Driving is fun, nothing beats taking a nice drive down by the coast or your favorite road. However, driving can also be potentially terrifying. As one of the top 10 leading causes of death within the United States, it’s not to be taken lightly. In fact, at least 20% of all deaths within the country are due to vehicle crashes. The mortality percentage becomes even larger by accounting for other types of vehicular accidents. Nevertheless, these numbers shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself by taking proper precautions. But, while you can’t completely eliminate the risks associated with the road, knowing the following safe driving tips will help you minimize them. Just keep in mind, you can control how you drive, but you can’t control the driving of others.
10 Safe Driving Tips
1. Avoid Potential Distraction
Starting off with the leading cause of rear-ends and other types of road accidents, distracted driving.
Let’s face it, life in general has become extremely hectic. It’s very easy to find yourself texting friends/family or grabbing a quick bite while driving to and from work. You might think these “simple” actions only take a brief moment, but those seconds can be costly.
According to research your reaction are delayed an additional 20% whenever you’re using a cell phone while driving. Even simply talking on the phone is detrimental as a study from the University of Utah discovered. The results of said test revealing that the reaction times of 20-year-olds become as slow as that of 70-years-olds while engaging in distracted driving.
It’s important to remember that if you are driving in the United States, it is illegal to wear headsets or any other device that would impair your hearing while driving.
If you are indeed in need of using your phone urgently, try synchronizing your Bluetooth device to your car’s built-in system before starting any trips. That way, your hands will be on the steering wheel at all times.
This all boils down to the following: when you’re driving, focus on the present task. Don’t start gawking at accidents on the road, applying makeup, playing with your phone or passengers, and daydreaming.
Instead, stay sharp, focused, and clearheaded.
2. Pay Attention to the Signs
Yields, stops, one-way, speed limits and more are all there for a reason. Paying attention to these signs can help you avoid potentially lethal accidents.
This is especially true, when you’re in an unfamiliar location, where it’s easy to go down a one-way street by mistake or go over the speed limit if you’re not sure where to look for them. But, sharp corners, uneven roads, irregularities, and even construction hazards can become dangerous obstacles if you’re unprepared.
Road signs allow you to anticipate these, and paying attention to them is crucial.
3. Steer Clear of Aggressive Drivers
As mentioned earlier, you’re the one responsible for your own actions. Being a defensive driver will not stop others from being overly aggressive or even reckless.
When dealing with drivers that are trying to cut you off or tailgaters your best option is to let them pass. Moving to a different lane or giving them a way to pass by you is often the best solution.
It might sound counterintuitive, but speeding up to give yourself more breathing room is dangerous and only increases the risks of accidents occurring.
4. Get Some Rest
Sleep deprivation is harmful to humans; in fact, some countries even use it as a form of torture. Keeping that knowledge in mind, why would you willfully subject yourself to driving tired?
But, with our busy lifestyles and constant struggle to survive in this harsh world, getting decent sleep is becoming harder by the day. Consequently, more drivers are falling asleep at the wheel now than ever before.
Even dozing off for a few seconds is dangerous, as anyone who’s ever experienced highway hypnosis will attest to. Sleepy drivers will easily drift off the road into poles, road signs, rivers, walls or trees and a plethora of other hazards in a brief moment.
Still, there is an easy way to solve this, go to sleep at a decent time and get some rest. If you get the recommended eight hours you should be ready for the next day. However, if you still catch yourself dozing off, stop at the side of the road, lock the doors, turn on the emergency blinkers and take a nap.
5. Don’t Drink Alcohol or Drive under the Influence (DUI)
Drinking alcohol and driving are a deadly combination. However, this extends to the use of illegal (and sometimes legal) substances such as drugs.
Never drive while impaired in any way or form. Alcohol even in low levels can reduce your coordination as well as reaction times. Additionally, you might not set out to drink and drive, but due to a reduction in inhibitions, you might not care think of your actions carefully.
At higher levels, blackouts, double/blurry vision, and even death can happen. Additionally, there are the legal ramifications of being caught driving while intoxicated by the authorities.
6. Don’t tailgate
Just as you should avoid tailgaters and aggressive drivers, you should not become one yourself. Tailgating prevents you from having enough space to brake or react in the case of emergencies.
However, just how can you determine the amount of space that you need between you and the car in front? Well, a common piece of advice involves the use of the “three-second-rule“.
The way it works is that you find a fixed point in the road such as a road sign; theoretically, it should take at minimum three seconds to pass that sign after the car in front of you. Less than three seconds and you should slow down to create more distance.
In inclement weather, this distance should be greater than that as your vehicle will need more room to stop in case of emergencies.
7. Maintain you vehicle
Taking care of your car will help you stay safe and potentially prevent maintenance related accidents.
Inspections at regular intervals, checking for adequate tire pressure, basic maintenance such as oil changes and brake replacement will prevent most issues, but keep in mind that the once a year state mandated safety inspection might not be enough.
If your car is older, other issues such as the timing belt might need a replacement and keep in mind that if that breaks in the middle of the road, you’ll be basically stuck.
To sum it all up, never neglect proper maintenance for your car.
8. Take Extra Care During Inclement Weather
Hazards such as fog, rain, storms (snow or otherwise), icy roads, and flooding require extra steps and caution.
You’ll want to drive under the speed limit (you should know your limits, but try to maintain an even speed). Give yourself extra space for braking and reacting to any potential issues. Watch out for curves or cars who might not be able to see you.
Most importantly, remember there is no shame in giving a more experienced driver control of the wheel. Recognizing your limitations is important. If alone and unfamiliar with the place, use a Global Positioning System (GPS) to find the nearest rest stop and seek shelter before it becomes too dangerous outside.
The majority of crash fatalities occur due to a lack of seat belts. Almost everyone has seen the images from victims of these sort of accidents, and the importance can’t be stressed enough, seatbelts save lives.
Wearing a seatbelt properly will prevent you (and your passengers) from flying off during a collision. You might have heard stories, of people who would have survived without wearing a seatbelt, but they’re often grossly exaggerated tales.
The statistics simply don’t lie, wearing a seatbelt will save your life more often than not, and you’d be foolish not to wear one.
10. Modern Technology is an Asset
GPS’s are perfect when you’re traveling to new locations, but use cautious judgement when driving near deserts.
Dash cams help you record, and analyze your driving sessions in order to discover potential weaknesses or areas of improvement. Additionally, they can serve as evidence during road accidents to absolve you of any problems should they arise.
Self-driving technology that’s currently in development will alleviate a lot of these issues, but will serve a great purpose in the future.
When used properly, technology is a great asset!
Driving is risky, but also important for self-sufficiency. The inherent risks associate with it can be mitigated with judicious use of the advice on this list, but never fully eliminated. Pay attention to the road and signs, not your phone (don’t use headsets while driving). Avoid aggressive drivers, and get a good night’s sleep before long trips. Drinking and driving or tailgating, are both reckless behaviors and needlessly dangerous. Take care of your car, and be extra careful during bad weather. Seatbelts are life saving devices, but technological devices such as GPS, dash cams, and built-in audio systems are great tools. Most importantly, drive safe and defensively, wherever you’re headed is not going anywhere, so don’t needlessly risk your life.