Any hairbrained teenager can get in a car and mash the pedal and reach illegal speeds on a straightaway. And that same teenager can probably careen his way around corners while making all of his passengers as nauseated as a frat brother during a brutal hazing. But it takes skill and knowledge to drive well and drive smoothly. What we mean by smooth driving is the ability to manage the car in such a way as to keep it from making abrupt changes and taxing the suspension and brakes, allowing the car to make dramatic shifts laterally and longitudinally, thereby interrupting efficient forward motion. If you only learn one skill to improve your driving technique it should be the art of smooth driving. 

So, it's not about hammering the throttle and white-knuckling the steering wheel like you're a bat out of hell. It's about keeping your path smooth and pre-determined, applying proper amounts of throttle and braking at the proper times and hopefully keeping everyone in your car comfortable while also reducing fuel consumption. It's not much different from track driving, except of course, for the passenger part. 

1. Minimize weight transfer

mazda turning

Cars weigh a lot. Even the smallest of cars has the propensity to shift its weight when it's driven hard. When you accelerate, brake, and turn hard, your car will load up the suspension and tires -- and the result can be not just wasting fuel and making your passengers sick, but it can also cause an accident when you lose control of your car. But on a much less dramatic front, these kinds of driving habits place more wear and tear on your vehicle and ultimately reduce its useful life -- not good things, mind you.

When you hammer the throttle, the car's weight shifts towards the rear. When you brake hard, it sends the weight forward on top of the front tires. Turning hard shifts the weight laterally and can load up the tires and suspension, as well. When popular belief says that driving hard and fast means you're a good driver, the truth is that the smoothest drivers are also the ones who are the most efficient at getting from point A to point B and can put all passengers at ease while the driver shows that his or her skill level is calming, rather than alarming. 

  • Drive with your hands at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions on the steering wheel with a comfortable, not overly firm grip.
  • Don't use hand-over-hand turning techniques or shuffle your hands, which doesn't lead to smooth turning. Instead, make the turn with your hands in place. If they're at 3 and 9, you will be able to perform most turns without repositioning your hands. 
  • Let all inputs from steering to accelerating to braking be smooth and without abrupt motions, and the car will minimize its front-to-back and side-to-side movements. It'll take less adjustment in the long run and keep your car from taking on unnecessary stress.

2. Turn later than you're used to

turning

No, this doesn't mean you'll run off the road. In fact, the opposite is true. Most drivers fail to turn properly and end up turning far too early (and also fail to brake just before the turn) which will send the car to the outside edge of the road too fast. Just watch someone taking a left turn hard and early and see if they're able to maintain the same lane after the turn.

  • Brake progressively into the turn at the outside edge and gently lift the brake as you start turning the wheel. Aim the car towards the inside edge of the turn without crossing into the other lane) and then aim and gently accelerate out of the turn toward the outside edge. This will allow you to take the straightest line possible through the turn and not shift the weight of the car too abruptly. 
  • Allow the car to roll into the turn smoothly without harsh acceleration and then allow the tires to grip the outside edge of the road. Once you do this and turn the car smoothly, you can get on the gas sooner and smoothly accelerate out of the turn. 

3. Look farther ahead than you think you need to

look ahead

Does a pitcher look at the ball in his hand when he's trying to strike out the batter. No, he's looking where he wants the ball to go. The same goes for the turn. Most folks look at the corner when turning, which is the absolute wrong place to look. Look out your side window as you're turning, and you'll see where your car needs to go. Your hands and the car will follow smoothly and surely -- and no, you won't hit the curb. The same goes with avoiding an accident. Don't look at the car you might hit, look at the space you want your car to go to avoid the accident, and your hands and your car will move accordingly. 

  • When you're driving, look farther than just at the car in front of you. If he or she brakes, you'll see the brake lights and the car shift in your field of vision. If you see what's happening two to three cars ahead, you're reactions will be smoother. It will also give you time to respond with less jerky inputs and will allow the cars behind you to have enough warning themselves and in turn avoid hitting you.
  • Look out your side window as you're turning, and you'll see where your car needs to go. Your hands and the car will follow smoothly and surely -- and no, you won't hit the curb. The same goes with avoiding an accident. Don't look at the car you might hit, look at the space you want your car to go to avoid the accident, and your hands and your car will move accordingly. 

4. Brake like it's an art form

braking

Brakes aren't just blunt instruments. They respond based on pressure and inputs from your foot. Driving smoothly is all about learning how to use your brakes effectively, which means knowing how much pressure to put on and exactly when to do so. 

  • Just because you have ABS doesn't mean you can avoid an accident or control your car without using your brains. Apply the brakes smoothly by depressing the brakes in "squeezing" manner (not shoving). 
  • As you reach the midpoint of your braking, apply firmer brake pressure and then gently release without an abrupt lift-off. All of this occurs before you start turning the wheel in a curve. This will allow you to enter the turn without unsettling the car, negotiate and steer and then accelerate out of the turn.