Many drivers have collisions during their first week of owning a new car because they do not know where the controls are.
Whenever you get into a vehicle that is new to you, take time to find out where the controls are. You must be able to operate the windshield wipers, windshield washers, horn, lights, heater, radio, turn signals and emergency flashers without looking at them. With the vehicle stationary, practise looking at the road ahead while you reach and adjust each control.
Read the owner's manual. New vehicles have new design features that you should be familiar with if you are to drive safely and get maximum enjoyment and efficiency from your vehicle's equipment.
Before you drive check that:
- doors are properly closed (if security is an issue, you may want to lock your doors)
- all loose objects are secured
- your seat is properly adjusted
- head restraints are properly adjusted
- mirrors are properly adjusted
- air flow regulators are adjusted (vents, heaters, air conditioning)
- seatbelts are fastened and properly adjusted
- bulbs in warning lights are working and the lights go out when the engine starts (see owner's manual)
Design components for safety
Vehicle designers must prevent injury and reduce the seriousness of injury in crashes by building safety features into the design of every vehicle.
Important safety features include head restraints, seatbelts and airbags.
In some vehicles, the head restraints are built into the seat, while in others you have to adjust them.
If your vehicle is hit from behind, or if you hit someone in front, you are much less likely to suffer a whiplash injury to your neck if your head restraint is properly adjusted.
Adjust the height of the head restraint for each driver or passenger. The protection afforded is well worth the effort.
Adjust the pad of the restraint to support the back of your head. The top of your head restraint should never be lower than the top of your head.
A safe passenger compartment is an important part of vehicle design. The front and rear of a car are designed to collapse on impact while the passenger compartment remains undisturbed. Your chances of survival are, therefore, greatly increased if you remain in the passenger compartment.
Your seatbelt will keep you in your seat and will reduce the forces your body experiences in a crash.
In Saskatchewan, every vehicle occupant must wear a seatbelt where they are provided in a properly adjusted and securely fastened manner. Obey the law and increase your chances of surviving a collision. Put on your seatbelt every time you ride in a vehicle. To be most effective, seatbelts must be used properly. First, put the lap belt on, adjusting it to fit over your pelvis, and pull it snug. The lap belt is designed to take the force on your pelvis - not your stomach. Keep the lap portion low.
Next, adjust the shoulder portion of the seatbelt over your chest area. How you do this will vary from vehicle to vehicle. Some adjust automatically, others work like a window blind. Adjust your shoulder belt to make it snug, yet comfortable.
Shoulder belts should never be worn behind your back or under your arm. Drivers are legally responsible to ensure that passengers under 16 years of age use seatbelts where available and child safety seats, when appropriate. If not, the driver may be charged. Passengers aged 16 years and older are responsible for buckling themselves up.
In collisions, children can acquire severe injuries by being thrown about or completely out of the passenger compartment. This can happen more easily than with adults because they have heavy heads in relation to the rest of their bodies. Their necks and bodies are not strong enough to withstand the impact of a collision or sudden braking.
In Saskatchewan, small children must be properly fitted into approved child restraints that are correctly installed. Children who weigh less than 18 kg (40 lbs.) must be buckled into proper child safety restraints that are fastened to the vehicle by a seatbelt and any other straps specified by the manufacturer no matter who is transporting them - parent, grandparent, caregiver.
Major automobile manufacturers are now equipping many vehicles with airbags as standard or optional equipment. The tough fabric bags inflate in crashes over 16 km/h, cushioning an occupant's neck, head and chest in moderate to severe impact.
Children should never be put in the front seat of cars equipped with passenger-side airbags. The force of an airbag deploying is enough to critically injure or kill an infant or small child.
Airbags are not a replacement for seatbelts. Seatbelts alone provide all the protection a person needs in low and moderate-speed impacts. Airbags are most effective in high-speed crashes, where they often prevent serious injury.
Driver-side and passenger-side airbags are common features in newer automobiles. Airbags are also installed in the doors of some cars to prevent passengers from hitting their heads against the windows or pillars of the car during a collision.
Occupants must wear seatbelts to protect themselves in these circumstances and to ensure that in the event of a frontal crash, they remain in the seating position necessary for airbags to be effective.
If you do not sit properly, you cannot steer well nor can you use your brake or accelerator efficiently.
The proper way to sit:
- Sit up straight and well back into the seat. Your body should be firmly against the seat back and cushion.
- Move the seat forward or backward so your right foot is placed on the floor underneath the brake. The seat should be sufficiently forward so that your right leg cannot be straightened, and remains slightly bent even when you push hard.
With a manual transmission, depress the clutch with your left foot. When it is all the way down, your leg should still be slightly bent.
If, with the seat adjusted as far forward as it will go, you are too far back to be in this position, pad your back with cushions.
- If the seat height can be changed, adjust it so you can see over the steering wheel, preferably so that your line of vision is half way between the top of the steering wheel and the top of the windshield. If necessary, use a cushion to raise yourself to the correct height. Try also to have at least a fist's space between the top of your head and the roof of the vehicle.
The angle of the seat should be adjusted to support your thigh, but you should not have to use excessive force to depress any pedal to the floor.
- If the seat back is adjustable, move it so that your arms are slightly bent when you reach out and grasp the steering wheel in a "10 and 2" or "9 and 3" position. (See Steering)
- Adjust the head restraint so that the top edge is level with the top of your head.
Proper mirror adjustment is critical to safe driving. The following page outlines an excellent method to adjust your vehicle's mirrors to maximize your view of the road. Remember, always adjust your mirrors before you start to drive.
Begin with the rear-view mirror. Adjust the mirror so that you are able to see as much of the rear windshield as possible. While adjusting the mirror, aim to keep your head in the same position as it will be when you are actually driving your vehicle.
Adjusting your side mirror is a little more difficult. First, lean to the left so that your forehead is barely touching the side window. Then move the mirror so that you can just see the left side of your vehicle.
To adjust the right side mirror, position your head toward the centre of your vehicle. Adjust the mirror so that it shows just a sliver of the right side of your vehicle.
By setting mirrors so the driver can see both sides of the vehicle from the driving position, the same image will appear in all three mirrors. By setting them so the driver has to lean to see the sides of the car, the outside mirrors continue on where the inside mirror leaves off - significantly reducing the blind spot.
Another advantage of positioning your mirrors this way is that it reduces headlight glare from vehicles travelling behind you.
Left foot brace
The left foot brace refers to the bracing of your left foot against the fire wall (located below and behind the pedals separating the engine from the driving compartment) to support you and to keep you firmly in your seat.
Place your left foot against the fire wall and push whenever you need stability such as when negotiating a curve, when braking, in an emergency or on slippery pavement.
Bracing with your left foot helps you steer easily and well because you are not leaning on the wheel. Also, if you are not supporting your weight on the heel of your right foot, it is free to brake and accelerate with greater precision and control.
The fact that you need a left foot brace for controlled driving means you cannot use your left foot to brake. Always brake with your right foot.