Dashboard Confessional

Those cute little lights on your dashboard aren’t there to look pretty – they’re trying to tell you something. Depending on what lights up, it could be anything from "Fasten your seat belt" to "Get me to a mechanic before I blow!" If you have no idea what your dashboard lights mean, you’re not alone. A AAA Personal Loan survey conducted in 2006 found 47% of women and 33% of men had no clue what these lights meant.

Here’s a hint: all you have to do is look in that little book that came with your car (you know, the owner’s manual you’ve never opened) to find out exactly what they mean, as well as what you should do when they start to light up or, even worse, flash. Over the years, informational devices have transformed from rudimentary information to precise codes that can pin-point mechanical problems down to specific systems, or even parts.

This computerized array of indicators offers a dizzying amount of information to the uninitiated. Keep in mind that most lights turn on for a few seconds when you first start your vehicle. This is perfectly normal. You only have to worry if the lights don’t turn off. Let’s go over a few of these indicators so you have some clue about what you’re looking at next time you turn the key:

  • Light Indicators – You no longer have to look at the switch (or, heaven forbid, outside the vehicle) to see which lights are on. The dashboard on this car will tell you if the parking lights, headlights, fog-lights, high beams, or signals are on.
  • Brake Warning Light – This will light up if there’s a problem with the regular braking system, the emergency brake, or the brake-fluid level.
  • ABS Light – If your ABS (Anti-Lock Brake) system is not working properly, this light will come on or start blinking. If the regular brake light isn’t on, your normal braking system is fine.
  • Seat Belt Reminder Light – Your friendly reminder to buckle up.
  • O/D Off – A reminder that you’ve turned your overdrive off. Not sure what overdrive is? Again, check that manual!
  • Air Bag Warning Light – If this one is lit while driving, it’s time to have your air bag serviced – make sure it’s working before you need it.
  • Fuel Door Reminder – This handy little icon’s main purpose is to tell you to shut the fuel door, but it also lets you know which side of the gas pump to park on.
  • ESC Lights – This is a two-part light. One tells you if you’ve turned electronic stability control off and the other tells you if it’s malfunctioning.
  • Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) – The little engine icon means that the on-board diagnostic computer has detected a problem. It can be anything from a loose gas cap to a major engine or transmission problem.

The five characteristics of defensive driving are:

Knowledge Good defensive drivers will have knowledge of the traffic laws and the basics about their vehicles, such as how the brake system operates and how to read gauges and lights on the dash.
Alertness Good defensive drivers are alert to what is going on around them. They are well rested and would never take any drugs or alcohol that could affect their concentration before riding in a vehicle.
Anticipation Defensive drivers anticipate what may or may not happen, and they take action to avoid many problems. They anticipate potential hazards from other motorists, pedestrians, weather and equipment and take steps to minimize the risk.
Judgment Good defensive drivers do not make risky maneuvers like trying to beat red lights. They don’t try to pass unless it’s safe and they look for alternatives to any traffic situation.
Skill Good defensive drivers have the technical skills to operate the motorcycle safely through traffic without endangering anyone else on the road.

One of the most dangerous areas in any road is the intersection. Cross traffic, turning vehicles and pedestrians can make getting across an intersection dangerous. Many intersection accidents occur when drivers fail to use their turn signals or don’t know the right-of-way laws. Aggressive drivers will try to beat the red light and speed dangerously through an intersection.

Intersections: "Know, Show, Slow, Go".

Know Know who has the right-of-way, but never insist on the right-of-way.
Show Communicate your intentions to other drivers. Use your turn signals, Signals, brake lights and motorcycle movement.
Slow When approaching an intersection, you need to slow down and be Prepared to stop.
Go Verify that the intersection is free of vehicles and pedestrians; then go safely.

Lane changing: "S.M.O.G."

There are definite advantages to be had by honing your driving skills through an intensive driving course. Driving, like any other skill, is something that can be improved with specialized training. An intensive driving course can improve the skills of any driver, from newly licensed teenagers to adults with many years of driving experience.

Car Handling Skills

Though most people received some form of driver training before obtaining their license, this training generally focuses on the rules of the road instead of specific car handling skills. One of the main advantages of an intensive driving course is getting to know exactly what a car can and can't do. Courses put you in situations to teach you this exact thing. They teach you things like over-steering and under-steering and how they affect the way a car feels at and beyond the limit. They also teach you how to remain calm during intense driving maneuvers so you do not overreact and make matters worse. In a nutshell, an intensive driving course will teach you to "feel" what the car is doing instead of just being along for the ride.

Defensive Driving

Once you have been taught the basics of how a car handles and how to properly control it, many driving courses teach you how to apply these skills to real-world situations. For example, when someone cuts in front of you on the highway. Instead of panicking, locking up the brakes, and crashing into the person that cut you off, a driving course will teach you how to look for and avoid these potentially dangerous driving situations. A driving course will also teach you how to maintain control of your car incase you need to maneuver past them.

Knowing What to Do in an Emergency

Another area in which an intensive driving course can improve your driving is in reacting to emergency situations such as skidding, a flat tire or avoiding an accident that is happening right in front of you. Becoming familiar with the way a car handles in extreme situations during a driver course will help you when you encounter something similar in the real world. An intensive driving course will teach you not only how to react and recover from situations such as skidding, it will also help you learn how to avoid them in the first place. Additionally, most driving courses teach you how to remain calm and deal with situations. An intensive driving course offers many advantages, even if you aren't trying to become a race car driver. Simply becoming more familiar with how a car handles at and beyond its limits will make you a much better driver in any situation you encounter.

By following a few simple tips, new drivers can easily mask their inexperience and make driving more enjoyable for yourself and the other motorists on the roads.

Keep Your Hands on the Wheel

It may sound simple, but many people, and new drivers especially, have trouble following that simple suggestion. Before your car ever leaves the driveway, adjust your mirrors, your seat and anything else you may have to before you take off. Doing this prevents you from having to make these adjustments on the road, which can easily take your eyes off of what's in front of you and create a dangerous situation.

Stop Touching the Radio

Everyone likes listening to their favorite music while driving. It helps pass the time on those long trips, and can make short trips fun. However, it can also be highly dangerous. If your vehicle has radio controls on the steering wheel, use those instead of leaning over to touch the unit itself. It will make it easier for you to focus. Better still, set your station before you depart and leave it there. It's also recommended to drive with the radio off during your first few times behind the wheel. Get to know your vehicle before you add other distractions.

Turn Your Cell Phone Off

In today's world, everyone is connected wirelessly. Text, email, phone calls, music—today's wireless phones are multimedia powerhouses. While that's all fine and good, they are not driving aids. If anything, they are driving inhibitors. Studies have shown that driving while trying to send out a text message is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Do yourself, and everyone else on the road, a favor and turn your phone off. Turning it off is the easiest way to avoid a distraction from a message or a call. If you really need to use your phone in an emergency situation, pull over to the side of the road or into a gas station first. Never talk on the phone while driving. In some states, this is illegal and a ticketable offense.

Wear Your Seat Belts

This is another tip that may sound painfully obvious, but many people don't take heed. First and foremost, wearing a seat belt is scientifically proven to help prevent injury in an accident. Second, not wearing your seat belt is a ticketable offense in 49 of the 50 states. Save yourself the hassle, and the money, and just wear your seat belt. It could save your life.

Stay in Your Lane

Yet another seemingly apparent rule of driving that many people just can't follow. Pay close attention to what lane you are driving in. If you cut a person off you can cause an accident, or a backup in traffic. If you find it difficult, consider getting a car with a hood ornament and using it as a guide to make sure you stay in your lane more often.

My name is Yvette, and I live in Elizabeth. I have a daughter whom is deaf, and recently obtained her drivers permit. I have never seen her so happy. She was excited because she has something regular kids her age have, a permit. That happiness was about to change. It was time to find a driving instructor for her. I searched high and low and called every driving school in the Union, Essex, Middlesex, and Bergen County area. All of the schools refused to teach her how to drive because she was deaf. I was so upset and hurt, because they were not even willing to give her a chance. I didn't have the heart to tell my daughter so I kept lying telling her, I was waiting for call backs. Well as luck would have it one day at DMV someone I know there introduced me to a driving instructor. We started talking and I explained my situation. Without hesitation he was willing to teach my daughter how to drive. Later that week I arranged to have him come and meet my daughter. As luck would have it she took to him well that he took her driving. When she came home and he left she was like a kid in a candy store. I have never seen her fingers move so fast in sign language to tell me how it went. I could tell I found the right person and the right driving school. My daughter bugs me every day to call or email him so she can drive. She enjoys her time with him. She says he is very calm and relaxed and he makes driving fun. She said he doesn't treat like a Deaf person; he treats her like a person. That right there was the highlight that made me cry....The driving school is ROAD RULES DRIVING SCHOOLand the instructors name is MIKE..

If you or anyone you know with a (any) disability, before you drive yourself crazy searching for a driving school or instructor call him. You will not regret it. I promise you. Between him and his staff you cannot find any better. They will make you feel like family. So remember if you want to learn call ROAD RULES ask for MIKE. If you want to waste your time and money than call someone else.

Mike was extremely professional and courteous during my daughter's driving lesson. For someone who was nervous driving, he made her feel very relaxed and confident. I find now that she is a very confident driver and knows the rules of the road extremely well. I am so thankful that my daughter had such a great instructor! Thanks to Mike I am a little bit more relaxed with the idea of her driving!

I am happy to recommend Mike and Road Rules Driving School. Not only did Mike quickly form a trusting relationship with my daughter and tailor his instruction exactly to her needs, but he went above and beyond driving instruction. He patiently answered all my questions via phone and email, and he even went to the DMV for us to reschedule my daughters road test appointment! He made us both feel confident, welcoming my participation in the process, and his prices are competitive. I will definitely be calling Mike again when my younger daughters are ready to learn to drive.