Driving isn't a right--it's a privilege.
We don't always treat it that way, though. All too often, we forget the basic courtesies, the finer points of driving.
Don't worry. It happens to all of us. Need some help? Then bone up on this conclusive list of everything you need to know to be a better driver.
Before you read, know this isn't the same advice you'd get from typically useless American driver's education. This is real-world, 21st-century stuff that recognizes you use your car as more than entertainment, more than transportation.
You car is a job, a life, a home, a weapon, a buddy. The new rules of the road for driving, owning, parking, and using your car have to reflect that, not some pat rule about following five car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you.
Here's how to make sure you don't make a mess of that somewhat co-dependent relationship.
Streaming video rearview mirror from the 2016 Cadillac CT6Enlarge Photo
Getting set up
Adjust your mirrors, seat, and controls before you put it in gear. Of course, this is where to start. The new angle? Set a memory position if you have one, as many cars now do. And spend some time getting the perfect angle for the rearview and sideview mirrors, because soon they'll all be replaced by cameras, and you'll miss them.
Keep your insurance card up to date, in your car or on your phone. Many car-insurance carriers now offer electronic identification. Download their app, keep it updated. Check to see if it overrides your passcode in an emergency -- or if you're totes paranoid, set your lock screen to a picture of your policy card. If none of this sounds familiar, make sure you keep the latest, active version of the printed card on your person and not in the car.
Keep your license plate mounted and clear of debris. This is for the rest of us, so we can report you when we need to. But it also will keep you from getting pulled over by the cop who can't see it, and therefore thinks you have something to hide.
Sit up straight and set the proper driving position. This isn't your living room couch. Hands on the wheel, chest at least a foot away from the airbag module, with the gauges framed by the wheel and a clear line of sight to traffic lights from below the windshield frame.
Prep your workstation. Plug in your phone, and put it and your wallet in a convenient storage bin. You might need them at a stop.
Take an advanced car-control driving school. You're not doing it for the hours, or to get your provisional license. You're doing it so you can respond quickly and correctly when the three cars ahead of you decide to get intimately acquainted with each other.
Turn signal mirror
Turn signal mirrorEnlarge Photo
Basic courtesy and safety
Use turn signals. You paid for them, use them so we know what's going on, and can prepare for what's about to happen. Side note: it also makes you think more deliberately about what you're doing and what may be in the way.
Pay attention to traffic lights and when they change. Quit with the radio fiddling and talking to your passengers and even dancing or reading. We're all waiting to get through this light, and the chances we'll have to gun through a yellow go up exponentially when you're an engaged driver.
Be aware of elderly drivers that might need a little encouragement. It will be you one day. Be kind.
Don't get up in our grille just because you're late getting home. Your problem becomes our problem when you turn into an aggressive driver with a time-management issue. So you're late: the world will not stop rotating. If it's a true emergency, call 911.
Don't use your SUV or truck to block the view of traffic for normal-size cars. Normal's a tricky word with today's fleet of trucky wagons, but remember, you may be sitting three feet over and ahead of a vehicle simply trying to make a legal turn.
If you're driving an SUV, a truck, or a tall van, pay even more attention. You're responsible for a larger mass and a higher head count than other vehicles. Make sure that matters to you.
Practice installing, and use, your child car or booster seat. Because those kids are your future chauffeurs.
EVERYONE GETS A SEATBELT. This is non-negotiable.