A passport to safer driving

24 07 2008

I really didn’t intend to write this entry, but I have spent a disastrous evening trying to update my TomTom with the latest UK map, which the TomTom site lists rather grandly as “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. Anyway, I’ll come to that later.

It is my belief that there are 4 components to safer driving:

  1. an automatic gearbox
  2. a talking satellite navigation system (satnav)
  3. air-conditioning
  4. cruise control

An automatic gearbox. Years ago my employer sent us all on a course entitled “Drive and Survive”. It wasn’t that they particularly wanted us to survive, but rather that the company car insurance premium would be reduced by about 20% which represented a significant saving. One of the key things that we were taught was to abandon the (old) practise of changing down through the gearbox when approaching a hazard. (You’ll not find that it’s taught in any driving school these days – hooray.) The old principle arose from the early days of motoring when brake pad technology was not really that brilliant; brakes weren’t particularly efficient and pads wore out quickly – hence use the gearbox to slow down. The drawback is that at exactly the time that you need to be focusing on what’s happening outside the car (i.e. approaching a hazard) you are busy dipping your left foot up and down, and one hand is off the steering wheel as you stir the gear lever like crazy down through the gears. When I voluntarily moved to a car with automatic transmission, I suddenly realised that what we had been taught was the closest you can get to driving an automatic. You should make one gear change into whichever gear is appropriate for negotiating the hazard, and concentrate solely on braking and steering, which of course is what an automatic lets you do.

A satnav system.There is nothing hairier than negotiating a fast unfamiliar roundabout, or complex road junction when you don’t know where you’re going and you can’t even see a relevant sign. In the very place when you need to be concentrating on what all the other ‘idiots’ are doing, you may be craning your neck upwards to read a sign that is just about to disappear from view. Now, I’m not saying that satnavs are perfect, but you do get some idea at least of where you are meant to be going, and often it gently coaxes you through confusing situations. (I was coming back from a client meeting at Ealing Hospital on Tuesday, and TomTom said I had to do a U-turn in 350 yards. Normally this is reserved for when you have overshot some previous instruction, but sure enough the way home was to do a U-turn across a dual carriageway because there had been no right turn allowed at the previous junction. Bizarre!) A word of warning. A satnav is an ‘aid’ to motoring. It is not a substitute for the human brain. Remember the Stephen Covey principle from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”; between every stimulus and a response is a decision. You still need to evaluate what your satnav is saying to you. Does this make sense in the context of what I can see outside my vehicle? Finally a satnav keeps you constantly updated as to when you are likely to arrive and so you stop racing in the belief that you are going to be late. Hold-ups generally have very little effect.

Air-conditioning. Particularly when driving alone, keeping yourself in the chiller cabinet (18.5C) certainly cuts down the nodding head. But if you do find yourself nodding off,  remember that your loved one would probably prefer you late for dinner than the juicy insurance payout (strange as that may seem), and that appointment for a round of golf can always wait another day. There is rarely a good reason for pressing on.

Finally cruise control. It’s strange but true (imho) that concentrating on keeping your right foot on the throttle (a strange name for something that makes the engine go faster – or does it?) to preserve a certain speed is actually very tiring. Let cruise control do all that boring stuff. Stretch your legs, move them around, and concentrate on keeping as far away from everyone else on the road. There’s less chance of bumping into them.

And finally-finally back to TomTom. I decided to upgrade my map. I duly paid for it in the on-line shop, but when I came to download it the TomTom manager (called TomTom Home) refused to acknowledge that it was available for me. The help instructions (which I had read before I started the upgrade) said that if the system suggested an upgrade to TomTom Home I should accept, as it might be needed to complete the upgrade. But it never suggested! In the end, after about 4 ‘wasted’ hours of fiddling, I decided to go and look for the latest version in the support pages, and after installing it, it all came to life, except that my TomTom ran out of juice just as the download completed, and I had to go search for a suitable 5volt, centre-pin positive power supply. Oh the joys of being a techie. But I love it really.

If any of this is helpful, stimulating, or you have something to share or disagree with, please leave a comment. (You can get access to leaving comments by clicking on the title of this post.)

PS This post was actually started on the 23/7/2008, but I didn’t finish it until 2 am the following day.




2 responses

8 02 2009
Carried away with spam deletion « A Man must have a project……

[…] to see five items of spam – except they weren’t all spam. Someone had commented on my safer driving blog and left some detail about water-fuelled cars. It didn’t occur to me that it […]

8 02 2009

Apologies to whoever had posted comments on water-fuelled cars in Japan. It was caught up in the spam interceptor and unfortunately I deleted it before I realised it might be genuine. Do you want to re-post? – jr

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