you can go there when the stores first open while many others are either at work or in school, you’ll find plenty of parking spots. Not only will the parking be plentiful, but the stores won’t be as busy, therefore your shopping trip will take less time. If you can do that it will seem to be a win-win for you. Not all of us can do that, so that may not work for some.

One final tip to finding an empty parking space in a busy parking lot is to head directly to a set of doors to find people leaving the mall. Let them begin walking toward their vehicle and you then follow them, staying well back. Once you find which vehicle they’re getting into, put on your turn signal and position your vehicle ready to park. That should help you find that last space.

Whichever tip you use, do it safely and be patient. An empty space will arrive soon enough. And when it does, you’ve won the battle.



Posted by: safedriver | November 21, 2014

Take a break – stay awake

one way at nightAs written for The Insurance Hunters. Please visit their blog.

I sometimes wonder what life would be like if we weren’t so busy. Would we be bored or would we learn to become more relaxed? Whether you’re busy with your job, your family or your pastimes, it can take quite a toll on us and cause fatigue. If these activities also cause you to drive, what can you do to combat fatigued driving?

What does fatigued driving or drowsy driving do to us? When our brain is tired it stops us from making proper decisions. It’s late getting messages to our eyes, hands and feet. Think of how you act at home when you’re tired. You may not be thinking clearly and may forget to do things. Now imagine that in the vehicle. Too dangerous to even consider, yet many people ignore the symptoms.

We need to recognize the early signs of fatigue. If you’re having a difficult time keeping your eyes open, extremely low energy, yawning a lot, drifting in your lane or have very little focus it’s time to do something different. Recognizing many of these signs before getting into your vehicle is best, but during some longer drives these symptoms begin to appear while you’re already in motion. So what are the common things drivers do to help stay alert while driving?

Many drivers will drink strong coffee, blow cold air on their face, play loud music and try to have a diverse conversation to help keep them alert. It may work, but only for a very short period of time. The best solution is sleep.  Find a safe place to pull over and rest. Find a parking lot, lock your doors and have that 15 to 20 minute nap. For many people, this little snooze refreshes them enough to become alert once again and become safe to drive. If you need more time than that, take it.

Now that’s all fine and dandy as a reactive solution, but let’s look at a proactive way to avoid fatigued driving altogether. Get plenty of rest before starting that long drive. Schedule breaks every couple of hours to allow you time to get out, stretch and perhaps take a washroom break. The best proactive solution is to share the driving with passengers, but do that before you get too tired. Avoid heavy meals before driving. Light snacks are better than a big meal. Apples are great to keep you alert and awake. And the last tip is to keep the temperature cool inside the vehicle. A very warm interior causes drowsiness.

I’m sure we all know stubborn drivers. They say they can handle while fatigued. Good drivers realize they can’t handle it. Having your eyes closed for just three seconds at 50 km/h (30 mph) means your vehicle travels roughly 40 metres. You’ll most likely pass through an intersection too and perhaps a stop sign or red light. I’m pretty certain you and your passengers deserve better. Take a break – stay awake.

Posted by: safedriver | November 11, 2014

How to save a buck…or a doe

deer crossingAs drivers we always have to be on the lookout for other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. In other words; all other road users. Sometimes we forget about the other road users – wildlife. Thousands and thousands of deer are struck and killed each year on our roads and many people are also killed or seriously injured after their vehicle collides with a deer. There are ways to avoid striking deer, so let’s get right to it.

During the months of October through January is the time of year deer are most active. This is because it’s their mating season. Rarely will you find deer moving alone. They often stay in packs so if you spot one deer, keep looking because you’ll most likely find more following closely behind. Keep an eye out for yellow warning signs indicating deer crossings. These signs are generally placed in areas deer have been known to populate. Even with these signs, deer could be anywhere; before or after that sign. Just because the sign is there, it doesn’t mean deer will line up at the sign and cross the road when it’s clear.

Since deer will often be roaming at dawn and dusk, you’ll need to change your driving habits during those times. Since speed limits are designed to be used under ideal conditions, we must remember that driving at night is not ideal. You’ll need to reduce speed each time your visibility is reduced. This reduced speed will give you more response time if you spot deer, or any other problem ahead of you.

To help spot deer sooner, keep moving your eyes from side to side while you drive. Since most deer will be in rural areas, this would include moving your eyes from treeline to treeline, not just the road surface. The sooner you can spot a deer, the sooner you can do something to avoid it. As soon as you spot a deer, never assume it will be afraid of your vehicle and won’t come in front of you. Immediately check your mirror and brake in a straight line. A swerve will often mean a collision against a tree, the deer itself or another vehicle. There is some belief that honking your horn will scare the deer to run away, but that’s questionable.

While it`s dark outside, use your high beam headlights whenever possible. The spray of your high beams will widen much more than regular low beam headlights. This wider spray will help you spot the deer sooner. Plus, their eyes will often glow when your headlights reach them.

The best thing to do when it comes to deer is be a proactive driver in these situations. Don’t wait for the deer to come out in your path. Find the deer early and respond early. You’re in charge; not the deer. If you do hit a deer, even slightly, never touch the deer. It may injure you or itself as it tries to get away. Safely park your vehicle at the side of the road and call police. So now you know what to do. And just think… this information most likely saved you at least a buck.

Posted by: safedriver | November 5, 2014

The winter driving quiz is here!

Hamilton 2-20140218-00744When it comes to winter driving most people deny they have any problems handling bad road conditions. Despite what we may think, winter weather comes and goes each year. We can’t do anything about the snow, ice and high winds, but we can learn to be prepared to make the best choices possible while driving.

Below is a short winter quiz to get you thinking positively and proactively about driving in this type of weather. Even if you get some questions incorrect, use the search function to the right of this page to see if you can find the explanations to the answers.


Look to the bottom of the page for answers…but not until you’re done the quiz. Good luck!


1. When should you begin preparing for winter?

a) After the first snowfall
b) Before the first snowfall
c) You don’t have to, just keep doing what you’re doing
d) When the authorities say to do so

2. After it snows, how much of your vehicle should you clear off?
a) Just enough to see out the front
b) Only the windows
c) All of it
d) None of it. The wind will blow off enough

3. If the roads are covered in snow and ice and you begin to slide, you should;
a) Do nothing and wait for the vehicle to stop
b) Steer where you want to go
c) Look and steer where you want to go
d) Adjust your speed, look and steer where you want to go

4. How should you position your vehicle in traffic on snow covered roads?
a) It doesn’t really matter
b) Beside another vehicle so the driver knows I’m there
c) Next to open space
d) Slightly ahead of the driver in the next lane so they can see me

5. What extra items should you keep in your vehicle during the winter season?
a) Bacon
b) Snowbrush, shovel and washer fluid
c) Snowbrush, shovel, washer fluid, extra warm clothes
d) Way too many items to list here

6. Why should you use winter tires in winter weather?
a) Better grip to slow down
b) Better grip to accelerate
c) Better grip to steer
d) All of the above

7. You’re planning to going out but the weather just got worse, should you…
a) Drive slower but keep going
b) Drive with your hazard lights on
c) Stay home until the road conditions are better
d) Just drive on the main roads behind the snow plow

8. When should you put on your winter tires?
a) After the first snowfall
b) When the temperature drops to 7 degrees Celsius (44 Fahrenheit) or below
c) When you find a sale on tires
d) During the first snowfall

9. Where does ice form the most in winter weather?
a) On any road when it’s cold
b) In your kitchen freezer
c) Shaded areas such as bridges and tunnels
d) Intersections

10. Four-wheel drive vehicles give you…
a) Traction to go
b) Traction to stop
c) No need to install winter tires
d) More power to go


How do you think you did? Check below for your answers and if you need further explanations, use the search function on the right side of this screen and search the topic. This is all about educating ourselves and becoming a safe driver. Hope you had fun!
1. b   2. c   3. d   4. c   5. d   6. d   7. c   8. b   9. c   10. d

Posted by: safedriver | November 3, 2014

How distracted driving really affects your abilities


As written for The Insurance Bureau of Canada. Please visit their blog;

Remember as a kid you kept hearing the same things from your parents over and over again? The interesting thing is after some time, we tended to ignore what our parents said until what they were warning us about actually happened. This also seems to be the trend when it comes to distracted driving.

We know talking and texting is dangerous while driving. Every Canadian province has some form of ban for using hand-held electronic devices while driving. Although these laws are common knowledge, most people don’t take them seriously. Perhaps they feel they won’t get caught or it isn’t really that serious a law. Whatever their reasoning, education is required.

Having two hands on the wheel will help a driver steer more effectively, but it’s more than that. In order to drive safely you need to think about driving. If your mind is elsewhere, you’re not concentrating enough. Remember when someone was speaking with you and you began daydreaming for a few seconds? You actually stopped paying attention to the conversation. Being mentally distracted is often ignored but that needs to change if you want to drive safely.

There are many things that can take your thoughts away from driving. Drinking coffee or water or eating takes very little thought. You rarely have to look away from the driving scene. However, if you spill on yourself, that’s another story. You’ll look down and think about what to do next. Now your thoughts have changed. Suggestion: Wait until you’re stopped before you drink or eat. It can wait.

New vehicle technologies are also distracting drivers. The touch screens in most new vehicles take the driver’s attention away from driving while the vehicle is in motion. As a suggestion, pre-set your music so you know you won’t have to while driving or let your passenger work those controls. Speaking of passengers, they can be a huge distraction for the driver.

Set up rules with your passengers to keep them from distracting you. Give kids things to do, such as books and games. Books on tape are also great, but provide earphones so the noise won’t distract you. For longer trips, plan where to stop for breaks. This helps everyone re-focus before getting back in the vehicle.

As you can see, distracted driving is more than just electronic devices. It’s about keeping your thoughts on driving and nothing else. Decide what distracts you from focusing on driving and make the necessary changes. You’ll appreciate it and so will your passengers.



Posted by: safedriver | October 30, 2014

Man…if only I had a car-B-Q

carBQ1I really enjoy teaching driver training to just about anyone. Not only do I spend time and energy giving out detailed information, but I also enjoy having fun with it. Recently in one of the classes I was teaching at Young Drivers of Canada, we discussed what can cause your vehicle to lose traction. My students were creative in their answers and at some point, it got interesting.

Besides the typical answers of snow, ice and rain, my students also came up with gravel, leaves and debris. When I asked what kind of debris, I was thinking they would have said flattened boxes or garbage on the road. Nope. They came up with road kill. Of course a creative class like this would come up with this answer, so I went with it.

I continued to play along and asked them, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if you could scoop it up and then cook it on your ‘Car-B-Q’?” I’m not talking about a barbeque that looks like part of a car (although that would be cool) . Imagine a device in your vehicle that can barbeque food while you drive. The heat from your engine can travel through pipes under your vehicle all the way to your trunk and cook food like a slow cooker. What a fantastic idea they thought.

Imagine having a hot breakfast ready for you when you get to work. Or perhaps a hot meat ready after you make that long commute home from work. No more intensive work in the kitchen after you arrive home. You just have to open up that ‘Car-B-Q’, grab a plate and off you go.

With millions of vehicles on the road each day, perhaps I should invent such a thing and see if I can find investors to make this dream a reality. Imagine the smell of beef or pork – or squirrel – wafting through your vehicle as you drive. I can almost taste it now.

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