Posted by: safedriver | May 24, 2015

Setting up the side mirror – things to think about


This is the second part of a two-part series discussing side mirror setup. This isn’t about which is better and who should win this “battle”. It’s about making an informed choice to keep you, your passengers, your vehicle and other road users safe while driving. If you missed the first part, here it is;

Here’s something to think about with this type of mirror set up. Experts will ask drivers why they want to see a sliver of their vehicle in their side mirrors with the traditional setup. Well, here’s why. Considering one of the most common types of vehicle crashes is a rear crash, your side mirrors can help you avoid a multiple vehicle pile-up. Let me explain.

Here’s the scenario. You’re stopped in traffic and a large vehicle is stopped behind you. You check your rear view mirror and all you can see is the tinted windows of that vehicle behind you or the grill of the large pickup truck. If that vehicle gets hit from behind, they could easily be pushed into you, causing severe damage and possible injuries to you and your passengers. However, if you have your side mirrors angled to still see down the side of your vehicle and up the lane, you can still monitor traffic approaching from behind. If you spot another vehicle approaching quickly from behind, you have that opportunity to move out of the way to avoid being involved in a multiple rear crash.

Let’s say you’re waiting to make a right turn into traffic. While stopped you keep checking to the left to look for an opening. If your side mirror was angled away from your vehicle, you could miss seeing any cyclist about to come up on the side, including from a bicycle lane. Glancing into a side mirror and blind spot before making that right turn allows you to ensure its safe to make the turn.

IMG_20141009_122953And the last point to consider. When parked at the curb with a larger vehicle parked behind you, your rear view mirror becomes useless to see traffic approaching from behind before pulling out. It’s helpful to be able to use your side mirror to ensure its okay to safely pull away from the curb. If the angle of the side mirror has been pushed out, that may not work to your advantage.

So there you have it. The pros and cons about adjusting your side mirrors away from your vehicle or showing a sliver of the vehicle while sitting in the normal driving position. The decision is yours. Make an educated one. Even many experts say a blind spot check in certain situations is still required to help drivers make safe driving choices. Being an observant driver is still the main goal here. If a collision happens because you may have missed seeing someone, you only have yourself to blame. If a collision happens between two drivers, it only takes one of those drivers to do something different for the collision to not happen. I’m an advocate for safe driving. I can only give you the facts. You have to make your own choices. I just hope you make the safest choice.

Posted by: safedriver | May 21, 2015

Setting up the side mirrors – part one

005Sometimes change is good. Doing the same thing all the time can become quite boring at times, so switching things up to add spice in our lives can be a good thing. However, change just for the sake of change isn’t always a good thing. We have to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages with this change before making the change. Sound familiar? Driving skills and techniques are no different to this theory.

For a number of years a variety of driving experts have lobbied to have drivers change how they set up their side mirrors and I understand why. The theory to these changes is that it can remove blind spots from the side of vehicles. Now, I’m a big supporter of giving drivers an edge and reducing collisions, so I went ahead and made those changes…to test out the theory. This is what happened.

The “new” way to set up the driver side mirror is to lean over as far as possible toward the driver’s door and just see a sliver of the vehicle in the side mirror. This means the mirror is more angled to see into the lane beside you to the left while you’re sitting in the normal driving position. To adjust the right side mirror, it was suggested to lean as far as possible across the centre console and also see a sliver of the vehicle. This too shows the lane beside you to the right. To the many experts who support this set up, this means no need to check the blind spot, right? Well, I did this for over three weeks and tested the theory. I needed to see for myself, so to speak, the advantages and disadvantages of this setup.

It was true that I could see every vehicle approaching from either side of my vehicle. Once I was about to lose sight of a vehicle in my rear view mirror passing me, I was able to pick them up in my side mirror. No vehicle was able to hide from me and that’s a good thing. I liked the change. Nothing surprised me, but it did take time to get used to these changes. But then I took this mirror set up to a multiple lane one-way street system, to which there are many within the community I live in. I also took it onto the multiple lane freeways in my community. This is where I became concerned.

While traveling in the right hand lane, I lost sight of vehicles in the far left lane. They were 2 lanes from me and if I trusted what I saw in the mirror only and changed to the centre lane just as they were changing to the same centre lane, a collision could have happened, or at least a close call. Once I lost sight of the driver in the far left lane in my side mirror, I did a quick check of my blind spot and found that driver was close enough to my rear fender that if we both changed into the centre lane and not paying enough attention as we should, there could have been a collision or perhaps a sudden swerve back because of panic.

I can see a lot of advantages to eliminating the blind spot, but at what risk? If drivers fail to check their mirrors often enough and after checking both the rear view mirror and side mirror and don’t see a vehicle, is that enough to say a vehicle won’t be changing into that middle lane on a one-way street or a multiple lane freeway?

Being aware of our surroundings while driving is something all drivers need to do. Mirror checks are important, but using short term memory is also important so we remember what we saw with that last check. The question remains…is that enough to keep us safe? This is the first part of a two-part evaluation of mirror setups. I spent a few weeks using this setup to help me get used to it. Look for the second installment coming up soon.

Posted by: safedriver | May 19, 2015

Another episode of “did you know?”

Hamilton 2-20120725-00307Life is always about learning something new. Sometimes we set out to find something new and other times it’s just as if it slaps us in the face. Well, instead of slapping yourself, I thought I would bring you a few things you may not have known in regards to driving. So, without further delay, here’s another installment of “did you know?”

Did you know… hitting the gas to get through the intersection when the light changes from green to amber (yellow) won’t help you beat the light anyway? The millisecond that it may save you isn’t enough to help you beat the light. Instead, make a decision when the green light has been green for a while, that if the light was to change would you stop or go. This is a more proactive way to deal the changing of traffic lights.

Did you know… tucking the seat belt under your arm can cause serious injuries? It’s true. That technique can crack ribs or damage organs in the event you have to hit the brakes hard. Wearing the seat belt over your shoulder helps protect those internal organs, plus helps to keep you upright in case you need to make a sudden swerve.

Did you know… if you add vinegar to regular washer fluid it can clean bugs off your windshield? Vinegar was a cleaner well before we put it on our french fries. That’s mainly due to the acetic acid in vinegar. Adding1/3 part vinegar can do the job to clearing off those dead bugs. Adding more than that and you’ll be craving french fries each time you clean your windshield.

Did you know… you should sit at least 10 inches/25 centimetres from the centre of the steering wheel? This is to help protect you in case the airbag goes off. Being too close to the steering wheel may cause unnecessary injuries if the airbag deploys. Sitting closer than that will also affect your steering control. To help shorter drivers achieve the proper seating distance, many vehicles have telescoping steering wheels. Pushing the steering wheel toward the dash as much as possible will still allow the shorter driver to reach the pedals and stay at least 10 inches/25 centimetres away from the airbag.

Did you know… when turning left from a one way street you should begin the turn from the most left you can get on that one way street? Think of it this way…when your turning left from a 2-way street you move beside the yellow line – the closest to the left you’re allowed to go. The same can be said for turning from a one-way street. Move toward the left hand curb before making the turn. This helps you make the turn safely without confusing or cutting off any driver beside you.

Did you know… that’s the end of this version? I hope you learned something or at least reminded yourself of something you did know but may have forgotten.

Posted by: safedriver | May 4, 2015

It’s driving quiz time!

014 (2)In today’s world, many people like to challenge themselves. Sometimes it’s through sports, or competitions, or even through education. So far I’ve done a couple of driving quizzes; one for commuters and a winter quiz. I thought it’s time for a quiz to see what kind of a driver you. How’s your general driving knowledge? It’s time to find out. If you’re ready for this multiple choice quiz, let’s go!

1. If your headlights have turns yellow from age, what can you use to clean them?

a) Elbow grease

b) Lots of soap and water

c) Nothing can clean them

d) Toothpaste…which also makes them smell minty fresh

2. Windshield wipers won’t last forever, so how often should they be changed?

a) Annually

b) 4 times a year

c) After you notice extensive wear

d) Twice a year

3. While stopped in traffic what should we be doing?

a) Adjusting the radio station

b) Monitoring traffic behind and planning an escape

c) Checking out the drivers beside us

d) Doesn’t matter since we’re stopped anyway

4. If you’re feeling tired while driving, what’s the best thing to do to stay alert?

a) Drink coffee

b) Get out and do a few exercises

c) Take a brief nap in a safe place

d) Turn the music up and sing along

5. Seat belts are used for what main purpose?

a) To avoid paying a fine

b) To keep you upright to help you control the vehicle to avoid a crash

c) To help rescuers locate occupants in case of a crash

d) Lessens injury in case of a crash

6. Before you enter your vehicle, what should you do?

a) Get all your snacks ready for the drive

b) Kick the tires

c) Walk around the vehicle checking for problems

d) Make sure you have your keys ready

7. What’s the minimum safe following distance in the city on dry roads?

a) Two car lengths

b) One car length for every ten miles per hour

c) Two seconds behind the driver ahead of you

d) Doesn’t matter as long as you think you can stop in time

8. To merge safely onto the expressway or freeway, you should…

a) Match the speed of the traffic already on the expressway

b) Look for an opening early

c) Signal in advance

d) All of the above

9. While driving, how often should a good driver should check their mirrors?

a) Every 5 – 8 seconds

b) Before slowing

c) While stopped

d) All of the above

10. How do you ensure you have room to move to avoid a collision with another vehicle?

a) Drive beside open space as much as possible

b) Look ahead and anticipate traffic patterns

c) Trust yourself and not the drivers around you

d) All of the above

Now that you’ve tried this safe driver quiz, check below to find the answers. If you need further information, use the search function to the right of the page and find the articles that may help you to better understand how to become a safe driver.

  1. d    2.  a    3.  b    4.   c    5.   b    6.  c    7.  c    8.  d    9.  d   10.  d

So how did you do? If you got 8 or more correct, you’re very good. 5 to 7 correct; you’re well on your way. Less than 5 correct, let me help you improve. Search the site for the topics you got wrong and help improve your knowledge. Improve your knowledge and then improve your skill.

Posted by: safedriver | April 27, 2015

I encourage you to try this

ndt-contestantFor the more than 27 years that I’ve been a driving instructor with Young Drivers of Canada I’ve been known as a supporter; someone who encourages others to do their best. To be honest, there are some days it can be difficult to encourage others. Regardless, I still feel it’s important to do. Are you an encourager? Do you help others feel that they’re capable of doing their best? As a driver we all know how important it is to do our best. Do you encourage yourself?

For the three years I was involved as a judge with Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network, I had met a few drivers who could have really benefitted from spending time with an encourager. Their self-esteem was very low and after they perform challenges, they felt they had failed, even though they may have done much better than they had hoped and actually performed it well. Part of having the feeling of failure were the people around them. They kept pointing out all of the flaws instead of promoting their successes. Has this happened to you?

When I’m training new instructors for Young Drivers of Canada, I keep pointing out they should focus on what they’re doing well. Thinking of their mistakes promotes those mistakes to become more habitual. For the things they do incorrectly, they should focus on the solutions; on what to do the next time. There’s actually a process for giving out positive corrections to others. You should start off with praise for the things done correctly, and then provide the corrective behaviour of the things done incorrectly and then the outcome. The outcome, in other words, is why they should make those changes. When you know why you should make those changes, you’ll most likely do them. No one really does what they’re told. They tend to do what they believe in.

However, when it comes to encouragement, the first person you need to encourage is yourself. Believe in yourself. When I first started to write about road safety a decade ago, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I had never done anything like that before. I received a harsh criticism from someone I worked with at the time who reviewed my work and that really dropped my confidence in my ability. After that, I received encouragement from my family and the rest is history. I decided to take my own advice. I began to encourage myself.

There will be new things we try that just don’t seem right, including while driving. We want to be successful at it, but things just aren’t falling into place like we want. Here’s some advice to help you grow your ability when you’re learning something new. Lower your expectations. On a scale of 1 to 10, you may have always had high expectations of your abilities, perhaps an 8 or 9, but your current performance level isn’t anywhere near matching those expectations, perhaps it’s at a 2 or 3. If you lower your expectations when you first begin to learn, your performance can reach those expectations easier. Once you reach that level of expectations, you’ll feel better and you can then raise those expectations a bit more as you progress.

This “stepping-stone approach” will allow you to feel more positive about what you’re doing. You’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something. This positive outlook will help to encourage you to keep going and become successful in whatever you want. I hope this advice is encouraging you to be who you want to be, to become the driver you want to be and to help others you care about to do the same. I encourage you to try this.

If you like this article, please help support the effort for safe roads. Support HERE.

Posted by: safedriver | April 23, 2015

Fulfil your passion for driving… and for cars

Car Lister logoLet’s face it; I love cars and I love driving… and I’m not alone. Millions of people worldwide share this passion. For over 27 years I’ve tried to instill road safety on as many people as I possibly can. In my spare time I go to car shows and drool over those amazing machines and fantasize about owning such a vehicle. Well, it can get better than that. There are a variety of social media sites that can help that fantasizing come to life. One such site is called Car Lister.

Car Lister has a few advantages that other social media sites don’t have. They allow the member to view vehicles for sale like many sites offer but they also allow them to either start up an online car club or join an existing one. It’s rather unique as it combines buying and selling with the enjoyment of car clubs. Each member can chat with other members though private message, email or even a phone call. That can make it easier especially if you’re always on the go and don’t have time to play phone tag. And the best part; it’s free.

car lister mobileCar Lister has prepared an app for your phone for buying and selling cars online to make it easier if you’re not at your computer. As said, the app is free and as Car Lister tells me, it “creates responsive, media-rich listings from any mobile device in less than 2 minutes, but the best part is that it’s the first auto eCommerce platform with a social network build in”. You can find out more about Car Lister by checking out their website at

I’ll spend hours looking at a variety of car sites and clubs just to help fulfil my passion of driving and cars. There are other sites that let you do these things as well, but in many cases, you’ll need to use a few sites to accomplish same thing as this one site does. It’s a different look as well, so that can be refreshing and exciting.

Here’s what you can expect with this site; car clubs discussing events, TV shows uploading video previews for an upcoming car restoration series, dealerships announcing sales, manufacturers updating users about recalls, car fans sharing photos and keeping up with industry news, amongst the ability to buy and sell from one another. Sound interesting? Did I mention I love cars and driving? So does Car Lister.

I joined Car Lister and looked around. It does look like it could be a lot of fun. They’re live right now and are going to begin their launch their social platform in May/June of 2015 in the US, so go check them out! After that, they’ll hit Canada and the international stage. This could be fun and an interesting way to stay on top of the automotive world; in one easy stop.

Posted by: safedriver | April 21, 2015

There’s more to waiting in traffic than…actually waiting

IMG-20130806-00526Wait. Wait. Wait. We seem to be waiting a lot these days. Whether it’s in line at the cashier in a store, at a gas station or to get into the movies, waiting is part of our lives. Waiting in traffic is also part of our lives; an everyday occurrence. As mundane as it seems, there are proper ways to wait to help you avoid injury… or worse.

The traditional way many drivers wait to make a left turn is to angle their wheels slightly to the left. They tend to feel this will help them get out of the intersection quicker. Others feel they can see around the driver turning left opposite them better this way. Unfortunately, they’re wrong on both counts. Let me explain.

The wheel angle points your vehicle slightly in the direction you’re intending to go. The actual movement of the vehicle is what gets you out of the intersection sooner. With that angle, the front left corner is closer to the line of traffic. Your seating position is in a position that doesn’t necessarily allow you to see any better. To help you exit the intersection safely and as soon as possible, look ahead for a gap in traffic. As the last vehicle before the gap reaches the intersection, check the crosswalk to your left for cyclists and pedestrians. If the crosswalk is clear, gently ease off the brake to get your vehicle moving. Just as that oncoming vehicle passes you, look into your intended path and off you go. Quick and easy.

The other most common time we wait is when stopped in traffic; either before making the above mentioned turn, at a red light or just stopped in traffic in general. In North America, the rear crash is the most common type of collision. In some cases, the driver actually sees the approaching vehicle before they get hit, but does nothing about it. Sometimes this is because they don’t know what to do, but other times they just don’t have a place to go. However, this can change.

Many drivers stop close enough to the vehicle ahead of them to see the wheels of that vehicle touch the road. That was a technique many of us learned years ago when you could see the hood of your own vehicle. In many cases, vehicles are too aerodynamic to see the hood, so seeing the wheels touch the road generally means you’re less than half a car length from their rear bumper. Unfortunately, that’s not enough space any longer.

When you’re stopped in traffic leave yourself enough space to get out of the way if the vehicle ahead of you stalls. This is usually at least one car length. Leaving extra space also has an advantage of helping you avoid a rear crash. Before stopping, plan your escape. Figure out where you can go before you actually need to go. This makes it quicker to escape the rear crash. Now for the most important part; checking the mirrors. Not only should you check the mirrors, you need to pay attention to what you actually see. Ask yourself; what’s behind you? Are they gaining on you quickly or are they slowing down?

After many drivers stop in traffic they usually look around at just about anything other than where they should, which is behind them. If you monitor the mirror, plan your escape and leave yourself room to get out of the way, there’s a better chance you can avoid a rear crash. Now, let’s put the two errors together – waiting with your wheels angled and not checking your mirror. What could happen? Check this vehicle to find out.

The driver made a few mistakes, but luckily came away without much injury that we can determine from this video. Seatbelts and the airbag definitely helped him. He did glance in his mirror twice before the impact. Once while slowing and the second time after he heard screeching tires. Could this have been avoided? Yes. At worst case, leaving the wheels straight would have just pushed him into neutral area and not into the oncoming truck.

So the next time you’re waiting in traffic, either to make a left turn or just waiting to start moving again, think about your wheel position and what’s happening behind you. It could save you and your vehicle.

If you like this article, please help support the effort for safer roads. Support HERE.

Posted by: safedriver | April 8, 2015

You never find what you’re not looking for

No right on Red 1-27I’ve talked to many people over the years about what makes someone a good driver. Many say its attitude. Others say good reaction time does the trick. Some will say proper training is the key. Well, those all play a role into whether or not you’re going to be a good driver, but let’s look at it a little differently. Let’s say you have all the above mentioned attributes; will that always make you a good driver? There’s something missing from this list; your mind and eyes.

Learning to use the skills you were taught helps, having the positive attitude will also help, but learning how to think like a driver is a big part of whether or not you’ll become a safe driver. Many people obtain a driver’s licence but never really embrace what it takes to actually become a safe driver. They get into the vehicle and go from point A to point B without much thought. But that should change.

Here’s how it should work. While driving your brain sends a message to your eyes where to look to ensure you’ll see potential problems early enough to respond. Staying focused on driving and avoiding distractions is your main job as a driver. However, knowing where to look is an important step. I’ve often said; you drive with your mind and your eyes. Your hands and feet are only tools for what your eyes have seen.

I was speaking with a couple of local police officers recently regarding what people say after they get stopped for making illegal driving actions. Many times they just plainly say they didn’t see the sign. One officer said the driver who turned when they shouldn’t said they saw the light but not the sign. That’s interesting since the sign was next to the light. Was this an excuse or did their brain omit that piece of information?

Having 20/20 vision doesn’t mean you’re using your eyes effectively while driving. It just means you have normal eyesight. To use your eyes effectively while driving, look for things that may affect your travels. Even though you may have driven a certain route each day, looking for signs and lane markings is always a good idea. Your jurisdiction may have made changes since the last time you drove that route. While I was re-evaluating a licensed driver we came across an intersection with a newly placed stop sign. Since he wasn’t slowing I asked him to apply the brake…a few times. He still didn’t slow down so I used my dual brake to stop us. His reasoning for not braking – the sign wasn’t there yesterday.

Learning to move your eyes constantly and looking from building to building and on the sides of the roads will help you spot potential problems and information to help you drive safely. If you’re not looking for warning and information signs, will you see them? I think it’s important for all drivers to keep an open mind to help them spot these signs. Constantly moving your eyes will also help you see pedestrians, cyclists and other road users too. There’s an old saying; you never find what you’re not looking for. It’s time to start looking.

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Posted by: safedriver | April 4, 2015

It’s time to listen to those who care

bdf8c51442169262ffc5769bdb8cWe all know people who do things because they care; teachers, parents, coaches, aunts, uncles and many others. Have you ever asked yourself why they do these things? Is it because they were told to or is there a genuine part of themselves that wants to help others? Most people who help with the sole purpose of allowing success in others want to help. I’m pretty sure we all know people like that. These people were most likely a big influence in your life at some point in time.

When it comes to road safety I know many people who fit that profile. They genuinely want to help others. Yes, they often get paid to help others, but that’s so they can earn a living to help pay their expenses. However, they tend to go deeper than the basics to ensure the success of others. In the many decades I’ve been involved in road safety, I’ve met many who also volunteer their time before earning a living. One person to mention is Curt Kindschuh. Curt started off as a police officer who had pulled many people over for impaired driving during his 18 years as an officer. In 1990 until 2002 Curt was also heavily involved as a volunteer with MADD.

logoCurt’s experiences have taken him many places, but one important place was developing goggles to represent what it would be like if someone was impaired by alcohol or drugs. The problem exists when someone is impaired, their thoughts and judgement are also impaired. They can’t realize what they’re doing is wrong when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle if they are already impaired by alcohol or drugs. That’s where these goggles come into play. They send a strong message about the dangers of drinking and driving.

When I first started to teach driver training, we had a pair of these goggles and students were a little surprised with how their vision, coordination and their balance became impaired. My students in the classroom couldn’t walk in a straight line with these goggles on, especially if I asked them thought-provoking questions at the same time. Once they made the connection between these goggles and how their judgement and vision were affected with alcohol, they stopped smiling and started to listen. I always believe in a teaching philosophy of “sell it; don’t tell it”. In other words, no one will do what I tell them. They do what they believe. These goggles helped me “sell it” to my students.

Curt now has branched off into his own company called Drunk Busters. He produces and sells these goggles worldwide. As long as the teacher can make the connection between those goggles and real life, they’re a great tool to use to educated people of all ages of the effects of impaired driving. Learning how impaired driving can affect us is everyone’s responsibility.

To find out more about Curt, his mission and what he does, check out his website here. It’s time to listen to those who care.

Posted by: safedriver | March 31, 2015

Getting more value from your vehicle starts with you

Toronto-20140221-00781Getting good value from the things you have is important to just about everyone. There are so many things people do to try to save money, including buying things they need when they are on sale, using coupons and perhaps using discount stores. But without realizing it, many people waste money on a daily basis. What if you were given a break on your monthly rent or mortgage; would you take it with a smile? Many drivers make the effort to find the gas station that offers the cheapest prices, but will they do the things to get good value from their savings?

When you’re sitting in traffic or anywhere really, you’re wasting more fuel than you may realize. In many cases, it’s from the daily commute. Even though many people feel there’s nothing they can do about fuel waste, there actually is. The photo below shows time spent in a drive-thru line up. The line-up was short and the time spent was minimal, but look at the waste. This 30 litres/100 km translates to under 8 mile per US gallon. My average fuel rating on the vehicle I’m driving is currently 7.7 liters/100 kms. That translates to well over 30 MPG. Would you ever buy a vehicle that showed fuel consumption to be 8 MPG or 30 litre/100 km? Of course not, but many choices that a driver makes can hurt their fuel consumption more than they may realize. So let’s look at a few solutions for saving fuel and money.

IMG_20150325_100045Based on what was just mentioned, go inside to buy your coffee or use the banking machine. The drive-thru can also waste a lot of time, not just fuel. I’ve been to some places where the drive-thru has more customers waiting than what was inside waiting. I went inside and purchased what I needed, then returned back to my car while others were still waiting in line at the drive-thru. Not only was I saving fuel, but I also saved time.

During your morning commute; look for roads that often have less traffic lights and stop signs. The initial start-up from a stopped position uses up most fuel. Keeping a steady flow is better for your savings. To help keep that steady flow, look well ahead while driving and when you see the traffic lights change to red, ease off the gas early and coast. This can save you a lot of fuel over time. If you ease off the gas early and you only have to drop your speed in half, the acceleration back up to speed takes less power and that uses less fuel. The added plus is that it gives you the sense that you’re still getting to your destination instead of sitting in traffic.

Since many people want to be in control, they often want to drive. But have you ever thought about sharing rides with one other person, perhaps every other week? Here are just a few of the benefits other than fuel savings; less vehicle wear, sharing parking costs, less stress from the grind of daily commutes.

If you really want to get the most out of the fuel you’ll need to make some changes to what you do with your vehicle. Dropping prices in fuel is only one small part of saving money at the pumps. A change of attitude and skill should also happen if you really want to save your hard earned money.


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