Test Your Defensive Driving Skills!
Can you find all 8 unsafe road hazards?
We’re rolling into a new decade and you’re probably feeling the excitement for upcoming trips or dinner parties you have planned. Before you get to your destination however, you need to arrive safely. Use these 10 tips to help you be a safer driver.
1. Stay Focused Throughout Your Drive
It’s easy to get lost in thought on your commute after a long day. You may be listening to music and singing along or chatting animatedly with your family during the drive. It’s important, however, to stay focused on the road and situation around you. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents on the road today.
As you drive, keep the music to a reasonable level and ask passengers to lower the noise level if you notice yourself getting distracted. Be mindful of your lane usage on the road as you drive. For example, if you’re cruising the freeway for several miles, stay out of the left lane except to pass slower-moving vehicles.
2. Watch the Space Between You and Other Drivers
A collision with the vehicle in front of you is common in heavy traffic. Even if you’re paying attention, a driver may suddenly brake for an unknown hazard. If you’re following too closely, you won’t have space to stop.
Try to follow the 3-second rule when driving. Pick a landmark, such as a specific road sign, and note when the car in front of you passes it. Count out how many seconds it takes you to then pass the same sign. If it’s less than 3, you should slow down to give the other driver more space.
3. Avoid Peak Driving Times
A lot of accidents happen because of congestion on the roadways. The more cars on the road, the higher the chance two or more of them will collide. Certain times of the day increase the number of cars on the road and make it more dangerous for even the best defensive drivers.
On a normal day, peak driving times tend to be in the afternoon. As people get off work, they’re anxious to get home. Avoid driving during those times if you can. You may be able to come into work early so you can leave a little earlier to avoid traffic. If you can’t change your work schedule, try adding an activity at the end of your day to delay your travel. You might be able to find a gym and get a short workout in or a nearby grocery store to get dinner ingredients before heading home.
Keep in mind that during a long weekend, peak driving times may change. You may see an increase in cars on the road mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Plan to head out a little earlier than usual or leave a little later.
4. Keep Your Emotions in Check
Emotional driving can lead to erratic and dangerous driving. Personal emotions from things happening in your life may be hard to avoid. Try to take a few deep breaths before you begin driving and focus on the road to take your mind off of your emotions. If a family dinner involves stressful tensions with a relative, give yourself time to cool off before you decide to head home. Don’t try to talk on the phone to vent to a friend while driving. Finish your call before heading home.
Other drivers may also cause you to get annoyed, frustrated or angry. A driver constantly changing their speed in front of you would annoy almost anyone. They may have you wondering if they even have a driver’s license. Take a moment to breathe and consider pulling off somewhere if you find yourself with road rage.
5. Put Your Cell Phone Away
It’s common knowledge for most drivers that using a cell phone and driving is a bad choice. Plenty of drivers still use them, however. Cell phone use in cars can even be accidental. You get a ping from your phone letting you know you have a new message. Without thinking, you grab your phone to read the message and start to respond.
When you’re late to dinner or trying to remember what items you forgot to pack, it’s easy to pick up your phone when driving. Avoid using your phone when you’re behind the wheel by putting it out of sight. Try storing it in a bag in the backseat or putting it in the glove compartment. Turn off the sound or use a “do not disturb” mode when driving.
6. Never Drink and Drive
If your New Years resolution is to reconnect with old friends or new friends, there will be chances where you will be out in the town, enjoying a few drinks. Always put a plan in place to get home safely. If you know you’ll be drinking, consider leaving your car at home so you’re not tempted to drive back. Even a few drinks can dull your senses and slow your reaction times. Take public transportation, call a cab, get a ride from a friend or stay the night if you’ve had too much to drink.
7. Make Sure Your Car is in Good Shape
Whether you’re heading down the street or across the country, make sure your car is in good condition before hitting the road. Use a routine maintenance checklist to help you stay up to date on things like oil changes and fluids. A low tire pressure could blow out on the freeway causing you to panic on the road and lose control of the car.
For longer drives, consider taking your vehicle to a trusted auto repair shop for an inspection. Your mechanic can look over your vehicle and let you know if there’s anything that could cause problems.
8. Don’t Drive if You’re Tired
Just like driving after a few drinks, driving after a long day can slow you down when you need to make decisions on the road. It’s easy to get in your car and be lulled to sleep by the monotony of the road after a big dinner. Try rolling the windows down whenever you feel sleepy to help wake you up. The cool, fresh air can help jolt you awake and reenergize you. However, the safest option is to always pull over at a safe spot and take a quick rest before hitting the road again.
9. Take Your Time
You may be hurrying because you’re late for dinner, but your family would rather you arrive late and safe than not at all. Slowing down just a little can give you the time you need to avoid an accident.
At stoplights, don’t slam the gas pedal down right as the light turns green. Many drivers speed up at yellow lights, causing them to be in an intersection when the light changes. Wait for a second to let any traffic in the intersection settle before you move forward.
10. Don’t Rely on Other Drivers
Never assume another driver is being safe when driving. Other drivers are unpredictable, so you need to rely on yourself to help reduce the risk of an accident. The most important aspect of defensive driving is being aware of other drivers and doing your best to avoid them.
Get Ready to Hit the Road
Whether you’re doing a cross country road trip this year or getting home from work, be better prepared for the drive. Check your auto insurance coverage to make sure it’s up to date and you have enough coverage. With the right coverage and defensive driving skills, you can help reduce your chance of being in an accident.