Tip #8 — Using Motion and Road Grade to Benefit Your Passengers.

Have you ever ridden with someone who seemed to think his or her car was a wild bronco with the drivers only responsibility being to hold the reins? Its a fun experience only if you are a young kid and the driver has promised to let you drive next!

Most passengers in a motorcar, I believe, appreciate a driver who is thoughtful of them. In fact, I honestly believe safety itself is a good reason to practice smooth driving. In this day of gasolines astronomical price rise, I am sure your fuel efficiency will improve, too, with the mastery of some simple but important principles of smooth driving.

First, lets talk about motion. A sure sign of either an inexperienced or thoughtless driver portrays itself as the driver approaches a stop light or sign. When the driver toes the brake to a stop and holds firmly to the pedal to the absolute stop, the auto will lurch, at least slightly. If you are coming down from a higher rate of speed and “pin” the brake pedal this lurch will be very pronounced. The forward motion of passengers (and the driver too, of course) will tend to continue as the vehicle beneath them lurches to a stop. That rocking back and forth, to me, creates the feeling that I am part of a rodeo on the receiving end of what is being dished out by a contrary horse! There is a better way.

With a little practice, during routine stops, the driver can let up the brake pedal, ever so slightly, just before complete stop. You will still come to a complete stop but the motion will be absorbed as you ease the brake and the passengers will experience a smooth ride during your stop.

The same is true as you accelerate. I have ridden with enough of those who practice “pedal to the metal” acceleration away from a light to wonder if they believe the purpose of the head rest is to prohibit the snapping off of the heads of the passengers. This is probably the single most expensive bad habit you can develop as a driver.

Fuel efficiency drops dramatically as the RPMs (revolutions of the engine per minute) spike. Two other bad things happen in this case as well. First, every engine has only so many RPMs available in its life. Wear on piston rings, rod and main bearings plus cylinder wear all contribute to the eventual demise of the engine. In a sense, the more you ask from an engine determines the length of its life. Secondly, greater stress on the rest of the autos systems will come into play. What starts must stop with respect to driving in traffic. Constant unnecessary use of the brake pedal places excessive wear on brake pads and linings and, to a lesser degree, the whole brake system. Remember what the man in the car care commercial said? “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” Car work is expensive. Why not pay later? The whole drive train, especially the expensive transmission, is adversely affected by “jack rabbit” driving. Ugh!

The automobile I presently own, my wife and I bought used as a “one owner.” Every sign I could read of the car from its past told me it had received good care. Since I bought the car four years ago I have taken it to 159,000 miles from the 95,000 it had at the time. With just the decent maintenance we have given it, today you can barely hear the engine run. It burns no oil between changes. “Why is that?” you ask. The primary reason, I believe, is that I avoid high RPMs as I drive. Not only do I not drive at excessive speeds, I keep the engine turning at ample but not unnecessarily high speeds through the lower gears.

A driver can also contribute to the comfort of his passengers by paying careful attention to the grade you are on. As you round a curve and note a drop or rise in the grade, as you continue through that grade, you can minimize the discomfort of centrifugal force by alert driving. Stay within your own lane, of course, but practice “driving across the curve” you are approaching. That is, minimize the amount of “turn” you must place on the wheel. By dropping down to the bottom of the curve as the pitch of the roadway becomes more pronounced, you can gradually give way to the higher side with less effect upon your passengers (and yourself). The reverse is also true. As I said, stay within your own lane. But, most roadways are wide enough for a little latitude. Use it. None of your passengers will notice your thoughtfulness enough to say so, probably. But, if they have to “hold on for dear life” because you are ignorant or thoughtless of a few ways to enhance their comfort, you may hear about it.

Have a safe and happy drive!


  1. That had some good stuff in it Dad but I must admit as Tim and I read it aloud together we had a few laughs. Keep up the good work, teacher. We will put this in our driver’s log.

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