Five driving tips from two of auto racing’s top women — Danica Patrick and Alexis DeJoria
The October 2011 death of popular IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon underscores the danger of auto racing. For years, we’ve gotten used to seeing men like Wheldon speed around tracks and risk their lives. Nowadays, more and more women are donning jumpsuits and getting behind the wheel of race cars.
Patrick is the only women to lead a lap at Daytona, a feat she accomplished in February 2011. In August 2011, Patrick — who may be familiar to TV viewers as a spokeswoman for GoDaddy.com — announced her switch from the IndyCar circuit to NASCAR. DeJoria, daughter of hair care and tequila mogul John Paul DeJoria, competes on the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) circuit.
|To keep sharp behind the wheel, Danica Patrick drinks plenty of water.|
So, how do these motoring mavens stay safe on the road, avoid aggressive driving and steer clear of costly tickets? Here are five driving tips from two of the best women in auto racing.
1. Look to positive role models.
“My father set wonderfully safe and smart examples for me when I was a kid,” DeJoria says.
In fact, she credits her father with teaching her habits like not relying on mirrors and instead looking over her shoulder to check for blind spots, driving defensively and always being aware of her surroundings.
“I drive like that no matter what car I’m operating or where I’m driving,” DeJoria says. “I’m lucky I had my dad, but any safe driver can serve as a terrific example.”
2. Fight fatigue.
Hours upon hours of wearing a fire-retardant jumpsuit and heavy helmet while strapped into a seat in the same position leads to extreme mental and physical fatigue for race car drivers. Driving in rush-hour traffic, hauling the family around on vacation or running errands can do that as well.
To stay sharp mentally and physically no matter what the conditions are, Patrick says she drinks a lot of water. “I stay hydrated so I don’t start to dry up and feel sluggish,” she says.
Patrick also eats a healthy meal before hitting the racetrack — or the everyday road.
“I try to make sure I don’t eat too much protein or fat so I’m not dragging,” Patrick says, “but I eat a healthy meal so I’m not starving or lacking in energy because I haven’t eaten.”
3. Tame road rage.
DeJoria says that when she’s on the verge of screaming because another motorist is driving too slow or behaving like a jerk, she takes a deep breath and turns on “happy” music.
“I keep reminding myself I have no control over what others do on the road. I can only control what I do, and safety needs to be my number one priority,” DeJoria says. She says listening to “mood” music or spirit-boosting songs “helps me calm down and keep things in perspective.”
4. Don’t multitask.
|Alexis DeJoria says she learned a lot about driving from her father, hair care and tequila mogul John Paul DeJoria.|
Not only is DeJoria a professional race car driver, but she wears the hats of mom, daughter and friend. So she understands the temptation to answer some emails or fire off a text message when you’re driving.
“I realize that not only am I responsible for my safety, I owe it to those driving around me to not be distracted. So I adopted a strict no-talking, no-texting or no-multitasking-of-any-kind policy when I’m behind the wheel,” she says.
5. Curb the need for speed.
Patrick says that if she isn’t driving, she isn’t speeding. That means handing over the keys of her car to someone else if she’s itching to let loose on regular roads. Over the past few years, she’s received several speeding tickets, including one in December 2009 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Since your auto insurance premiums can increase if you get caught speeding, you need — like Patrick — to temper your need for speed. You don’t have to relinquish your keys as Patrick does, though; you simply should watch your speedometer and ease up on the gas pedal.
“There isn’t an exact formula for the number of (traffic) violations that will lead to an increase, but you could potentially experience a rate increase with just one instance,” says Alyssa Willis, an agent at Annette Willis Insurance in Atlanta.
The female perspective
Why, you say, should you heed the Patrick’s and DeJoria’s advice? Well, aside from being professional drivers, they’re women, and women statistically are safer drivers than men. A report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that male drivers are about 2.5 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than female drivers.
“They drive more cautiously and less aggressively. Women receive fewer tickets than men. They use vehicle safety systems (seat belts) more often than men,” says Chad Bitterlich, vice president of Navion Insurance Associates Inc. in Anaheim Hills, Calif.
Bitterlich says auto insurance premiums for men with less than three years of driving experience can be 20 percent higher (or more) than women. Both men’s and women’s rates decrease with more years behind the wheel, but the difference narrows with time. For instance, men pay about 10 percent to 12 percent more than women in the category of three to five years of experience behind the wheel, Bitterlich says.
While women may be safer behind the wheel and may pay less for auto insurance, it doesn’t mean they can relax when they’re driving. A report released in October 2011 by the American Public Health Association showed female drivers are more likely than male drivers to be injured in cars crashes, perhaps because of a lack of vehicle safety features designed for women. Researchers cited women’s relatively short stature and driving postures as some of the factors behind this finding.
The researchers concluded that female drivers “may not be as safe as their male counterparts; therefore, the relative higher vulnerability of female drivers when exposed to moderate and serious crashes must be taken into account.”