Technology has given us cars with more safety features. Some models have programs that help the driver gauge with near accuracy his/her vehicle’s proximity to other cars on the road. It is a standard feature for many brands to include dashboard lights that will inform the driver if there is a mechanical issue with the car. Despite the improvements in car safety features, road accidents, traffic mishaps, and vehicular breakdowns remain an everyday reality that every motorist should accept and prepare for. There are more cars on the road today than ever before. In cities where public transportation is not adequate, the main thoroughfares are nearing maximum capacity. There are too many cars and not enough available real estate to accommodate everyone.The more cars are on the road, the higher the probability of accidents happening. Road safety should be every motorist’s concern. Unfortunately, there are some who do not consider it a priority. These are the ones who believe they will never get into an accident because they have faith in their driving skills. Then there are the private car owners who ignore warning lights or unusual sounds coming from their vehicle thinking these would just “go away”. The best thing you can do is to focus on what you can do from your end to make driving safer. The more responsible drivers there are, the safer our roads will be. It may take some time to go over your checklist but it is time well spent. As the saying goes, “The life you save may be your own.” Here are our top 10 safe driving tips and practices:
1. Keep Your Car Well-Maintained
Owning a car is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make in your life. But unlike owning a house, a car is not an investment. It is a depreciating asset which means it loses value over time. Every day you take the car on the road, you contribute to its wear and tear. You need to be a responsible car owner in order to extend the value of your vehicle. Maintaining a car is more than just keeping it clean. You have to make sure it is in fine, road-worthy condition:
- Check its water level every 2 weeks.
- Make sure the tires are inflated to the proper temperature.
- Never let the gasoline run down to near empty levels.
- Check the levels of the following car fluids: engine oil, brake fluid, coolant, washer fluid, radiator, transmission and power steering.
- Keep track of your car battery expiration date.
- Make sure the power windows, rear and side mirrors and dashboard lights are working.
- If you notice something wrong or unusual with your car, don’t take any chances. Bring it right away to your nearest mechanic or car repair shop.
2. Use Your Seat Belt
It seems odd that in this day when commercials and reminders of the importance of using the seat belt are on rotation on every type of media, some drivers and passengers still refuse to buckle up. Don’t be complacent because your car has air safety bags. Car accidents remain potentially deadly even with increased safety features. This is especially important for passengers who stay in the back seat. If the car gets rear-ended by another vehicle that is traveling at high speed, the passenger becomes a projectile who could either hit the driver or go through the windshield. Either proposition should be enough to make you put on your seat belt the moment you enter the car.
3. Keep Your Cool On The Road
A car is a 4,000-pound machine made of solid steel. It is a marvel of engineering and the latest technology. It can give one a sense of empowerment and invincibility. Behind all the computer processing and gadgetry that goes on inside your car, the human organism remains in complete control. Your car will function the way you want it to function. That is why incidents of road rage and physical altercations happen almost on a daily basis. Some drivers let the sense of empowerment get to their heads. When another driver does something that makes you feel disrespected, it is not worth your time and energy to find ways to respond in kind. Not all drivers are of sound mind. Don’t be one of them. The best recourse is to keep your cool. Always avoid confrontation. If you wish, report the erring driver to the appropriate authority. This would be very effective if you have dash cam footage to support your complaint.
4. Practice Defensive Driving
As we mentioned earlier, you should only focus on what you can control from your end. There are drivers who are not well versed in proper driving etiquette or have a clear understanding of the rules of the road. In some countries, when you signal that you want to move to the right lane, the car behind will suddenly accelerate to make sure you don’t get ahead of them. Then there are drivers who don’t understand right-of-way and just careens their vehicle through an intersection. Whether it is a “cultural thing” or plain and simple ignorance, maintain a defensive posture when you are driving. Like what we discussed in #3, always keep your cool. There could be other reasons why the driver handles his/her car that way. He/she could be a beginner; there could be an emergency or it’s just someone who is having a bad day. It is not your concern to find out why drivers drive the way they do. Your only focus is to make sure you practice safe, defensive driving.
5. Don’t Multi-Task While Driving
There is a market for apps that prevent people from texting or answering phones while driving. Why? Because multi-tasking while driving is very dangerous; it takes your focus away from the road and from handling your car properly. This is the reason why many countries have passed laws that prohibit using your mobile phone while driving. In some countries and states, the penalties can be very severe. They include indefinite suspension of driving privileges, a monetary penalty and even jail time. Another example of irresponsible multi-tasking is grooming while driving. Women are often caught putting on makeup or fixing their hair while their cars are still in transit. Men are sometimes caught putting on their necktie or shaving while driving. When you’re driving, you should focus only on the road that is in front of you.
6. Don’t Drink and Drive Drinking
alcohol impairs your ability to react, lowers inhibitions and affects your coordination. In the United States, 30% of road fatalities are alcohol-related. It does not take much alcohol to affect your driving. You may think that glass of red wine or a shot of scotch won’t impair your judgment, but it will. Your attention span most certainly will not be the same as it was before you had alcohol. At higher levels of alcohol, the risk of getting into accidents rises exponentially. You can get a blurred or double vision. In some cases, the driver loses complete consciousness. It’s okay to throw back a few shots or some tall cool ones with your friends. But always act responsibly. Plan ahead. If you’re going to paint the town red, arrange for a shuttle service to pick you up and drive you home.
7. Keep Your Distance Always
keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. What is a safe distance? Follow the 3-second rule. Find a stationary object on the side of the road; a lamppost for example. When the car ahead of you passes the lamppost, start counting. At least 3 seconds should pass before your car passes the same lamppost. Keeping a safe distance gives you enough time to stop should the driver in front of you suddenly steps on the brakes.
8. Observe Speed Limits
The saying “Speed kills” should only apply in athletics not driving. There’s a reason why cities specify speed limits in their jurisdiction. The number one reason, of course, is safety. In the United States, unnecessary speeding was identified as a contributing factor in 31% of all car fatalities. To enforce these laws, cities will impose penalties on people who disregard speed limits. Remember that you do not own the road. You share it with other cars as well as pedestrians. In cities where there are schools located, there are very strict speed limits. Driving at speeds 10mph faster will only save you a few minutes of travel time but increases your risk of getting into accidents by 50%. The odds are not worth the need for speed.
9. Drive Extra Careful in Bad Weather
Driving through heavy rain, snow or foggy conditions increases the risk of accidents tenfold. You need to do every single tip we have advised in this article and perhaps even more. Bad weather not only affects visibility but also the conditions of the road. You will find yourself in more slippery situations which are not ideal if your tires are not in good shape. When driving in bad weather, be extra careful. Drive slower than the speed limit. Stay further away from the car in front of you. If visibility becomes zero, stop and find a place to while away the time until weather conditions improve.
10. Don’t Drive When You’re Feeling Drowsy
It’s not just alcohol that can impair your driving abilities. Certain types of medications which contain ingredients that make you drowsy will have the same effect as ingesting alcohol. It is also not good to drive when you had a sleepless night or if you pulled out an all-nighter while preparing for an exam or completing a report for work. In these types of situations, the best option would be to stay home and get some rest. If you really have to be somewhere and you don’t have anybody to drive you, arrange transportation with a shuttle service company that can pick you up and bring you back home safely.
Conclusion Owning a car means more than having the luxury of driving a vehicle whenever and wherever you want to go. It comes with the responsibility of maintaining and handling a machine that weighs 4,000 pounds with the capability of hitting speeds of 140 to 170kph. Today’s cars may be equipped with fast processing computer chips and more safety features but it is still the human brain behind the wheel. Leave your ego back home and always think safety first when driving on the road.