Driving. With more cars being sold every year giving rise to heavy traffic conjunction, it’s now more difficult to drive peacefully on the roads, especially on city roads. Unless you’re lucky enough to live right on a subway stop in New York City or have your own personal car and driver, you are probably one of the millions of people who drive to work, school, or errands on a regular basis. In fact, the average American spends over 100 minutes per day driving!
When you’re first learning to drive, you get all sorts of tips and instructions about the safest position for your hands on the wheel or how to adjust your speed for different weather conditions, but once you’re used to driving, you tend to forget some of that useful advice. If you do not stick with basic driving methods, you may run into new situations that you were never prepared for.
With car accidents being a major cause of stress, expense, and injury (or worse!), it’s always important to make sure you are driving as safely as possible. For me, driving is second nature but I want to make sure driving safely is second-nature too!
So, here’s my list of safety tips to keep you out of trouble on the roads!
1. Do Allow Enough Time
We’re all busy these days, and that can often lead to running late to work or racing to pick up your kid from soccer practice. Hurrying your driving may seem normal to you but it’s definitely more dangerous and stressful than driving when you know you have enough time to get from point A to point B.
In fact, if possible, it’s always best to have a little extra time, just in case you run into traffic or have to circle around unexpected construction. After all, saving a minute off of your commute is hardly worth causing an accident or getting a ticket.
2. Don’t Drive Distracted
Since we were kids, we’ve all heard time and again not to drink and drive, from school assemblies to sappy TV ads, and it’s definitely an important rule to know and follow. But less people realize how important it is not to text and drive. A recent study shows that texting and driving at the same time results in accidents that injure more than 330,000 people every year in US alone. Best tip is to just try to concentrate on the road when you’re driving. Leave your smartphone and Siri to peace for a while!
3. Do Use Your Head
These days with GPS on our phones, Waze to redirect us around traffic jams, and apps like GasBuddy and Yelp to bring us to hotspots nearby, we often don’t have to plan much at all before we hop in the car. Usually, of course, that’s a great thing. I know I for one am delighted not to have to carry around a map or stop and ask random strangers for directions when I get lost.
Still, just because you have your trusty GPS device telling you where to go doesn’t mean you can turn your brain off. Don’t drive into a pond or through a construction zone just because your GPS says so!
4. Do Check The Weather
This is a small step that can go a long way. Not only will it help you predict delays (if it’s snowing a foot in Atlanta tomorrow, you can bet they won’t have those roads plowed for your trip tomorrow), but it can also help you get your car (and yourself) ready. Just like you may want rain boots in case of a downpour or sunglasses for driving into the sunset, you need different things for your car under different conditions.
A snowy winter in the Midwest? You’re going to want snow tires. Summer in the South? Get one of those windshield protectors to keep your car from turning into an oven while it sits in the parking lot all day. And if it’s stormy outside, always drive slowly and keep alert!
5. Don’t Stress
Let’s face it, road rage affects just about everyone – it can happen to the calmest and most patient among us, often for no good reason. If you find yourself growing irritated as you settle into the tail end of a traffic jam or as a driver cuts you off, take a deep breath and try to put it all into perspective. Is this a life and death situation? Or are you just going to be a little late to work?
Plus, think about that “jerk” who cut you off – maybe that’s a Mom racing to pick up her kid who just fell at school and broke their arm. You never know, and you probably can’t do anything about your situation anyway. So just find something good on the radio and let it be.
6. Do Keep Up With Regular Maintenance
If you have a car, you need to keep it in shape or you are risking a number of potentially dangerous and expensive problems. You need to change your oil about every 3000 miles, and you need a yearly inspection to keep your car registered. And you’ll want to keep tabs on the air in your tires and replace any lights that go out ASAP. Also, if the check engine light or some other warning sign goes on, get it checked out first thing – don’t just cross your fingers and hope it goes away!
7. Don’t Hog The Road
This applies whenever and wherever you are driving. Are you on the highway preparing to exit? Be courteous to other drivers and signal your intentions. Sharing your plans with other cars allows them to plan around you – getting out of your way if you are merging, slowing down if they’re behind you and see that you’re about to turn, and so on.
Of course, you also need to be watching for bicycles and other smaller or slower forms of transportation. In many places, bicycles don’t have a lane to themselves and aren’t allowed on the sidewalk, so they have to share the road with the cars. Allow them the space and time they need, and always keep your eyes out for them, particularly in your mirrors. You might not see a bicycle behind you, but if they’re going straight and you’re making a right turn, you could cut them off, causing a really dangerous accident!
8. Do Plan Ahead
Thinking about going on a road trip? Moving to a new place? Whatever it is, be sure to bone up on your destination’s driving rules before you go. In some places it’s OK to talk on a handheld device while driving, whereas in others it is illegal. Laws about passing, signaling, speeding, and maintenance are all subject to these kinds of differences. You don’t want to get a ticket just because you didn’t know the rules! So a do quick Google search before you go and spare yourself the trouble.
9. Don’t Drive Sleepy
If you’ll be driving for long stretches of time, on a road trip or similar, be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before. Also, you should take breaks at least every few hours, even if it is just to stretch your legs and go to the bathroom. Eat healthy meals at regular intervals to keep your energy steady.
And, if at all possible, get someone to come along to share the driving with you. Or, if they’re not up for driving, at least see if someone will come along for company – they can act as a navigator and carry on the conversation to keep you awake and alert.
10. Do Prepare for Emergencies
Though of course we all hope to avoid accidents or breakdowns, you still need to be prepared at all times. Make sure you carry your insurance information with you whenever you drive and have any necessary phone numbers for tow trucks or whatever you may need on hand. Also be sure to keep emergency supplies, including jumper cables and a spare tire, in the car at all times.
Just don’t forget that the choices you make when you’re behind the wheel can have big consequences. Always be prepared, whether that’s for a rain storm or a fender bender, and don’t let your emotions get the better of you. A calm, focused driver is a safe driver.
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