It seems like everyone is rushing around in a frenzy. Whether you're commuting to work, driving to school, running errands or picking up the kids, there's never enough time. Between road rage, bad weather and driving while texting, it's never been a more dangerous time to drive. Do you know what it takes to arrive without crashing?
1. Watch the weather
In any kind of stormy weather, the key to driving safely is to slow down. Here are some more tips:
- Fog: Avoid driving in fog. If you can't, set your headlights on regular (or low beam). If visibility becomes so poor that driving safely becomes impossible, pull as far off the road as you can and stop.
- Rain: Keep your windows from fogging up by using the defroster or air conditioner (if necessary, open the window slightly). 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).
2. Look both ways at intersections
Don't pull away from a sign or a light until you're sure other drivers are stopping or yielding. Wait a few seconds after a light turns green before proceeding, to protect yourself from a driver running a red light.
3. Keep your distance
Drivers commonly tailgate because they underestimate how much stopping distance they really need. In general, under good weather conditions you need to keep at least three to four seconds between you the car ahead of you if you're going over 35 mph (at least two seconds if traveling less than 35 mph). 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.
4. Get a grip
On the steering wheel, that is. Don't drive one-handed, because if you're hit unexpectedly, you might lose control of your vehicle. Place both hands in a comfortable position on opposite sides of the steering wheel. And look ahead to anticipate obstacles you may need to steer around.
5. Stay awake
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.
6. Don't talk on the phone
People who talk on cell phones or text while driving are much more likely to have accidents. If you must use your cell phone when you drive, use a hands-free device. But if the conversation is complicated or emotional, pull off the road to a safe location to talk.
7. Use the breakdown lane only in a real emergency
Many tragic accidents occur when drivers are stopped in the breakdown lane and are hit by other vehicles. Don't stop in the breakdown lane to talk on your cell phone, to rest or to eat unless there's no other option. But in case of emergency:
- Pull off the road as far as possible.
- Make sure you are visible to other drivers by turning on the emergency flashers, setting up a warning triangle, and using flares or portable warning lights.
- Get help right away if you need it. Call a tow truck or the police on your cell phone, raise your hood or tie a white cloth on your mirror to signal for help, or put a sign in your back window.
8. Don't let the kids distract you
Drivers weaving on a highway might not be under the influence of alcohol. They might have kids in the back seat! Refuse to let your kids distract you when you drive. Have a plan to deal with arguments in the car. If they drop something, don't try to pick it up. If all else fails, pull off the road until things settle down.
9. Check your tires
When was the last time you inspected your tires? Accidents caused by tire failure are frequently preventable. Keep an inexpensive tire gauge in your vehicle and check your tire pressure every time you get gas (you can usually find the manufacturer's recommended pressure inside the door of your car or in your owner's manual). And inspect your tires regularly to spot cracks, bulging, worn spots or shallow tread.
10. Wear your seat belt correctly
You may wear your seat belt regularly, but are you wearing it correctly? If not, it may not protect you in an accident. Fasten lap and shoulder belts snugly, wearing the lap belt on your hips, not on your stomach. And wear your seat belt even if your car has an air bag. The air bag won't protect you from being thrown around or out of the car in an accident.