Tips For Women Drivers (And Men, Too!)

Susan Koeppen has a confession to make.

"For years, I thought I was a bad driver," The Early Show correspondent revealed Monday. "In fact, my husband picks on me all the time about my driving."

That might be viewed as a microcosm of a longstanding dynamic in the realm of male-female interactions: Men tend to think they, and their sex, are better drivers than women.

But, Koeppen says she's done "a total 180" in her views of herself as a motorist since getting driving guidance from an expert — who happened to be male.

"It turns out," she says, "driving is nothing more than a mind game."

Koeppen asked men at random who's better, men or women, and all said men are.

Why are women seen, at least by men, as bad drivers? "We're more cautious on the road," Koeppen says. "We cause far fewer accidents," but can be indecisive. Throw in a critical husband and crying baby, and distraction comes easily.

But Koeppen's eyes were opened by Walter Irvine, a head instructor at the Skip Barber Driving School.

Typically, it teaches people racing maneuvers.

With Koeppen though, Irvine was sticking to basics.

Problem No. 1 as he saw it? Her white-knuckle driving.

"You tend to grab the wheel too hard and fatigue yourself," Irvine noticed.

A way to counter that, he suggested, is to drum your fingers on the wheel, without letting go. You can be a better driver, he says, by keeping your hands nice and light on the wheel

Also, be decisive. If you see an opening, go for it.

"Let's face it," Koeppen concedes, "nothing's more annoying than being stuck behind a tense driver. You know the ones — who take forever to pull into traffic."

Another common problem: getting on and off highways. "The key," Irvine says, "is being smooth and gradual; the worst thing you can do is be very, very abrupt."

Once you're on, stay out of the left lane, unless you're passing someone. Cruise in the middle lane.

By the end of her day of lessons, Koeppen says she "had new faith in myself. Instead of being on pins and needles, I was actually having fun."

And that, Koeppen was told, is key. Irvine said you should have fun when driving, and not think of it as a chore.

One last bit of advice: Don't sit too close to the wheel. You should sit far enough away so that, if you extend your arms, the wheel hits them beneath your wrists.