Please, take care of your car.

I’m sure we’ve all seen shit cars on the road. These people have their bumper duct taped haphazardly to the hood and quarter panels, and others have decided to secure various parts to their vehicle with bungee cords. It can be a bit difficult to steer if your alignment is so bad that you can’t drive in a straight line, and it’s just as difficult (and dangerous) to drive when you have a shaky steering wheel. Broken windows limit visibility, as does half an inch of dirt on all your windows.

Granted, not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to afford “unnecessary” maintenance. As long as the car runs, maybe it’s not getting any kind of investment. However, a lot of things are actually necessary for that vehicle to be safe on the road. It will be much more expensive if you end up in a crash. The following list includes some helpful hints on how to keep your car happy and healthy.

  1. Maintain your tires: Your car is connected to the road by a small contact patch on your tires. That’s it. If your tires are bald and unable to grip the road, you are fucked if you need to make any kind of quick maneuver… eventually any maneuver will become hazardous. Especially so in wet or snowy conditions. A popular way to measure your tread is the penny rule (see here). When you replace your tires, replace all four. DO NOT mix and match brands or sizes (unless you have a staggered set-up, in which case you still don’t want to mix and match brands). Replacing all four tires at the same time also guarantees that you’ll have the same tread wear all the way around, and driving will be safer.
  2. Check your brakes: You know that part of your vehicle that helps you come to a complete stop? That’s a wear part. You have to replace those at some point. Typically you’ll know when you need to replace your brakes when you hear a loud metal-on-metal scraping sound when you apply the brakes or when you have to press the brake pedal down to the floor just to get any sort of response. Getting your brakes done can be expensive (depending on the vehicle you own), but it is a must.
  3. Replace broken windows: Whether it’s a massive crack on the windshield or a shattered driver-side window, these should be replaced ASAP. You see out of your car through these windows. If your side window space is occupied by garbage bag, you can’t see out of that window, and that is dangerous. Usually your insurance company will replace your windshield for free, so call and ask if that’s something they’ll do for you.
  4. Double check loose parts: I mentioned bumpers being secured by duct tape and bungee cords earlier in this post. While you may have thought I’d be complaining about these temporary fixes, I far prefer a bumper be attached that way than blowing in the wind on the highway just waiting to fly off and potentially cause an accident.
  5. Check your oil: This isn’t entirely a safety issue, but it is a critical thing for your vehicle. If you run out of oil or leave a fill in super long, you run the risk of completely obliterating your motor. And that is really not a cheap fix. Check your oil level every other time you get gas, or make a habit of checking your oil a couple times per month. There’s a lot of debate over how long you should leave a fill of oil in your car, but that’s not really the concern here. Just pick whatever length you like and go with that—just make sure your car has oil.

It seems like people think that vehicle maintenance is a scam. To be fair, there are going to be shops that will try to overcharge you for an oil change or brake service (and some of them might do a shitty job on that service), but maintenance itself is incredibly important.  Not only will your car last longer, but your car will also be safer on the road for you and everyone else around you.

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Up, up, and away!

So the other day I was driving behind a very skittish student driver,  and I noticed that he/she seemed to not quite understand the laws of gravity. To move up an inclined plane, one much exert more force on the object. Thus, to go up a hill in a vehicle, you’re going to have to press a little harder on the gas pedal. It’s kind of like when you’re walking up a hill and your arms have to swing a little farther back and forth to help propel you forward.

Now, I was gentle on the student driver. They were going 30 in a 35 most of the time, dropping down to about 20 when they got to a hill. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed this same problem when driving behind people without “STUDENT DRIVER” signs on their car. Surely, not all of those folks were new drivers… nor were they big trucks… and they definitely were not all 80 hp cars that physically cannot drag themselves up a hill.

Obviously, you should give some leeway to those big trucks and the tiny, 30-year-old European compact cars. It’s not the driver’s fault they’re slow going up hills—it’s a physical limitation.

geo-metro

Example of 80 hp car.

18-wheeler-tractor-trailer

Example of big truck.

Now, if you find yourself in a functioning vehicle that is capable of carrying itself up an incline, just keep one thing in mind:  When you drive up a hill, you’re going to have to apply more pressure to the gas pedal. It’s really not that hard. Are people that clueless that they are unable to sense when their car is slowing down? Are they not paying attention to the speedometer either? Are folks just not used to driving and are afraid to press the pedal farther than normal?

First off, I think you shouldn’t be driving if you are afraid to drive correctly. Second, you should definitely be paying attention to your speedometer. It’s kind of important. Granted, the speedometer may not be super accurate, which creates it own set of problems (I’ve generally ranted about slow drivers plenty of times before). All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be afraid to be apply more gas, raise the RPMs a little, and get yourself successfully over a hill at a reasonable speed.

I suppose that’s a sentiment you can’t take into your non-driving life as well.

 

1. Photo from: http://midwestenergynews.com/2011/03/08/does-efficiency-matter/geo-metro/
2. Photo from: https://www.nathansgibson.org/nlrb-targets-independent-contractor-classification-truck-drivers/18-wheeler-tractor-trailer/

 

Remembering to Look

I apologize for disappearing from the blog for several years. Luckily (I suppose), this hiatus has allowed me to develop even more driving pet-peeves to discuss! Driving is a very complex task, and it’s easy to develop bad habits. The goal of WDYLHTD is to bring these bad habits to people’s attention. It’s important to “check yourself before you wreck yourself,” so to speak.

With that in mind, I’m here to talk about where people look when they’re turning onto a road. I’ve noticed that people tend to only look one direction. Visual representations:

sketch1501878957667

Someone making a right turn will only look to their left (green squiggle is the area of vision).

sketch1501879002158

Someone making a left turn will only look to their right (green squiggle is the area of vision).

It seems as though folks get stuck looking only at the lane into which they are turning.

You were probably told to look both ways before you cross the street, right? Well, the same applies to driving… although it’d probably be something more like “look everywhere before you go anywhere.”

Anyway, problems can occur when you neglect to observe all sides of your surroundings. These problems include:

  1. Pulling out in front of/hitting another vehicle. This is most likely to occur when making a left turn. If you’re only looking to your right at the cars traveling in the lane you wish to join, you’ll miss all of the traffic traveling IN THE LANE THAT’S NEAREST TO YOU. Jesus Christ on a bicycle, it’s one of the scariest things to see while driving. On numerous occasions, I’ve had to slow down for someone pulling into the road right in front of me to make their left turn… without even once looking in my direction
  2. Hitting pedestrians/cyclists. These meandering embodiments of mayhem can show up at anytime and come from any direction. Pedestrians, especially, are sneaky and will often pop out of nowhere, hiding their intentions to cross until the last minute. If you’re not checking the “other direction” (whatever direction that may be), you run the very real risk of driving right into someone who’s pedaling by or crossing the street in front of you. That’s bad. Don’t do that.

So, what can you do to avoid falling into this trap? The simple answer would be to—duh—just remember to look in both directions before you make a move. However, that may be difficult for some people to remember. Others may need a stronger directive. For those folks, you might try looking the “other direction” every 7 seconds while you’re waiting AND BEFORE YOU LET OFF THE BRAKE! Especially that last part. Everyone should do that last part. Don’t even inch forward without looking at what’s in front of you.

Driving requires active participation, so actively remember to look both ways when you’re making a maneuver.

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

-George Carlin

Boy, it has been a while

I do apologize for disappearing. Life has a way of making things disappear. Like my tolerance for traffic! But today on my ways to and from work, I attempted a new strategy — chilling the fuck out.

Normally I like to get to where I’m going at the fastest speed possible because, well, fast is fun. It’s not that I’m running late all the time, I just like to drive quickly all the time. But in the desperate need to break speed limit laws, I tend to get stuck falling down an endless pit of anger, frustration, profanity, hatred (and of course, despair). It’s probably bad for my overall well-being that I get trapped in a cycle of questioning the meaning of life every time I venture onto the roads. Thus, I attempted to chill the fuck out… and you know what… it actually worked. I’d be stuck in a line of people at a light, and where I would have angrily cut into the other lane to pass them all, I would just say to myself “that’s fine, no need to be anywhere this very second.” To my own amazement it worked, and my commute went relatively pain-free today.

So, I’ve decided to return to my blog with suggestions on how to remain calm in the face of terrifying, terrible, treacherous, and torpid traffic.

1.) Listen to music. It’s a lot nicer to sit at a light or be stuck behind a giant line of people for whatever reason when a good song is playing. Whether it’s music you bring yourself or something’s that playing on the radio, turn that shit up and calm the fuck down. Sing along if you want. Dance in your car if you want. Whatever takes you to a happy place, get on it.

2.) Affirmations. Just repeat to yourself “There is no reason I need to be at my destination this very minute” or “calm down, you’ll get to your destination eventually” or “this isn’t the Oregon Trail, you don’t have to rest for three days until conditions improve.” Of course, this only works if you’re legitimately not running late for anything. If you are running late for something incredibly important, then you’re s.o.l.

3.) Take in the sights. You’re probably not looking around much on your daily commute, so take those times when you’re stuck in traffic to look around you. You might find some cool things, like a pretty tree you never noticed before or a hole-in-the-wall shop that you might want to check out some time. Granted, not all commutes are pretty, but do your best.

4.) Meditate. If you’re into that kind of thing. Just don’t close your eyes for too long…

5.) Think about stuff. Happy or productive stuff, though. Things like what groceries you need to get, ideas for a project at work or school, clever ways to ask out that guy or girl you’ve been eyeing for a while, what to have to dinner, and where you’d want to go for vacation. Avoid things like how your life is being wasted away sitting in traffic or how you could have avoided being stuck behind that accident had you taken a different route home after work.

Try some of these techniques while out on the road… maybe it’ll make your drive a little less stressful.

Also, now that’s nice out, I need to try and not swear aloud so much while I drive because people might hear me when I have the windows down.

Also also:

Making left turns correctly

I’m sure we’ve all done it — some more to an extreme than others. However, there are drivers that take extreme to fucking dangerous.

In this post, I’m going to talk about when people turning left cut into the on-coming lane (often into the left turn lane on that side of the intersection). A visual display would probably be helpful:

inters car 1-a

This blue car is not following a path of righteousness. It is following a path through the dark side. The side of the road that he/she is not supposed to be on.

This frustrates the hell out of me when I’m entering a turn lane and have to slam on the breaks before I am hit by one of these assholes. I once saw someone turn onto a road and drive about 50 feet on the wrong side of the road before, you know, driving correctly. Thankfully no one was coming the opposite direction so doom and destruction didn’t occur, but this driving habit is horribly dangerous. This can happen:

inters car 1-b

Why do people find it necessary to take this kind of “shortcut.” It’s not really any quicker than making the turn correctly. It’s just, I suppose, a more direct path to get to where you want to go? Unfortunately, it’s fucking stupid to do that! Do you drive in the opposite lane of traffic for a while when you’re planning on making a left turn into a McDonald’s because it’s a more direct path to the drive-thru. NO! YOU FUCKING DON’T! Why? Because either you’ll hit someone or someone will hit you. It’s pretty much common sense (unless you’re insane and running from the cops) that you stay on your side of the road. Just stay there. It’s not difficult. If that is difficult for you, you need to never ever drive again ever in your entire life. Sell your car. Just get rid of it. You won’t need it. You shouldn’t even have a bicycle. That would be even worse.

Anywho, this is the correct path you should be taking when making a left turn:

inters car 1-C redone

You drive forward a bit so the front of your car will be able to make it to the correct side of the road you are trying to turn onto without having to cut off that bottom turn lane. This is step one, and the most important step. How far you drive straight  forward will vary depending on the size of the intersection and the size of the vehicle, but you must go straight FIRST (sorry Paint made the whole “straight line” idea a bit difficult, but you get the idea). Naturally, some problems can occur when there are people trying to turn from both sides of the intersection and there’s not really enough room in the middle to accommodate both, but you can figure it out.

Plan your turn. For those of us that do participate in some sort of automotive sport, this is a pretty automatic judgement. For all of you who drive to work, the grocery store, and the doctor’s office and hate driving in general, this is going to be a mental workout. “Is this far enough? Am I actually going straight? When do I start my turn? Dear god what am I doing with my life?” But it will be okay. I promise. Trial and error. Hopefully your error doesn’t end up being an accident, but when no one’s in that bottom turn lane, don’t cheat. Work on, you know, driving properly and not being a dick. It will pay off in the long run. Just because you got your license doesn’t mean you get to stop learning about the skill of driving.