In this day and age we drive much safer cars on far safer roads than ever before. In fact, in 2014 the fatality rate as a result of auto accidents fell to an all time low of 1.07 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Nonetheless, accidents still occur and the best way to prevent being involved in one is to practice safe driving habits. Below are the top 11 safe driving tips that every driver should adhere to.
1) Stay Well Rested
According to crash data taken from around the world, drowsy driving is the cause of 10 to 30% of all auto accidents. If you’re tired enough to fall asleep while driving, then the results are very predictable. Even on a slightly straight highway or road, it’s extremely easy to drift off the side of the road. What’s worse, trees, utility poles, bridge abutments, and ravines make this scenario a potentially deadly one.
While it may seem like a few yawns are no big deal, just being slightly drowsy is enough to more than double your odds of causing an accident. Responses from lack of sleep can range from dozing off for a few seconds to completely losing focus on the road. At highway speeds, one or two seconds of inattention is all you need to create a disaster.
What’s the solution? The answer is to get the correct amount of sleep! Simply sleeping well before a long day of driving won’t be enough to keep the yawns away. When we don’t get enough sleep our bodies build up a sleep deficit that leave us tired and drowsy. Make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. If you’re driving and feel the least bit groggy, take action immediately! Have a friend take the wheel, or take a break at a rest area until you’re feeling more alert.
2) Wear Your Seat Belt
With all of the PSA government commercials on wearing seat belts, we’re all very much aware that seat belts save lives. In fact, statistics show that wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury for front seat passengers by 45%. Those riding in the rear have even better odds when they remain buckled in. Seat belts are 73% better at preventing fatalities for rear passenger riders.
It doesn’t take much of an impact to send your body hurling. Even a low-speed crash can send an unbelted rider careening into the dashboard or window. At even higher speeds the possible outcomes are far more frightening. Unbelted car occupants could receive severe lacerations from being propelled out of the windshield, struck by other cars on the road, or slammed into a tree or house. If this sounds scary to you, it is and it’s more than enough reason to stay buckled while your car is in motion.
3) Take Care In Bad Weather
Having to drive through heavy snow, icy roads, rain, or fog can be quite a terrifying experience. Bad weather can impair visibility, cause tires to slip or slide, and reduce your ability to stop. Under these conditions it’s best to slow your speed down 5 or 10 mph below the suggested speed limit, maintain extra distance from the car in front of you, and be especially careful driving around curves. If the weather worsens beyond a condition you’re comfortable driving in , don’t hesitate in pulling off to the side to weather out the storm.
If you’ve experienced bad visibility and end up on the side of the road intentionally or otherwise, turn off your lights. It may seem counter intuitive, but drivers on the road will be looking for other cars to follow. They may mistake your lights as a car on the road and drive towards you. It’s very possible they may not realize you’re moving fast enough to avoid a collision.
4) Don’t Tail Slow Drivers
Safe driving guidelines advise drivers to keep a safe distance between themselves and the cars in front of them. The reason being that you need enough time to react to a sudden turn or stop. It can be difficult to estimate the recommended distance while driving fluctuates with the speed you’re driving. For this reason, most experts recommend a three second rule.
The three second rule is very simple. Locate a stationary object on the side of the road and when the car ahead of you passes it, begin counting the seconds until you pass the same object. If the number of seconds is less than three, chances are you’re probably driving too close. At night or in bad weather, the number of seconds should double to six.
5) Stay Alert
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how safely you drive when others blatantly disregard safety guidelines. You could be driving the speed limit and obeying all traffic rules only to have an oblivious driver collide into you. One good rule of thumb is to assume everyone else on the road is an idiot (hopefully they’re not.) In other words, be prepared for sudden stops, unpredictable lane changes, swerving, tailgating, and every other bad driving behavior imaginable. Chances are, you’re bound to encounter behavior like this sometime in your lifetime and it pays to be prepared when you do.
It’s impossible to anticipate every single mistake a driver may make, but there are a few common mistakes to look out for. When a driver has their turn signals on, don’t assume they’ll be making a turn. There’s a possibility they had no intention of turning and that turn signal has been on since 1994. Additionally, when you’re at an intersection and you have the right of way, don’t necessarily assume the car pulling up will stop and let you cross first. As you approach the intersection, take your foot off the gas and be prepared for the possibility an intersecting car may speed by. Being aware requires the ability to be alert. Routinely check your mirrors and keep an eye on side streets. You can’t avoid every possible accident, but you can prevent a good few.
6) Defensive Driving Is The Best Driving
It’s hard to quantify exactly what constitutes aggressive driving, but it causes accidents beyond the shadow of a doubt. According to the NHTSA, male drivers are more prone to drive aggressively than female drivers. An aggressive driver will violate more than the driving tips in this article. They may intentionally aggravate other drivers, employ rude language or gestures, flash their headlights, tailgate, or honk continuously in frustration. These behaviors move beyond annoying and become very dangerous.
Defensive driving incorporates many of the tips previously discussed, but it also entails remaining calm in the face of aggravating driving conditions. Accept small driving delays and yield to other cars if needed, even if you have the right of way. Defensive driving will not only help you prevent a crash, it could also help you save money. Many insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who complete defensive driving courses.
7) Maintain Your Vehicle
Vehicle maintenance isn’t just an important way to extends your car’s life, it’s a major safety issue. If your car is unfit to drive on the road, the inspecting mechanic will let you know what needs to be fixed. However, there could be a year or two between inspections, so car owners need to be aware of any potential safety issues and get them repaired before they cause an accident on the road.
One of the most common maintenance problems that results in crashes is improper tire pressure. Tire pressure that is either too high or too low can impact performance and lead to a blowout. You can buy a cheap pressure gauge at little cost to compare your tire pressure with the recommended pressure level in the owners manual.
Another key car component that often requires maintenance is the brakes. If you notice softness in the brake pedal, or feel a vibration when the brakes are applied, then it’s time to get your brakes checked by a professional mechanic.