Driving is a privilege, and with it comes many responsibilities like taking care of your car, your fellow passengers, and your own life. There are a few things that every driver should know, and it is never too late to learn:
Every driver should know how to change a flat tire. When I bought my first car at age 16, my dad made me change a tire to the spare three times on my own while he watched to make sure I did it correctly. Knowing how to change your own flat tire means you do not have to depend on that sketchy stranger to help you out or wait an hour for an auto club. This is a skill that everyone on the road should know; if you don’t think you can figure out it out by yourself, get a friend to help you- before you blow a tire and really need it.
Every driver should know when to Stop. If your ‘check engine’ light pops on, you can usually wait until you arrive to your destination to stop and check out the situation. If, however, your engine begins to smoke or it suddenly feels like you are driving over logs with your wheel jerking one way or the other, pull over to the shoulder as soon as possible.
Every driver should know when NOT to Stop. Think of your safety first. If someone bumps your fender in an isolated stretch of highway, do not pull over to the shoulder but rather motion for them to follow you to a well-lit, public place. Even if it is a cop is trying to pull you over and you feel uncomfortable about the situation, motion for him to follow you to a public place, and in the meantime call 911 to let them know you intend to pull over once you are in a safe place, and they can relay that to the officer who will understand your reasoning. Never isolate yourself on the side of an empty road with a stranger, even a cop.
Every driver should know their driving limits. Some people can drive all day long and not get tired, while others are done after four hours in the car. Don’t plan a trip where you have to drive ten hours a day if you know you can’t handle it.
Every driver should know AAA’s Phone Number: 1 (800) AAA-2336. Even if you are not a paid member, if you call them in the case of a breakdown or keys locked inside, they will enroll you (with your credit card information) and come to your rescue. One year of AAA is almost always less than calling a locksmith once, and they usually arrive within the hour.
Every driver should know NOT to text while driving. As tempting as it may be, just say no to texting and fiddling with your phone while driving. Besides the fact that it is illegal in many states, texting while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. Just say no.
Every driver should know their vehicle’s maintenance needs. Cars routinely need their oil changed, filters traded out, tires switched and alignment checked. Taking care of your car will help it to last longer and it is also better for the environment, as oil leaks often end up in the ocean or streams by way of gutters. Have your oil changed every 3000-5000 miles, and always get a mechanic to give it a once-over before you set off on a long road trip.
Every driver should know how to check their tire pressure. With a simple gauge you can keep tabs on your tire pressure, but first you have to know what pressure reading is ideal, and this is usually listed in the owner’s manual. For each tire, remove the stem cap, press the gauge flat against the stem, and read the number on the gauge. If it is too low, add air at a service station for free. Don’t over inflate, and try to check your pressure when your tires are cold- not after driving all day long.
Every driver should know to stay alert and stay alive. Drowsy driving is also a very dangerous proposition. While driving a long distance, as soon as you feel your eyelids closing, pull over at the next gas station (that appears safe) and take a short 20-30 minute power nap. This works better than five large coffees, and you will wake up refreshed and ready to hit the road.
Every driver should know how to jump start their car. Carrying jumper cables in the trunk is always a good idea, even if you have a new car and battery. Memorize these steps, or write them down on a note you keep with your jumper cables: Attach red clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery, and then clamp the other red end to the positive terminal of the live battery on a running car. Now attach one of the black clamps to the negative terminal of the good battery, and the other black clamp goes to an unpainted steel surface of the dead car in order to ground it. Now try and start the dead car. Remove the clamps in reverse order. Done!