The right way to drive in the city in slow traffic
Driving in slow moving city traffic can be quite a workout session. City driving puts lots of stresses on a driver as he has to constantly be mindful of his environment and frequently keep making adjustments to his driving style.
Most Indian cars are all manual transmission variants, with automatics making up a very minute population of cars – less than 0.01% of the vehicular density in a large cities. In such a scenario, we offers you some tips on how to handle the stresses of city traffic.
Go easy on the clutch
The biggest wear and tear component of city driven cars is the clutch. People tend to ride the clutch or use “half clutch”, which is partially releasing the clutch to just gain some momentum while crawling in city traffic. This is terrible for the clutch and it will wear out much faster than expected. It can also lead to secondary problems – like the braking problem of the new Maruti Swift.
The ideal technique to keep moving in city traffic is to wait till the car ahead has moved a few feet, then shift into first gear, release clutch fully and move ahead. When you have to stop in traffic, press the clutch, shift to neutral and release the clutch. This will ensure that the clutch pressure plate and friction plate last longer and don’t get overheated. It will also ensure you don’t have to constantly keep the clutch pressed.
With modern common-rail diesel vehicles this is easier, as you can use the high-torque that and stall-free nature of these engines to crawl along in city traffic. Engage first gear and slowly release the clutch fully, and the car will keep crawling along.
Don’t rev up the car ahead and then slam on your brakes. The car behind you may not be able to stop as fast as you can. Drive gently and smoothly if you can.
Get an automatic
Of course, if you find the constant clutch use cumbersome, you are better off buying an automatic transmission car if your use is primarily in the city. Unfortunately, there are no good diesel automatics that come cheap, with the Verna diesel AT being the cheapest you can get. However, among petrol automatics there are quite a range of cars to choose from, especially among sedans, while there are four hatchbacks at the moment that also offer automatic options – the Hyundai i10, Hyundai i20, Maruti A-Star and upcoming Honda Brio AT that will be launched in a few days. You can also convert a petrol automatic to run on CNG if you wish.
Use outside rear-view mirrors
Make full use of your external rear view mirrors and the internal mirror in city traffic. The left side mirror is particularly useful to spot two-wheelers and others who may be trying slip past on the left. You can also get small convex mirrors (called blind spot mirrors) and fix them to your external mirrors to give you a wider field of view.
Stick to the correct lane
This is one rule that is almost never followed in India. And if it were followed by at least half the drivers it would take half the stress out of city driving. If you must take a turn, plan in advance and use your indicators while shifting lanes to get into the correct lane to take a turn.
When coming to a stop in city traffic make sure you first check your rear view mirror. This is more so when the light is changing from amber to red, as there may be a driver behind you who is trying to beat the light and not anticipating that you will stop. Feather the brake when you see the light change to amber. This will ensure your brake lights come on and indicate to following traffic that you are about to stop. Don’t panic brake, as you are more likely than not to get rear-ended by the car behind you.
Use a GPS
If you are in an unfamiliar part of town it is advisable to carry a GPS device with you. This will at least tell you the route and you won’t have to stop and hold up traffic asking for directions. These days most smartphones have built-in GPS and Google Maps. If you have one use it.
Use parking sensors
Parking in tight spots in the city can be tough. Parking sensors are a good option to have as they will allow you to back up more confidently and be warned of obstacles much in advance. This accessory is widely available for almost any car. Larger vehicles like SUVs and sedans can also use a reverse camera to help in parking in tight spots.
Two major distractions in city traffic are loud music and the use of cellphones. Avoid talking on the mobile phone and driving. These days most cars offer hands-free built-in units. Get one if you can or fit an aftermarket hands-free system to your car. Or better still, don’t answer the phone. Keep music volume low enough to be able to hear horns from other vehicles.