How to Drive Like a Pro, According to Science

If you’re like most of us, you probably learnt the basics of driving after taking several driving lessons at your local driving school. If you were lucky, you might have been taught by your parent or relative at a young age. While the latter method seems crude, it still ends up producing good drivers. However, these drivers normally have to get the necessary credentials and training from a recognized driving school.

The typical learning curve involves going through various steps as a beginner. These steps are taught through theoretical and practical tests. There’s normally an evaluation at the end of each to determine if the student should progress to the next level or undergo more practice. One of the most important steps in learning how to drive is acquiring knowledge of the rules and safety precautions.

If one gets trained by a family member or friend, they may not get acquainted that well with traffic laws. This makes it necessary to attend a driving school of your choice to learn about road safety and rules. Being part of a class also helps to boost confidence as you practice and learn with other beginners. In addition, the presence of a licensed and experienced supervisor increases chances of passing the final test.

Driving Like a Pro

Having taken driving lessons is one of the best ways to start your driving journey. But, this is often not enough to get you to drive like a pro. Driving like a pro takes experience and constant driving. You get to learn how to balance your eye-hand coordination and the things you hear and feel.

People have different experiences while driving. It sometimes depends on the car they choose to go with. Unlike the newer cars, older machines provide a visceral and tougher experience. This is especially true if the car has no automatic transmission, no ABS, has lower power, narrower tires, and taught suspension.

Thanks to driver ergonomics, car manufacturers now produce cars that can accommodate drivers of all sizes. Automakers use mannequins and simulation software to arrive at the most comfortable solutions for drivers. In addition to this, multiple systems in our brain help us to retain memory and cognition, even when we are not aware.

Memory and Cognition

For example, drivers have previously reported driving for long stretches while their mind wanders away. What’s surprising is that they are still able to stay on course without heading off-road or crashing. According to Howard Eichenbaum, a neuroscientist and professor at Boston University, there are two systems in the brain that help us achieve this.

The first is the declarative system. This is the active memory center. It helps us make decisions about what we will have for dinner and how to maneuver different places. It keeps all kinds of information in your head. If you’re trying to remember where you need to take a turn, you’re using your declarative system.

The system helps you figure out the best route to take to get to where you need to be. It also comes in handy when you need to act fast. Take for example, deciding when and where to pull over when an ambulance or cop car follows you from behind.

The second system is the habitual or implicit memory system. This system establishes memories from actions. When you accelerate, brake, or take a turn without thinking about it, you’re using your habitual memory system. It’s so impressive that it can take over completely on its own. The habitual system eventually learns to handle a lot more, such as recognizing and responding to multiple occurrences on the road like stop signs, red and green lights, and road rules. It’s also able to lock the paths that you use often, allowing your mind to wander while you stick to the route.

Tips to Become a Better Driver

Your brain’s ability to memorize driving routes and make decisions fast makes it a vital part of your driving experience. According to Scientific American, there are ways you improve your brain’s ability to perform. These and other tips help to improve your driving skills and to make you a pro driver.

Meditate

Driving requires a lot of attention. Your brain needs to filter through and interpret all that is happening on the road. It needs to make the right decision amongst all the options available. There is always something that is taking your attention away while driving. Examples include brake lights of cars in front of you, sirens and horns, billboards, the speedometer, pedestrians, and checking your mirrors for cops and other cars.

Research from the University of Washington shows that drivers that practice mindful mediation for at least two hours every week are able to focus better while multitasking. The study shows that meditation helps them notice distractions without losing focus on the main task.

Avoid Texting

Texting your friends and family is one of the most dangerous things you can do while driving. Just because your brain can guide your driving experience without you actually thinking about it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t concentrate. According to Paul Atchley, a psychologist at the University of Kansas’ Transportation Research Institute, hands-free cellphone chatting may be legal, but it isn’t safer.

Research conducted by cognitive psychologists also shows that handheld and hands-free phone use while driving have an equal amount of risk. It’s not the act of using your phone that distracts the brain, it’s the conversation. Atchley says that it’s better to switch your phone off completely or put it away. This is because human beings are wired to respond to messages from their peers. Chances of you reaching out for your phone when it rings are high. You’re better off if you can’t hear it.

Practice More Driving

Training your brain consistently is beneficial to your brain’s prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that helps us to prioritize information and understand rules. Less experienced drivers may not be good at deciding where to direct their attention. They may decide to follow the bumper ahead of them instead of looking at the cars ahead to anticipate stops and when to slow down. More practice helps the brain to pay attention to the most important things. Sharpen your skills by driving more.

How to Drive Like a Pro, According to Science
How to Drive Like a Pro, According to Science

Do Some Yoga

A pro driver uses his or her visual perception to maneuver obstacles and shift just in time when encountering traffic. Research carried out in India shows that people who practice yoga are able to develop an equal level of visual acuity. One report that was published in 2017 in the Journal of Modern Optics shows that adults and children who had gone through yoga lessons for a period of two months were able to distinguish between a pulsing flashing light and one that was steady. This was at a level more significant than that of the control subjects. Their meditative qualities, which they had accrued from yoga practice, were responsible for the improvement.

Drive Vigilantly

At any moment, about 10 percent of other drivers are normally distracted. This makes the situation more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol. According to Atchley, he assumes that all other drivers are out there to kill him. This has severally saved him from severe accidents. The best approach to driving vigilantly is paying attention to the cars around you. This helps to prepare for unforeseen swerves and stops.

Maintain the Right Posture

There are generally seven rules of thumb that drivers can follow to maintain the right posture.

  1. Ensure that your body is comfortable and that your joints are at an optimal position. This prevents pain during long drives.
  2. Joints should not toggle during driving.
  3. Your legs should be comfortably placed and wide enough. Let your knees be in line with your hands.
  4. Use extra padding where there isn’t enough thigh support.
  5. Place your hands on the steering wheel at a 10-2 position. This, however, could vary depending on how comfortable you are as a driver. Recent studies show that lowering your hands to either 8-4 or 9-3 positions gives you more stability and control when driving. It’s also a more comfortable position as your muscles are able to stay relaxed.
  6. Ensure that your right ankle is in a position where switching between the brake and throttle are easy. If you do this right, you should not feel any pain at the ankle or toes.
  7. Ideally, try and achieve the following body angles while driving:
    • Hip: 1000
    • Ankle: 1100
    • Knee: 1050
    • Elbow: 1500 for cars and less for trucks.
    • Shoulder: 300
    • Wrist: 50

Don’t Speed

Being a pro driver doesn’t mean breaking speed records. Speeding only increases your chances or getting involved in an accident and endangering the lives of other drivers. Also, research shows that it’s only beneficial if you’re going for long trips. Driving 10 mph above the speed limit on trips shorter than 500 miles only saves you 12 minutes. This is on a trip that lasts an hour long. When you consider congestion and traffic lights, the 12 minutes quickly diminish to an insignificant number. This makes speeding not worth the legal and safety risks. Always aim at driving below or at the posted maximum speed limit. This ensures that you get to your destination safe and without any speeding tickets.