Preparing for the Road: Essential Tips for Safe and Confident Driving

Prior to driving, ensure that you are confident in your physical, mental, and emotional state, as well as the vehicle you will be operating and the driving conditions. If you are unsure about any of these factors, do not drive.

Your ability to drive can vary from day to day due to illnesses, exhaustion, medication, emotional stress, and more. It is important to evaluate these factors before beginning to drive and to avoid driving if you are not in a fit condition.

Be Vigilant Both Physically and Mentally

It is necessary to be in good physical and mental shape prior to operating a vehicle. Refrain from driving if you are sick, injured, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol that may impact your ability to drive.

Do not drive when exhausted, as it can cause you to fall asleep at the wheel, endangering the lives of others on the road. Even if you resist dozing off, tiredness can affect your driving ability by slowing down your thinking and causing you to miss crucial visual cues. In urgent moments, you may make the incorrect decision or may not react quickly enough.

Title: a steering wheel and dashboard - Description: a steering wheel and dashboard

Avoid driving if you are experiencing intense emotions such as anger. Such feelings can impede your ability to think and respond rapidly.

Familiarize Yourself with Your Vehicle

Before taking off, take the time to acquaint yourself with the specific vehicle you will be using. Vehicles nowadays come in multiple types with distinct characteristics, such as fuel ignition systems, anti-lock brakes, four-wheel drive, traction control systems, and stability control systems. Many contemporary cars are equipped with various technologies to aid drivers with steering, braking, and/or accelerating, helping them stay within their lane, avoid, or reduce collisions, and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Consult the vehicle owner’s manual and other data supplied by the manufacturer to comprehend how these systems function, how to properly operate them, and their limitations.

Regardless of the technological features, remain conscious of how they work, be ready to resume control of the car in the event of an unintended or unexpected situation, and understand that you are responsible for all driving-related responsibilities.

the proper seating position for driver

Review the section on how to handle certain situations if you anticipate driving in difficult environments or circumstances.

Take note of where all the controls and instruments are and how they function. Verify that all warning lights and gauges are operational. If a warning light persists after you begin to drive, there might be a significant issue with your vehicle.

Familiarize yourself with the control panel enough to use wipers and washers, headlights, high beams, heater, and defroster without having to look at them. Understanding how to operate these essential controls without diverting your gaze from the road is a critical component of driving.

Position Yourself Properly

Ensure that you are seated properly behind the wheel. You should be seated at a height where you can see over the steering wheel and hood, and be able to view the ground four meters in front of the car. Employ a firm cushion if needed.

the blind spots for a car

Maintain an upright position, with slight bends in your elbows. Adjust the seat such that you can reach the pedals with your feet comfortably. To assess your posture, try placing your feet flat on the floor beneath the brake pedal. If you can accomplish this without stretching, you are seated properly. This allows you to maintain an upright position and provides more stability while steering the vehicle.

If your car has an adaptable headrest, ensure it is set at the right height. The middle of the headrest should be directly behind the back of your head to safeguard you in the event of a collision.

Ensure that you have enough room in the front seat to drive responsibly and safely. Don't overcrowd your driving space by carrying extra passengers or luggage.

a driver fastening seatbelt

Maintain a Clear View

While driving, ensure an unobstructed view. Refrain from placing anything in your windows that obstructs your vision. The windows of your vehicle should not be coated with materials that prevent you from seeing outside in any direction. The windshield and front door windows should not be coated with materials that obstruct people from seeing inside the vehicle.

Identify your visual blind spots

Diagram 2-3

It is crucial to check and adjust your mirrors to identify your blind spots, which are the areas on either side of your vehicle that you cannot see. Pedestrians or cyclists can be present in these areas without your knowledge. Some vehicles have such significant blind spots that another vehicle could be present, and you would not even notice.

To minimize blind spots, adjust your mirrors. In most vehicles, blind spots are present to the back left and back right of the car. To further reduce these blind spots, place the interior mirror in a way that allows you to see directly behind the car. Adjust the left outside mirror by looking out of the window and positioning it to see the rear of the car. The right outside mirror should be adjusted by leaning towards the center of the vehicle. Avoid overlapping visibility in your mirrors as they offer only limited angles of view. Do not forget to turn your head for shoulder checks, as it is the only way to ensure no one is in your blind spot.

a child car safety seat

You must learn about the blind spots on your vehicle. Ask someone to walk around the car and observe them through the mirrors to identify blind spots.

Buckle up

Diagram 2-4

Correctly using a seatbelt can save your life. A small increase in seatbelt usage can result in saving many lives.

When travelling in a vehicle with seatbelts, remember to wear them every time. Every passenger, including children, must have their seatbelt, child car seat, or booster seat. Drivers caught not wearing their seatbelt will face fines and two demerit points. Similarly, drivers may also face both if they do not ensure all passengers under 16 years of age are appropriately secure. Level One (G1) drivers can only have their accompanying driver as a front-seat passenger and must wear a seatbelt. Novice drivers must have a seatbelt for every passenger. Drivers who fail to ensure every passenger has a working seatbelt will lose their driving license for at least 30 days.

Wear your seatbelt snugly enough to keep you secure during a collision, and never put more than one person in a seatbelt, as it can cause severe injury or death. Ensure the shoulder strap is over your shoulder and the lap belt is low over your hips, not your stomach. Always wear your seatbelt even if sitting in a position with an active airbag, as airbags do not replace seatbelts. The seatbelt keeps you in position so that the airbag can protect you.

Note: Passengers have to be inside a vehicle, adequately belted in, to be safe. It is risky to travel outside a vehicle, such as the back of a pickup truck or a towed trailer. Passengers must be secured in a vehicle to avoid the risk of being thrown out of the car during an accident.

Visit the Ministry of Transportation website for additional information on seatbelts.

Child safety

Diagram 2-5

Children must be correctly secured in a child car seat, booster seat, or seatbelt depending on their age, weight, and height to be safe in the vehicle. Proper usage of a child car seat can reduce injury or fatality chances by 75%.

As a driver, it is your responsibility to buckle all passengers under 16 years old correctly. In Ontario, proper seats, child car seats, or booster seats are mandatory when transporting young children.

In Canada, child car seats must meet safety standards set by the Canadian Motor Vehicle authorities. To use them correctly, parents and caregivers should follow instructions provided by the manufacturer. Modern cars already have lower universal anchorage systems referred to as UAS, which do away with the need for seatbelts. However, ensuring that the child car seat is securely latched is still crucial regardless of the system used. Children weighing less than 20lbs must ride in a rear-facing car seat, never placing one behind an active airbag. Those who are 20-40lbs require a forward-facing seat that must be attached using the UAS strap or the vehicle's seatbelt. The lap and shoulder belt combination is used for booster seats, which provide 60% more protection than seatbelts alone. Properly installing child car seats in your vehicle is critical to secure the child's safety, and for primary-grade-aged children, it's mandatory to use booster seats when they outgrow forward-facing child car seats. Always ensure that all loose objects are secured using cargo nets or moved to the trunk for the safety of passengers in the event of sudden stops or collisions.

Wearing seatbelts also plays a crucial role in preventing injuries, especially in the event of collisions. They keep you inside the vehicle, maintain control, protect you from hitting the inside of the vehicle or other occupants of the car, reduce the risk of human collision, and ensure that you don't pass out in case of fire or sinking in water. Unrestrained infants or children can be thrown against the vehicle interior or collide with other people or objects or be ejected, resulting in severe injuries.

When driving in poor weather or at night, always turn on the headlights for clarity and to make your vehicle visible to others. High beams should be used sparingly and only in suitable conditions. They should be switched to low beams within 150 meters of an approaching vehicle to avoid causing a glare. If you are less than 60 meters close to another vehicle, use the low beam to prevent a blinding glare. Adhering to these guidelines will keep drivers, passengers, and pedestrians safe, even in tough driving conditions.

the road ahead when using high beam headlights

To activate the necessary light systems, such as your parking, tail, and rear-licence plate lights, you must turn on your headlights. Daytime running lights, either fused with your headlights or distinct, are designed to increase your vehicle's visibility in good lighting conditions. They automatically turn on when operating your vehicle and switching off your headlight.

You are obliged to switch on your headlights thirty minutes before sunset and thirty minutes after sunrise, and in poor light conditions such as fog, snow, or rain, where you can't see objects or other vehicles within 150 metres. Refer to the "driving at night and in bad weather" section for more information. Avoid driving with a single headlight or improperly aimed lights. Regularly check and clean your complete lighting system, and replace burnt-out bulbs promptly.

Parking lights are solely for parking. When the light is low, use your headlights, not parking lights.

Your daytime running lights should not be used as headlights in low light; they provide an inadequate form of light that can create glare for others or disable other required light systems like the tail lights. They are solely for use during good light conditions to promote vehicle visibility. In the absence of daytime running lights, switch on your headlights for similar visual enhancement.

the road ahead when using low beam headlights

We recommend driving with your vehicle's full lighting system set up automatically, if your car has this option, to ensure appropriate lighting is used. Continuously monitor the activation and operation of your vehicle's entire lighting system to ensure the proper lighting is provided.


Upon completing this section, you should know:

  • The basics of safe, responsible, and defensive driving practices.
  • Factors that impact your physical and mental readiness to drive.
  • The manner to acquaint yourself with your vehicle's controls and how to achieve your seating position.
  • The legal requirements on seatbelts, booster seats, and child car seats.
  • How and when to utilize your vehicle’s lighting system.
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