Mar 212012

There are a lot of ways to go wrong when you’re driving in a new country, but a few ways of making things a lot easier for yourself. It’s a no-brainer to take some small steps before travelling to make the whole thing a lot better once you arrive. The first thing you can do is know your foreign road signs, and learn some road markings too. In addition you’ll want to brush up on basic driving rules. It might seem like enough to know which side of the road to drive on, but once you get to your first junction you’ll find yourself panicking if you don’t know the guidelines for sure.

Be aware that most accidents occur within the first hour of your arriving in the new country. This is because people are fatigued, and overwhelmed by the combination of new rules and practices, as well as possibly a new car to get to grips with. Give yourself a few moments to get used to the vehicle, adjusting your seat positioning and familiarising yourself with the controls before heading out on the road. If you rush things it can be disastrous.

A good journey plan is half the battle once you’re out on the open road. With so many tools available these days there really is no reason to go astray. You can get apps for your smartphones to tell you where to turn, as well as the usual GPS and map book devices that are tried and tested. Don’t just trust in technology though – know the route from memory as best you can.

Ask yourself honestly if you’re giving yourself enough time to rest and get out of the car between travel. There are too many instances of people getting into trouble because they drive through the night to get from one place to the next. You should take your time and relax.

You might also consider learning enough of the language to get by as a driver. As a minimum you should know the number for the emergency services, and how to report a problem.

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Mar 212012

The idea of venturing out into cold, slippery conditions with the possibility of hugely decreased visibility is daunting for any driver, and driving in very bad winter conditions is of course, best avoided. However, if you really must brave the weather, there are several alterations you can make to your driving style, which can help you reach your destination safely.

If you can’t get your car fully serviced by a professional, then check the following yourself. Make sure your lights are all clean and working and your battery is fully charged. Car batteries have a life of around five years, so if yours is old it might be time to invest in a new one as the darker conditions of winter will put much more strain on your battery than it had to cope with during the summer months.

When driving, use the following advice. Don’t try to keep up to speed limits, in very bad weather these are often much too fast to be safe; if you don’t feel in control of your car, you probably aren’t. To avoid sliding and skidding drive smoothly, allowing up to ten times the normal distance for breaking, avoiding sharp steering and keeping a good distance between yourself and the next car. Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous. The centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels will not grip very well. This could cause your vehicle to spin. To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.

Ideally, a skidpan-driving course should be taken to prepare the driver for icy and slippery conditions, if this is not possible however; here are a few tips for handling ice and snow. Use second gear to start on a slippery surface, not first, this helps stop wheel spin. You may need up to ten times the normal breaking distance to stop or slow down, so apply pressure slowly and gently to minimise the chance of skidding, the same goes for cornering – always drive slowly and gently to avoid losing control.

However experienced you may be at winter driving, don’t take silly risks such as starting off with only a small portion of your windscreen clear, or not allowing adequate extra time to prepare your car and allow for possible delays on route. Be prepared to be late to arrive at your destination, your safety is more important that your punctuality.

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Mar 212012

At some point we’ve all fallen victim to a dead battery or flat tyre disaster, usually when there is the least amount of time available to deal with it. If you find yourself in a similar predicament ensure that next time you know how best to deal with it quickly and efficiently, without having to wait for a time-consuming third party rescue.

If a flat tyre stops you short, secure the car into place with both the handbrake and heavy, sturdy objects like house bricks or something of a similar weight. Wedge them in front and behind the remaining tyres. Remember to alert other drivers of your presence with the hazard warning lights. If you have been driving a while the wheel is likely to be hot, ensure a spare pair of gloves are worn. The car manual will give the correct position of where to put the jack so as not to crack the framework. Before lifting, loosen the wheel nuts. Once the car has been raised fully remove the nuts and extract the flat tyre from the axel. The new tyre should be lined up with the wheel bolts and secured in place. When replacing a tyre it’s often a good idea to replace the tyre located on the opposite side of the axel at the same time. Different tyres can affect the vehicles handling, but if you’re caught off-guard with a flat this likely isn’t an option.

Checking your tyres are in top condition is particularly important as they are one of the crucial parts of the car; poorly fitted or worn tyres can affect the how well it manipulates corners, the braking distance and make the general handling of the car far less responsive. The minimum central tyre tread depth should measure no less than 1.6mm and 3mm for the outer strips. Regularly checking the tyres for glass, nails and debris before your journey will also help to avoid the risk of slow punctures.

Tyres that aren’t fully inflated will use up more fuel per mile, which can be costly in itself, but over-inflated tyres can be equally as harmful, reducing grip and again hindering the cars handling with an unstable ride. Ensure the tyres are cold before attempting to check their pressure; the heat caused by long journeys leading to increased tyre pressure. If leaving it overnight isn’t possible, spare at least a few hours before attempting to use a pressure gauge. Not forgetting to regularly check the spare, if you have one.

Every couple of weeks, or before long journeys, take time to pop the bonnet and have a quick check that everything is functioning inside. The brake fluid keeps the brake pedal working properly. A brake fluid reservoir that empties too frequently can sometimes indicate a leak. If the oil is below the minimum line on the dipstick, fill it up a small amount at a time. The owner’s manual should specify the correct variety of oil to use, but if you’re unsure a good quality engine oil like Castrol will be sufficient. Another port of call under the bonnet is the coolant tank. Checking it before long journeys or once a fortnight is a good rule of thumb, in the colder months adding a little anti-freeze to the tank.

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Jan 132012

Bad drivers are the cause of most accidents that occur on roadways. Sadly, typically, the people who are hurt just didn’t cause the accident. Although it might not be what you would like to do, you need to be a defensive driver any time you put your key into the ignition of your car. The smart course of action is to remain vigilant keeping an eye on your fellow drivers and predicting how they may react.

Several techniques are available to help you be able to handle whatever happens when you’re at the wheel of your car. One of the best things to do would be to always be on guard. When you’re navigating a vehicle, you don’t need to be talking to other passengers or someone on your cellular phone or even looking at things by the side of the road. Folks generally drive so that they can go from one place to another and arrive with everyone and everything in one piece. At any time that you must deal with a distraction whether it’s conversing with other people in the car, talking on the phone, turning on the radio, or checking your makeup in the mirror, you’re increasing your chances of having an accident.

Even if talking on a cell phone while driving is forbidden in many places around the world, that has not stopped people from doing so. Working with one hand to drive and the other hand to hold on to a cell phone can be precarious as talking with someone can be very distracting. It does not take much to become so engrossed in your discussion that you don’t become aware of what is happening on the road. If you have the need to swerve to bypass something, you may not even be able to react if your concentration is not there. It’s critical that you remain aware of surrounding road conditions because there’s no way to know when something unforeseen may happen.

It’s important to concentrate because you cannot predict when you may come up on a pothole or something else in the road. A good number of highways are pretty much safe to drive on, but harmful things can get on the road, like stuff falling off a garbage truck, or a construction vehicle, and also many places rocks can roll down onto the road. Any one of such situations could cause an accident in the event the conditions are right. Should the driver inadvertently comes across something in the road when he is driving at normal speed, his car will experience some damage even if it is relatively minor. However it could be enough to trigger a serious accident, throwing your vehicle into the path of another vehicle, or possibly a rollover accident. Undoubtedly it is possible to recall more than one time when you needed to suddenly veer to one side so you wouldn’t drive across something in the road, and how much worse might this have been if your attention had been diverted?

It really is critical to keep an eye on your surroundings when there’s a possibility of animals coming onto the highway or if you’re in a location with many pedestrians and cyclists. Somebody who is a defensive driver will continually be watchful. You definitely don’t want to cause injury to someone who was following the rules of the road simply because you chose not to give your full attention to your driving.

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