| Driving
Two hands on a black leather steering wheel.

Beyond hairstyles and radio hits, a lot has changed since you first got your license. New car technology has revolutionized the driving experience. You no longer need to crank your windows manually. There’s cruise control. And many drivers don’t know (and won’t ever need to know) how to drive a stick.

Some of these advances have even changed what it means to be a safe driver. If you’re still driving the way your mom or dad taught you in the parking lot, it may be time to re-learn a couple of safe driving habits—and check some new ones at the car door.

1. Hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2

Most of us would say we know how to hold a steering wheel. However, as reported by NBC News, many of us don’t. Because of airbag technology, driving instructors now recommend placing your hands at 9 and 3, or 8 and 4, instead of 10 and 2 (as if you were holding a clock).

Placing your hands at 10 and 2 actually puts them in the path of the airbag if it ever needs to be deployed—which could hurt your hands and face. Like your older brother used to say, “Don’t hit yourself!”

2. Turn the steering wheel hand-over-hand

Additionally, current driving school students are taught never to turn the wheel with the hand-over-hand technique. Just like 10 and 2, this puts your hands in the path of the airbag.

Instead, try using a push-pull approach while keeping your hands side-by-side. Use your right hand to pull right and your left hand to push in the same direction when you want to turn right, and do the opposite when you want to go left.

3. Pump the brakes

Drivers used to be taught to pump their brakes to prevent skidding when stopping in icy or slick conditions. But if your vehicle has an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), you don’t need to do this anymore.

ABS now comes standard on most modern vehicles. In a car that’s equipped with ABS, you’ll want to apply even pressure to the brake pedal in situations that would’ve previously prompted you to “pump it.” The system’s sensors will detect if a wheel is spinning. Then, the ABS will pump the brakes at a far higher frequency than possible with your foot. When this happens, you’ll notice a slight resistance from the brake pedal. It’s okay. Your car tech is doing its job!

4. Measure by car lengths, instead of seconds

Driving instructors used to teach students to maintain one car length of distance per every 10 mph of speed. However, the three-second rule is easier to keep track of and won’t change whether you’re driving behind a VW bug or an 18-wheeler. (And BTW, we’re not talking about counting how many seconds a piece of food is on the ground.)

The three-second rule involves locating a fixed object (like a tree or street sign) while keeping an eye on the vehicle in front of you. As soon as the car passes the object, start counting and stop once you’ve passed it, too! If it takes you fewer than three seconds to reach the object, you should slow down and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front of you.

5. Look only at your backup camera

Number five on our list is a case of new technology creating a new bad habit. If you have a tendency to trust your backup camera over your own two eyes, think again.

“Rearview video systems are not a replacement for mirrors or turning around to look; rather, they’re an added safety tool for revealing hidden dangers,” advises the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Best practices for reversing a car haven’t changed. In fact, student drivers are still taught to look over their right shoulder before backing up, regardless of whether or not the car is equipped with a backup camera. After all, rearview mirrors and backup cameras have blind spots, too!

6. Get distracted by smart tech

Smartphones, Bluetooth, and voice interface technology are a double-edged sword. They keep us connected to the digital world while driving, but they can also be a source of distraction—which is one of the most common causes of accidents. Be smart about how you use smart technology by not letting it distract you from the road ahead. The next song can wait until you come to a safe stop. The pedestrian in the crosswalk can’t.

Update your driving habits to avoid accidents, and you might qualify for our safe driver discount. Call, click, or come into your local Direct Auto to get a free quote for affordable car insurance. Whatever your driving history, we want to give you a great rate and excellent service.