How to Drive a Car Safely

Driving a Car Safely

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Never drink and drive.Everyone knows that they shouldn’t drive after drinking, but it’s worth repeating. At a minimum, drinking impairs your judgment and slows your reaction time. At worst, it causes blurred vision and loss of consciousness.

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the year 2012, 31% of all fatal traffic accidents in the United States involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Any driver with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is considered to be alcohol-impaired in the eyes of the law and if you are caught, you may be arrested, forced to pay a fine, charged with a DUI and/or sentenced to jail time.
  • You can easily avoid drink driving by arranging to get a lift home with a designated driver, getting a taxi, taking the bus, or arranging to stay overnight at somebody else’s house. Drink driving is never worth the risk.

Avoid distractions. Being distracted while driving is a bad idea, as you can’t give your full attention to the road and your reaction time becomes slower as a result.

  • Using cell phones while driving — whether you’re making a call, texting or doing something else — is seriously detrimental in terms of it’s effect on your attention to driving. If you need to make a phone call, pull over and stop the car first.
  • Aside from using cell phones, a distraction counts as anything that takes your full attention off the road, whether it’s fiddling with the radio, checking or applying make-up, or eating food. All of these things should be avoided.
  • Also be careful when driving with children and pets, as they can be a potential distraction. Make sure children are securely strapped in with seat belts and pets are contained in a pet carrier.

Avoid drowsiness. Feeling sleepy behind the wheel is almost, if not just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol, especially at night. In fact, According to a study by Virginia Tech; drowsy drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash.

  • Driver drowsiness does not necessarily mean falling asleep behind the wheel (though this is highly dangerous), it can also refer to a driver zoning out for just a moment or two — enough time to cause a serious accident.
  • You can avoid potential drowsiness behind the wheel by always getting a good night’s sleep — eight hours per night, if possible. You should also take frequent breaks while driving (especially if you feel yourself getting tired) to get some fresh air or drink a coffee. Share the driving responsibilities with another driver, if possible.
  • You also need to be very cautious about taking medications which may cause drowsiness. If you are taking a cold medication or antihistamine, always read the warnings on the label.

Always wear a seatbelt. Wearing a seat belt while driving is essential — according to the NHTSA, wearing a seat belt can the reduce the risk of fatal injury to passengers aged 5 and above by 45%, and reduce the rate of moderate to serious injury by 50%.

  • Wearing a seat belt prevents the occupants of a car from being thrown around the vehicle or being propelled through the windshield during a crash, thus helping to prevent broken bones, severe head trauma, lacerations and the possibility of being hit by another vehicle.
  • Although you sometimes hear frightening stories about people who become trapped in their car as a result of wearing their seat belt, this is an anomaly and only counts for a tiny percentage of accidents. In the vast majority of accidents, the seat belt will work in your favor.

Stay calm. Even though sitting in a traffic jam or dealing with another driver’s bad behavior can be extremely frustrating, it’s important to stay calm while driving. Getting angry or upset will only distract you and make you more likely to do something dangerous.

  • Avoid doing anything that could aggravate other drivers, like flashing your headlights, beeping your horn, or making rude hand gestures. This kind of behavior can distract other drivers and potentially cause an accident.
  • If another driver does something dangerous or acts aggressively towards you, keep your cool and yield to the other driver, or let them pass you by. The sooner they’re out of your way, the better.

Following the Rules of the Road

Observe the speed limit.It may seem obvious, but observing the speed limit is a vital part of safe driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “speeding was a contributing factor in 30% of all fatal crashes” in the year 2011.

  • Remember that the higher the speed, the less time you have to react to the traffic around you, and collisions are far more likely to be serious if they occur at a high speed.
  • For shorter journeys, speeding is only going to save you a couple of minutes of time, but it greatly increases the risk of a serious accident. If you need to be somewhere on time, just leave earlier.

Follow the three-second rule. It’s very important to avoid following another car too closely, as this gives you less time to react if the driver in front of you decides to break or turn suddenly. For safety, drivers are advised to maintain a distance of three seconds between their car and the car in front of them.

  • The distance is measured in time rather than feet (or other units of measurement) as it can be difficult to judge distances while driving, and what counts as a safe distance varies depending on speed.
  • To judge the minimum safe distance according to the three-second rule, pick a stationary object on the side of the road like a lamppost or mailbox. When the car in front of you passes this object, begin to count the seconds — at least three seconds should pass before you pass the same object.

Be extra careful in poor driving conditions. Being a good driver involves tailoring your driving to the surrounding conditions — whether you’re faced with bad weather, poor visibility, or simply driving at night.

  • Driving in poor conditions requires you to be even more cautious than you normally would — you should drive slower than the speed limit, maintain additional space between your car and the car in front of you and be very careful around twists and bends.
  • If it’s dark, foggy or raining, you should also remember to turn on your lights — you need to be seen if you want to avoid getting hit!
  • Remember to stop and clean off fogged or iced windows to improve visibility. A surface treatment (such as “Rain-X”) can help to improve visibility through the rained-on glass.
  • Of course, the safest thing to do is to avoid driving in poor weather conditions altogether. If there’s very bad rain, snow or ice on the road, you should consider staying at home if possible.

Be wary of other drivers. When driving, you should never assume that everyone else on the road will act in a safe, responsible manner, or that they will react to a situation in the same way as you.

  • As a result, you need to be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times, and be ready to react instantly to what’s going on around you. This is known as driving defensively.
  • Some specific bad driving practices to watch out for include: failing to use indicators, changing lanes unexpectedly, stopping suddenly, speeding, swerving, and tailgating.

Use your mirrors and check your blind spots. Don’t just pay attention to the cars and road in front of you-you should be scanning more-or-less constantly, using your mirrors to watch the cars on either side and behind you.

  • However, every vehicle has blind spots — so know where yours are, and make allowances for those of other vehicles. Always check your blind spot by looking over your shoulder before turning or changing lanes.
  • You could also consider getting a blind-spot mirror, but be aware that anything in it is much smaller than it appears.
  • Don’t block your vision — avoid putting decals on your windows or hanging loose objects (like furry dice) from your rear-view mirror.

Dealing With Specific Hazards

Be extra careful when driving on ice.Driving on ice requires special care, so here are some pointers:

  • If you find yourself suddenly on ice (or black ice) do not slam on the brakes; you could lose all control. If you must slow down, put your vehicle in a lower gear and/or apply brakes lightly and steer straight.
  • When driving on ice, do not turn your steering wheel. Serious accidents often occur in winter, when drivers turn their wheels on ice. Turning the wheel has little or no effect until the car passes the ice and the tires suddenly regain their traction. Once the tires regain traction, the vehicle will steer violently to the side, potentially causing an accident.

Use your indicators when turning. Always use your turn signals to indicate where and when you’re going to turn. This gives other drivers time to react — making it both the safest and most courteous thing to do.

  • Signal as soon as you decide that you would like to make a turn, then look for space into which to make the turn, not vice versa. This gives other drivers more time to notice you, and perhaps even open up space for you.
  • These rules also apply when you are changing lanes, as suddenly switching lanes without giving the drivers around you advanced warning can be very dangerous.
  • Turns into traffic (for example, left turns in right-hand-drive countries) are especially hazardous, and should be avoided if possible. Plan your trip to make turns with the traffic whenever possible.

Be cautious around trucks. Trucks are a special hazard; their drivers cannot see other vehicles as well as you can in a car.

  • Therefore, it’s important to give trucks extra space — you can do this by observing a six-second rule (instead of three seconds) when driving behind a truck.
  • Be extremely careful when overtaking a truck. If there is an accident between a car and a truck, the driver of the car will be the one most at risk.

Never run a red light. When you try to run a red light, you take the risk that another car will turn or pull out in front of you, right into your path.

  • It is equally likely that a pedestrian (perhaps a child) might step out onto the crossing, trying to cross the road. If either of these things happens, there is likely to be a serious accident and no one will be at fault except you.
  • Keep in mind that it is exceptionally difficult for another driver to tell how fast you are going or whether you are about to accelerate or stop when they are approaching you head on.

Taking Care of Mechanical Issues

Regularly check for any mechanical issues.Regularly check the mechanical features of your car, making sure to include the headlights and taillights, the brakes and the suspension.

  • If you don’t feel comfortable doing these things yourself, send your car to a mechanic.
  • The failure of any of these components can create a dangerous situation while driving.

Maintain your car properly. For example, if your wheel falls off and you have an accident, your insurance company will find that you are at fault.

  • Minor things count, too. Change windscreen wiper blades when they begin to streak the windshield during use.
  • Also, keep your windscreen washer reservoir filled regularly to clear mud or debris from your windshield.

Keep all four tyres properly inflated. This will give the best traction, mileage, and performance. In the UK, it’s a legal requirement to have properly inflated tyres at the correct tread depth.

  • Make sure the tyre pressure is even — uneven pressure can lead to poor performance or even a blowout.
  • Replace worn tyres. Remember that wet traction deteriorates before the tread wears to its legal limit because the water has only smaller places to be squeezed out to; replacing at 4/32 can be wise. Check your spare when you check your four tyres. Did the previous owner forget to tell you about that time he used the spare? If the answer to that question is yes, then get a new one.

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