You probably remember the day you got your driver’s license. You probably felt liberated at the ability to operate a vehicle that could take you anywhere. Besides that, driving can be a lot of fun!
But it’s also dangerous if the driver is not careful. Car accidents happen every minute of every day in the U.S. There’s not much you can do to prevent a car accident caused by someone else, but you can take steps to avoid being the cause of that accident.
Here’s what you can do when you’re behind the wheel to make the roads safer for everyone.
Distracted driving is the number one cause of car accidents in the United States. Distractions can be cognitive, such as daydreams or worrying about something. They can be visual, such as billboards or flashing lights, or they can be physical, such as reaching into the backseat to separate fighting kids.
Phone use, particularly texting, is the biggest danger in distracted driving because it employs all three types of distraction. “When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover the length a football field while driving at 55 mph,” says a fact page from the CDC.
Have a Backup Plan
Those who drink before driving don’t always plan to do so. They might have a glass of wine at dinner and then leave to pick up their child from a sports practice. Or they might go out with friends and end up having a beer.
Instead of getting behind the wheel, have a backup plan. You might ask your child to get a ride home with a friend, or you might keep the number of a cab company handy in case you’re drinking when out with friends. If you make plans before you decide to pick up a drink, you’ll be much less likely to drive.
Stay Out of the Fast Lane
“Most highway accidents occur in the left lane,” says Caroline Pardilla, deputy managing editor of Edmunds.
When you’re in the fast lane, you’re probably speeding, if only a little. You’ll also feel peer pressure from other vehicles coming up behind you to drive a little faster. When driving at these speeds, it’s harder to stop during bumper to bumper traffic.
“By using the center or right lane on multilane roads, you have more ‘escape routes’ should a problem suddenly arise that requires you to quickly change lanes or pull onto the shoulder,” Pardilla concludes.
Scan Your Peripheries
Many accidents occur not because the driver was looking away from the road, but because they weren’t watching the sidelines. For example, a car might run a red light, or a deer might run onto the highway. If you were scanning the surrounding areas, you might have seen the hazard coming.
“Always count to three before entering an intersection on a green light,” admonishes an article from EHS Today. “Look both ways and be sure no one is trying to speed through a yellow light.” This simple act could save lives.
Maintain Your Vehicle
Many accidents occur because of vehicle malfunctions. For example, an engine stall during rush hour traffic might cause a rear end accident. A bald tire could also burst when driving at high speeds, causing the vehicle to flip.
Get oil changes regularly and have all the fluids inspected regularly. Avoid letting your tire tread get too low and have them rotated every six months. Pay attention to your brakes as well. If you’re leaking brake fluid or your pads are worn, they won’t work properly and could cause a serious accident.
Check Your Blind Spots
When you change lanes, do you glance over your shoulder to check for hidden cars? This simple act will prevent many accidents; your mirrors don’t show everything.
Additionally, be wary when driving near semi-trucks. These massive vehicles have many blind spots, and if you spend too much time hiding in one, you could get hit. If you can’t see the mirrors on the truck cab, the driver probably can’t see you.
The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities are the result of
speeding. When you’re driving too fast, you have less time to react if there’s
a problem on the road.
“Speeding endangers not only the life of the speeder, but all of the people on the road around them, including law enforcement officers,” the NHTSA warns. “It is a problem we all need to help solve.”
Give yourself plenty of time before leaving so that you’re not tempted to speed. Don’t rush around cars on the highway and be patient. By giving yourself just a little extra time to get to your destination, you’ll develop a habit of safer driving for the rest of your life.
Image credit: Before Accident via /Shutterstock