Every day, Americans rush around in a frenzy to get things done. They commute to work, school, run errands, do the shopping, and pick up the kids. We all feel as though there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get things done. This often puts us all at risk of speeding, or getting in the middle of a road rage incident, not to mention sometimes dealing with bad weather that makes for poor driving conditions. We ourselves may not be the best drivers.
And there are fellow drivers who are driving distracted – texting and talking on the phone. It’s probably never been a more dangerous time to drive. Do you know what it takes to arrive safely at your destination? There are things you can do to help decrease your chances of being in a motor vehicle accident. Here we share some driving tips that just might save your life or that of a loved one. These are especially important to share with young drivers.
Tip #1. Take the time to watch the weather
If there is any kind of bad weather – rain, high winds, snow, sleet – and you have to be on the road, the key is to drive smartly and safely. Primarily, slow down. Allow more time to reach your destination. Here are some more specific weather type tips:
- Fog: Consider delaying the trip altogether. If you can’t, it is actually better to use your regular headlight settings (or low beam). If visibility becomes so poor that driving safely becomes impossible, pull as far off the road as you can and stop to wait it out. Put your four ways on.
- Rain: Always take the extra minute to wait for your windows to defog. Keep your windows from fogging up by using the defroster or air conditioner (if necessary, open the window slightly). And, remember to turn your lights on, day or night.
- Snow or ice: Brake gently and early, turn cautiously and increase your following distance. And be alert for changing road conditions (such as patches of ice or slippery snow). If you start to slide, turn into or with the swerve and don’t try to resist it. Try not to panic and slam on the brakes, which can make your slide even worse.
Tip #2. Look both ways at intersections
Most people assume because the light is changing for other drivers that the other drivers will stop. It is wiser to wait the extra couple of seconds and look, then only pull away from a sign or a light when you are certain other drivers have stopped, are stopping or yielding. It’s especially easy to breeze through intersections that are familiar to us, our normal route. But it’s always wise to look at intersections and RR track crossings. This simple step could save thousands of crashes per year in the U.S.
Tip #3. Keep your distance
Drivers commonly tailgate because they underestimate how much stopping distance they really need. Often we are impatient and we get too close to the driver in front of us. Better to be a minute late than to risk an accident. In general, under good weather conditions, you need to keep at least four seconds between you and the car ahead of you or if you’re going over 35 mph (and three seconds if traveling less than 35 mph). Another way to determine the ideal spacing is to allow a car length between you and the car in front of for every ten miles per hour of speed you are traveling at. To make sure you’re leaving enough room, count “one thousand one, one thousand two” as the car ahead of you passes a landmark you choose. If you reach the landmark before you get to two (or more if you’re going faster), you’re following too closely. This is commonly why more people get injured in accidents then necessary – because they did not allow enough space and time for them to stop if the vehicle in front of them has a problem.
Tip #4. Get a grip
These days, many of us have only one hand on the wheel and the other holding the cell phone. Invest in an earpiece, don’t hold your phone in the car when driving. Dial before you are moving, and always keep both hands on the steering wheel. Don’t drive one-handed, because if you’re hit unexpectedly, you might lose control of your vehicle. It’s harder to steer with one hand when, in that split second, your vehicle is hit. Place both hands in a comfortable position on opposite sides of the steering wheel. 3:00 and 9:00 are the ideal positions for your hands. And always keep an eye on the road — anticipate obstacles you may need to steer around.
Tip #5. Stay awake
All of us have driven when we are sleepy, but it is very unwise, and risky. Don’t drive if you are feeling overly exhausted. Falling asleep at the wheel can occur at any time, but it’s especially common late at night or early in the morning. If you find yourself getting sleepy at the wheel, try:
- Pulling over in a safe place and taking a break until you feel more alert.
- Opening a window for the breeze (or turning on the air conditioner if it’s hot outside).
- Sharing the driving with someone else, especially if you are on a long trip.
Our next article, Part 2, will give more smart driving tips.