Monday, June 6, 2016

Namaste Nissan Micra

Today I had a great time reading again all those posts I made back in 2012 when I bought my Micra. I still remember as it was yesterday, my first solo driving commute to the office. Read it back if you wish from here. I measured my heart rate, it was around 130 bpm on average, but I survived.  Feel reassured, formula one drivers do get higher heart rates than that.

For those still feeling afraid of driving, do not despair, it gets better with practice, I promise!. I am by no means a perfect driver, but I am a more relaxed one.

The last day with my Micra was on May 31st 2016, clocking around 34000 km. since October 31st 2012 when I took it from the shop. I exchanged it for a new, fully spec Renault Clio, more on that car later.  So what has changed since then?

I am better at driving overall. See, driving involves many things, not only controlling the car, but looking at signs, being aware of traffic, anticipating and if not a known route, finding your way around. Back then, I was so tense, because it was very hard to multitask, specially to look at the traffic signs while driving, e.g. am I in the right lane for a left turn? or do I need to change lanes?, can I, or is there a car coming?, damn and if I miss this turn where can I go?. I must not miss the turn, or else I am going to get lost!!

I am not afraid of going to unknown routes. I remember back then, when going to a place I have not driven before, I used to look a the route and also at the street view many times because I wanted to know before hand how was the lane grouping in every turn, it was a very long process, and  I was very nervous. Nowadays, I do check the route to get the overall directions, but I do not analyse every turn. I am relax, happy and confident I will sort it out when it happens :D, and if I miss a turn, there will be plenty of alternatives to take.

I experienced frightening situations and handled them calmly. On January 2015 my accelerator pedal got stuck when entering the highway on my way back home from work. The pedal was stuck somewhere in the middle, I down shifted in my attempt to slow down, then I managed to pull it upwards by sliding my left foot underneath the pedal, that solved the situation and I was relieved, but afraid of pushing the pedal again. I was lucky to have enough space to manouver and proud at myself for being calm when the problem arose. It was the carpet what caused this. I took my car for a wash and the carpet was not positioned correctly back to the micra. After the incident, I learned where the hook to keep the carpet in place was located. Should you be in that situation again, here is a wiki link that tells you what to do.

I am still not good at driving on tight spots. This is the thing that still makes me a bit nervous, so, for the time being I try to avoid those situations. Thankfully I live in Finland and not in Mexico city or in Italy so the probability of having to park or manouver the car in a very tight spot is low, and if I have to drive to Helsinki city center I found a great paid parking hall that have very good prices on late afternoons. I think I can accept that.

I could not have had a better first car than the Micra. Small, easy to drive, great visibility, cheap to run, good ergonomics and the best of all, it helped me to conquer my driving fears. Namaste Nissan Micra, hopefully the next owner will have as much fun as I had, driving you.

Below it is a picture of my ex-micra recently washed and ready for its new owner :)

The car is now for sale, I've found the ad at, in case you are interested.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Aggressive drivers and horn honking etiquette

I’ve heard that Finland pales in comparison to other countries when it comes to aggressive drivers, I am referring to those making their madness very explicit to others by honking or acting nasty on the road. But there are some, and I am trying my best to keep calm and ignore their behavior.

I think I have been rather patient and calm while driving, and in the few occasions there have been drivers honking for no reason, I have kept my cool and ignore their ramblings. However, there have been cases on which I have made mistakes, not intentionally of course, but rather caused by my lack of driving experience or my lack of focus on the task at hand, on those occasions, the honking has had a bad effect on me, I had became nervous and panicky, and I could have easily caused an accident.

So, there is a lesson here, use your horn only when really needed and be considerate to other drivers when they make mistakes, do not vent your frustration at their driving skills by honking, it could be dangerous. Here some horn honking etiquette I have found on the net:

Now my horn honking tales. First, the mad drivers..

The pushy driver at a roundabout

I was approaching a roundabout and I was looking carefully and waiting for my time to get in. In most of the cases drivers do not signal when they intend to go out from it, so sometimes it is difficult to predict their intentions so I wait instead. Well, the guy behind me was not agreeing with my waiting and instead used his horn twice when I attempted to enter it but stop to wait for traffic inside the roundabout. I of course ignore him, took my time, got in the roundabout and continue my way. At some point I saw him overtaking me and others and driving quite above the speed limits. I hope he arrived safely at his destination..

The impatient driver

On another occasion while approaching a highway entrance with a give way sign, a motorcyclist was waiting to get into the highway entrance on the very right side of the lane, (instead of in the middle of it). I saw him and patiently wait for him to take the highway entrance road, meanwhile a motorist approached behind me who almost immediately got tired of waiting and used the horn, I guess he later realized I was not waiting there for the sake of it, but because a motorcyclist was in front of me, I could not just pass him, that would have been illegal.

The impatient driver #2. Some revenge involved

I got a green light at a left turn and started my turning, I did not know why the driver behind me used his horn this time, I think because I was not driving fast enough for his liking, but seriously you have to take the turns on a safe speed. Anyways, he went in front of me and stop at a traffic light further ahead. I was behind him this time, he then did not notice fast enough when the light turned green, so I used my horn this time J... (Not good for me, but I was upset at his behavior)

Then, my mistakes. 

The "fight" at the parking lot

This time I was about to take a left turn to enter a parking lot. My mind was already somewhere else instead of the task at hand, it was on the spot I wanted to park the car to, and on the list of things I needed to get from the shop. The road speed limit was 30 km/h, I saw a car approaching the turn as well, about 100 meters away from me, but instead of yielding at him I took the turn without even thinking, and he honked, understandably, then I approached the parking spot I wanted to use, I signaled I was taking it and the very same driver who got frustrated before, was trying to overtook me in the parking lot and he honked again!.. Man, I was shaking, two traffic mistakes, not yielding at the left turn and failing to look if somebody wanted to overtake me on a parking lot. 

Lesson to myself: Pay attention while driving always, concentrate on the task at hand, especially on parking lot.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Confusing lane grouping

Sometimes lane grouping signs can be confusing or they are indicated too fast to be able to react, I have turned right in more than one occasion when my intention was to go straight.  In one case I rightly did it, I was not allowed to continue straight on that lane, this happened in winter time, so the road was covered on snow and by the time I noticed the traffic signs above, it was almost impossible to change to the left lane due to incoming traffic, so I turned right. Luckily I was able to turn around further ahead so I got into the right road again and arrived at my destination.

See below the picture of the location (in the summer), imagine in the winter time the road is covered by snow, so you can only see the signs above and it gets dark already in the early afternoon.

I guess the main problem is that a single lane turns two without a warning and it can expand to the right or to the left. In the example above I had already avoided going to the left, that grouping was easier to notice, but further ahead the road went to a single lane again and then suddenly to two.

When I am driving on an unknown location on slow speed roads, e.g. 30 or 40 km/h limits I try to drive a little bit below the speed limit, and observe carefully how the lanes develop..

Usually, and I hope always, when there is a heavy traffic road, I expect the lane grouping to be clearly posted and with sufficient distance, but I have already turned right thinking that lane was for only that purpose, and when checking Google maps it was clear that lane was for both, for going straight and turning right. It is a bit of common sense really, there was not signs on the top of the road, (scary for the winter) and I swear the arrow painted on the road was faded and all I could see was the curvy arrow indicated right turn only..  Perhaps I am too sensitize from my past experience.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Going for a ride to unknown areas

I have not been posting for quite a while now, I think it is because driving is becoming less of a novelty to me, but there have been plenty of things happening while driving.

Kilometers driven:  5800 km.
Where: Mostly commuting, and using the same paths all the time.
Things I dread: Going to places I have never driven before
Preoccupied by: what others think of my driving, especially when I adventure taking roads I have not going through before.

If I plan to go somewhere I have not driven to before, I first check the route with Google maps on my computer, then, I use the street view on areas needing turning decisions and change of lanes to see how it really looks like at street level, still I use an external navigator while driving, but only as support device to remind me of those turning points. I like to know exactly which paths to take before I go. I laugh at myself just by writing this.

Even if I have seen the overall driving path, I have taken turns a bit before I should have to, and I have had to figure it out how to get back to the original road again. I have not really gotten lost, but figuring it out my way back, although quickly, it has not been stress free. I hate the “turn around when possible” instruction of my navigator, “hello, that I already knew”.

I’ve tried to drive on different roads without navigator and without using Google maps, mostly because I have been on the passenger seat before on those routes and I know the overall direction. The thing is, that I have to pay very well attention at the road signs indicating the direction to follow and check I have space to change lanes on time. What happens is those signs are not always very clear to me and I end up switching lanes unnecessarily, and at the last possible time, with caution of course.

Sometimes I wonder what other fellow drivers think of that behavior, maybe they think the driver is someone who does not know where is going, but is it really that bad?. I know that the next time I am driving the same road, this will not happen again because I will know which lane to take exactly.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Left turns. I avoided a collision!

My daily commute includes many left turns, they are tricky because the European traffic law basically says that when turning left I should give way to traffic approaching from all directions except from my left, and at intersections of roads of the same category, I must also give way to trams approaching from the left. Luckily I do not usually drive on roads with tram traffic, but I do have quite many challenges.

Winter and dark conditions adds difficulties to the already tricky left turn, e.g. a pile of snow can often be blocking my view from the road, and dark conditions impair visibility as well. Crossing a very busy road when turning left can be a test of patience but often I get considerate drivers yielding to me, which is a very nice thing.

A couple of days ago, a car nearly crashed into my car when turning left, the car was coming from the opposite direction but I was already in the intersection when this happened and although I was driving very slowly it would have been difficult to stop, I should have used the horn though because I could see the driver looking in all directions except in front of her, and it was like a movie in slow motion, thinking what to do, I  just continued turning and the driver from the other car stopped on time and I crossed safely. phew!

I've searched some info about left turns in Google and I've found this article, it is from the USA though, but I am wondering if the following is true in Europe.

When the left turn goes first, the oncoming car has to wait for the left turning vehicle to completely leave the intersection. If the oncoming car goes first, the left turning driver can start as soon as the oncoming car has entered the intersection

It looks like common sense to me, in my near collision incident I started turning first because there wasn't any car in the opposite direction when I started turning, but it came suddenly. See the picture below, taken from Google maps. I added a blue arrow to show where I was going, and the red one is the other car. I do have the feeling however that should a collision have taken place I would have been the one to blame.

My designer friends should ignore my arrow drawing skills I used paint :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lowest AVG HR ever!

I am glad to report I am feeling more relaxed while driving. Today on my morning commute I decided to track my heart rate while driving again, and the average was 94 bpm. it is the lowest ever, since November 2012 when I started driving. It means the route is familiar now, and I am more at ease handling my car. My husband and a couple of friends who have been on the passenger seat tell me they feel safe and that I should not worry too much about it. For comparison I put links to my first ever driving solo log and the one from today's.

I have not been updating this journal lately, because this driving thing is becoming more trivial, but I can write some notes to myself on my next goals.

Drive to the city center and parallel park.

The parallel park thing I prefer to do it when the snow disappears to be honest, and I think the city center is designed for walking not for driving, especially in the winter, but, I may adventure there, with my husband on my side first. He claims I lack the adventure gene, but I think one should be on the cautious side, especially when driving.

Get lost more often, and find my way home.

Just make sure I have a full tank before attempting it. This happened to me, although I was not planning on getting lost, I took a friend and his son along with my son to a party. I have checked two routes before hand and put the navigator just in case. Well I took the wrong highway exit and the only thing my navigator suggested was “to turn around when possible”. I attempted a new route but I took a couple of wrong exits again or I was not in the right lane to turn when the navigator suggested it. I was nervous, and when I calmed down and paid more attention to the instructions (especially the anticipate part, telling that a turn is approaching) I did it. I arrived safely to my destination and find my way back home after the party, but when driving there I was very close to go back home and take a taxi instead, I am glad I did not do it. It was really quite a long ride, but my friend was happy because her son took a nap.

Drive more economically.

I am actually not so sure how many liters per 100 km is my car doing, my estimation is 6.2 l per 100 km. It could be less, because this is based on approximations. I have spend 150 € on gas since I got my car in November, that is less than my husband averaging 100€ per month. And the car is doing the job of taking me to work (40 km route on weekdays) and a short errand occasionally. If distances are short enough I walk, and if I need to go to the city center I take public transport, it is difficult to find a parking space there, and indoor parking cost dearly (6€ per hour). Just for the sake of a challenge, let’s see if I get the Nissan Micra to use less gas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A taste of winter driving

Last week it came the snow, we actually had a quite heavy storm on Friday, but Thursday was the first white winter day.  I drove on Thursday to work, my usual commute, several of my colleagues asked me if I took the car, and were asking me how it went. On that day I could not really feel the slipperiness of the road in the morning, thanks to my studded tires, but I did feel it in the evening coming back home. On the way to work, it was snowing a bit, not yet enough to have the wipers on continuously, but now and then. The road was congested on a short stretch, and gave time to check and adjust the heat to make sure my back window and mirrors were not getting foggy. Motorist were driving slower than usual, and I kept my distance, I did not try to overtake anyone or change lanes unnecessary,  I guess I would not have saved that much time hurrying it up.

On my way back I felt it was slipperier than on the morning, motorist were driving slower than on my previous journeys, and I was surprised to see people driving about 80 km/h on a 100 km/h road. A bit nervous, because although not sliding, the traction was not as I would have like it, I noticed I pressed my lips as I was feeling a bit tense then, but nothing else happened, I just drove with the traffic flow, kept my distance to be able to react should something have occurred. I arrived safely at home, no incidents. My husband took me to work on Friday though, because we got a rather heavy storm.

Monday has come, and no storm, but ice, or heavy pressed snow on slow traffic roads. I should get used to sliding because it happens often, nothing big but definetely traction is different on roads covered by ice/snow. I usually take my foot out of the throttle, press the clutch, this time there were no cars to be seen behind me, the road speed limits was actually very low, 30 km/h.. the car slides, but the traction is gained almost immediately. Intersections I have been told are particularly icy, so I apply the same technique, and approach them slowly, also when moving on from traffic lights, I start the car slowly, not so much different than before actually but I guess now the rest of the drivers do the same J.  I checked the video from the link below, it gives quite good advice on how to take turns and highlights the pedal to press, clutch, brake or throttle at different steps of the curve.

Then, funny enough I am not that apprehensive, or that much worried of winter driving on the road so far, the part that takes most of my concentration is parking, and there is also quite a lot of ice there. On my Monday commute as I arrived at the parking lot I observed there was no space on my usual spots, so I approached it slowly looking for places, I saw one, between two cars, moved backwards a bit, then forward and tried to do a very sharp turn, but I was still entering a bit diagonally into the spot, then a car wanted to pass behind me, so I moved forward to let him pass, then just a little backwards and then forward trying to correct making a bit like an s, then I straightened the steering wheel and done. Still the car was not completely straight as I would have liked, but right on the middle at least. A colleague pass by and said to me, very good actually. You can check a picture of my today’s parking and correlate with heart rate graph. Guess where was the heart rate peak?, oh well, it is maybe when I started walking to the office building.