Staying safe on the road is about more than keeping an eye on other drivers.
One of the first rules all new drivers are told is to drive defensively out on the road. While you cannot control the actions of other drivers, there are steps one can take to reduce the likelihood of a car accident. In recent history, 4.5 million accidents cause property damage on a yearly basis, which goes to show the importance of safe driving. Not only will a car accident endanger your life, but you may also be responsible for thousands of dollars in payments depending on the circumstances of the accident.
Staying Safe on the Open Road
Learning how to stay safe on the open road is about more than keeping distance between cars and staying in your lane. The following seven tips will help anyone improve their driving skills while reducing the risk of an accident:
1. Complete all required vehicle maintenance
When you purchase a vehicle, manufacturers will provide you with a recommended maintenance schedule. With the most common intervals being 5,000-miles, 10,000-miles, 30,000-miles, and 50,000-miles, these check-ups keep crucial parts under the hood in working order.
Refer to your specific user manual to see the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle. Always complete these check-ups as they can help prevent major breakdowns from occuring in the future by replacing or fixing parts before they go bad. In addition to regular vehicle maintenance, handle preventative maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations to maximize the reduction of risk.
Drive defensively, not offensively
Driving defensively is the best way to avoid an accident on the road. Remember the following driving school tips the next time you turn your vehicle on:
- Turn your blinker on at least 100 feet before a turn to let other drivers know your intended direction
- Double check before changing lanes
- Only use your horn when absolutely necessary so as not to distract other drivers
- Turn off brights when another car is approaching from ahead
- Do not rubber neck if there is an accident on the road
- Do not use a handheld mobile device of any type while driving
- Don’t just look to the side when changing lanes, check your rearview to ensure no speeding cars are approaching
3. Always avoid driving when tired
Did you know that after 20 hours awake, your mind is in a state that is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, and 0.1% after 24 hours awake? Driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence if you aren’t careful. The urge to reach a destination as soon as possible, especially on longer drives for road trips, can be overwhelming, but don’t sacrifice safety for this goal.
For long drives it’s best to alternate drivers so that someone fresh is always at the wheel. Ideally, the people in the front keep each other awake and the people in the back rest, with a rotation occurring every couple of hours.
4. Be prepared for poor weather conditions
When weather takes a turn for the worse, people’s driving tends to as well. Be prepared for this if you need to hit the open road in poor weather. Leave more space between vehicles, replace windshield wiper blades prior to bad weather, and double-check that your brakes are in working order.
Additionally, poor weather conditions for driving aren’t just limited to heavy snow or rain. For example, keep a pair of sunglasses on hand for days where the sun is shining particularly bright, especially on morning and evenings commutes as the sun continues to rise and set.
5. Connect any devices before you start driving
Using handheld devices is one of the quickest ways to find yourself in a car accident. In fact, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,142 drivers in recent years. Before ever putting your car into motion, plug in your device, set your music, or do whatever you need to do prior to stepping on the gas pedal.
If you use a handheld device for GPS and something goes wrong on the route, avoid trying to fix it while actively driving. Pull over to the side of the road safely and adjust your GPS, rather than taking the risk of removing your eyes from the road.
6. Don’t over rely on driver assist technology
Technological advancements in recent years have been ground-breaking, and the advancements in the automobile industry are no exception. Cruise control has become far more intuitive with features such as automatic braking, speed adjustment, and so much more. While these driver assist technologies are undoubtedly helpful, it’s best not to become over-reliant on them.
If you are using adaptive cruise control, or a self driving feature of a capable vehicle, you always need to be ready to take control of the wheel. Remember that the technology is called “driver assist”, meaning it should only be used to help you drive, not to take over.
7. Remember your original training
Regardless of whether you are a new driver or have been out on the road for decades, your original training is still the best guidance to follow for safe driving. Of the many safe driving tips taught to prospective drivers, here are some of the most prominent to remember:
- Always wear your seatbelt and ensure passengers are wearing theirs
- Limit the amount of night driving you do
- If you are slamming on the brakes and approaching a car too rapidly, try to drive your car to the side as opposed to rear-ending them
- Practice driving in poor weather in a controlled environment
- Limit the number of passengers in your vehicle
What to do After a Car Accident
The above tips are all helpful ways to reduce the likelihood of a car accident, but they aren’t surefire ways to stop one. Use the following tips to gather all necessary information from others involved in the accident while also ensuring your safety:
- Move affected vehicles out of the road if you are safely able to
- Call 911 if there are injuries or dangerous damage to vehicles
- Obtain name, phone number, and insurance information from other drivers involved
- Take photos of the impact points and other damage
- If the owner of a vehicle cannot be found, such as when there’s an accident in a parking lot, leave a note with all of your relevant information
- Notify your insurance company immediately
- Report the accident to the DMV if applicable
The safety of you and all those involved in a car accident should come first. Only after making sure everybody is safe and that no medical services are required should the exchange of information take place.
Stay defensive to stay safe on the road
Remember that you can’t control the actions of other drivers. In the event a car accident does happen, stay calm, get off the main road, and assess injuries if you are able to. While the above tips won’t outright stop car accidents from happening, they can help to reduce the odds. Always focus on driving defensively, whether you are going on a road trip or a simple trip to the grocery store.