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10 common driving misconceptions

Is driving in bare feet illegal? Mistaken beliefs about driving continue to cloud many motorists. Here are 10 common misconceptions:

On the road, knowledge is power.

But mistaken beliefs about driving and proper road behaviour continue to cloud many motorists. With that in mind, here are 10 common driving misconceptions as observed by Ian Law.

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1. Driving in bare feet is illegal: No where in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act does it say driving barefoot is illegal. Being able to feel the pedals and how much pressure you apply to them is important to safe driving. Wearing thin soled shoes helps with the important communication you do with your vehicle through the brake or gas pedals. Stiff soled shoes or boots can lead to applying too much pressure on the pedals or worse to the wrong pedal. Even though driving in bare feet will give you the best feel for the pedals, I don’t recommend it, especially in February. I also do not recommend flip-flops as the open toe can get caught in the pedals. Thin soled shoes are best for driving.

2. Tailgating the vehicle in front will make them go faster: Following a vehicle too closely because you are in a hurry will not make them drive faster. In many cases it can cause them to slow up. If a driver is worried about another driver following too close, they can sometimes become preoccupied with the tailing vehicle and miss important information in front of them. It can also lead to road rage if the vehicle in front attempts a “brake check” on the tailgating vehicle to teach them to back off. If I am being tailgated, I will slow down to allow for more braking room in an emergency and to encourage the tailgater to pass me.

3. Rushing up to red lights will save time: When approaching a red light it is best to slow gradually rather than rush up to the red light. Slowing down gradually will reduce the chances of being hit from behind as well as save on fuel and brake wear.

4. Left lane is the fastest lane: Often, because the vehicle population of the left lane is higher, it will only move faster for a short time. The left lane tends to become overpopulated first and this will cause it to slow or stop. The left lane will often go into “yo-yo mode” as it will speed up and then stop repeatedly. This causes increased fuel consumption and mechanical wear on the vehicle. In times of this high volume traffic, usually the right continues to move along as there are fewer vehicles in it.

5. Bigger equals safer: Some motorists believe driving a bigger vehicle will make them safer. This mindset is based on hoping to survive a crash instead of avoiding the crash in the first place. Often, larger vehicles have much more mass and this tends to prevent the vehicle from changing direction or stopping efficiently which increases the likelihood of being involved in a crash. Smaller vehicles tend to have better agility to help them get away from collisions. Bigger is not always safer as there will always be something bigger to collide with.

6. Drivers are capable of multi-tasking: Humans are not able to multi-task as some people believe. The human brain will compartmentalize and priorities tasks but it will never do two at once. Therefore, drivers cannot carry on a conversation or fiddle with the stereo and process important driving information all at the same time. If you carry on a conversation, you may not be processing important road information that could save your life.

7. All-wheel drive is a safety feature: Some of the auto manufacturers will actually hint that all-wheel drive (also known as four-wheel drive) is a safety feature in their commercials and TV ads. AWD is a performance feature that only affects one aspect of your vehicle’s dynamics: acceleration. AWD will not give your tires more grip for braking or steering. This feature can actually mask how slippery the road is and lead to drivers being overconfident.

8. You can teach others how to drive from your vehicle: Parenting other drivers when they do something you don’t agree with seldom works. Too many times, drivers will attempt to punish other motorists who they feel have wronged them by blocking the offender or slowing down in front of them in a vain attempt to teach them not to do it again. It never works and usually leads to one-fingered salutes or, worse, road rage.

9. Fog lights: Many motorists drive with their fog lights on at night even though there isn’t a slight hint of fog anywhere to be found. Fog lights are designed to be used when the fog is so dense the headlights reflect back off the water droplets and make vision difficult. Fog lights are mounted low to cut under the fog and light up the road surface under the mist. Driving with fog lights on during clear nights does two things. One, it blinds oncoming drivers which is very dangerous and, two, it shows everyone else you don’t understand fog lights and probably think yourself quite sporty.

10. The middle lane is for driving in: Many motorists believe they are safer only on the middle lane when cruising along a multi-lane highway. Their mistake is they think the right lane should be only for merging cars or those exiting off the highway. In reality, the right lane is the safest lane to be in and the left lane should be kept open for passing. Trucks should also be on the right lane, using the middle lane as the passing lane. When they complete their pass they too should move back into the right lane. When you encounter merging traffic while driving in the right lane, simply check your mirrors and move into the middle lane to facilitate the merging traffic. Then return to the right lane when safe to do so. If traffic volume prohibits you from moving into the middle lane for merging traffic, simply slow down to allow a gap to develop for the merging vehicle. Flash your lights or wave them in to let them know you expect them to merge in front of you. Driving in the middle lane while going slower than the majority of traffic only causes traffic mayhem.

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