The Ultimate Guide to Staying Safe Behind the Wheel
Table of Contents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's “ Traffic Safety Facts: 2012 Data,” in 2012 there were more than 5.6 million traffic accidents and more than 33,000 people killed in motor vehicle accidents.
And yet, there is some good news. The NHTSA also reports that, as of 2012, the previous five years had seen highway deaths in traffic accidents remain at historic lows.
When safety precautions are taken, the number of accidents and fatalities can be reduced. Following are tips for drivers of all ages on how they can stay safe behind the wheel.
Many traffic accidents can be avoided by following these basic safe driving tips:
Don't drink and drive. This article provides statistics on the dangers of drinking and driving. It provides advice on what one should do when they've been drinking, what to do when having a party where alcohol will be present, and how to detect drunk drivers.
Wear a seatbelt. As this information from the Centers for Disease Control notes, “seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.” It provides advice on what we can do to increase seat belt use.
Don't allow children (or any passengers) to move around in the car. This article explains how distracting for the driver it can be when children or other passengers are moving around in a vehicle. It notes that passengers should be buckled in at all times.
Don't speed. In its “Think Fast” brochure, the NHTSA educates drivers about the dangers of speeding. It provides speed-related traffic accident facts in an effort to convince drivers to stop speeding.
Stop aggressive driving. As part of its “Are You An Aggressive Driver?” campaign, the NHTSA encourages drivers to stop aggressive driving. This brochure helps drivers assess whether they are aggressive drivers and provides tips on how to avoid it, including giving oneself plenty of time to reach a destination and driving the posted speed limit. It also provides tips on what to do when confronted with an aggressive driver.
Minimize distractions. This article provides several safe driving tips, including touching on the importance of avoiding distractions while driving. The article cautions drivers about the dangers of using a cellphone or texting while driving and also asks them to avoid other distractions, such as eating.
Know and obey traffic safety laws. This website emphasizes the importance of knowing the traffic safety laws for your area. It makes it possible for users to click on their state and learn more about the traffic safety laws, such as seat belt laws and cellphone use laws, specific to their state.
Be a defensive driver. This website provides the “70 Rules of Defensive Driving,” to help educate drivers and keep them safe on the road. Here is a selection of those rules:
- Defensive Driving Rule #1: Pay Attention
- Defensive Driving Rule #3: Yield Anyway!
- Defensive Driving Rule #9: Don't Run Red.
- Defensive Driving Rule #17: Know Your Blind Spots.
- Defensive Driving Rule #32: Be a Safe Passer.
- Defensive Driving Rule #41: Share the Road with Bicyclists.
- Defensive Driving Rule #52: Slow Down When Approaching Intersections!
- Defensive Driving Rule #60: Use the Center Lane for Safety.
- Defensive Driving Rule #66: Secure Loose Objects.
- Defensive Driving Rule #69: Choose Your Route for Safety.
And for those truly dedicated to becoming defensive drivers, the National Safety Council offers a defensive driving course.
Maintain proper spacing between vehicles. As this article notes, it may look strange but it is best to keep 1.5 to 2 car lengths between you and the stopped vehicle in front of you. When you do so, you increase the chances that you'll avoid slamming into them if you are hit from behind.
Know what to do in inclement weather. Weather.com presents these “Extreme Weather Driving Safety Tips.” The piece notes the importance of having good wiper blades, encourages drivers to always follow the “Turn around, don't drown” motto during a flash flood, and provides other great tips on what to do in the case of tornadoes, hurricanes, winter weather, heat and earthquakes.
As the CDC notes, motor vehicle crashes are “the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.” Following are safe driving tips for teens to help prevent future tragedies:
Turn on your headlights (even when it's sunny). This article presents safe driving tips for teens. It explains that keeping one's headlights on, even during the day, can be a great way to increase visibility while driving.
Make sure your car has enough gas in it. These tips for teen drivers from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles explain why teens should be sure to always check their gas gauge. Getting stranded due to an empty gas tank can be very dangerous.
Don't adjust radio or iPod while driving. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles also advises teens not to adjust their radio dials or change songs on their iPods or other music devices while driving. Instead, wait to make adjustments until you can pull off the road.
Avoid driving at night. This advice comes from the National Safety Council's “Drive It Home” campaign. The NSC notes that the chance of a fatal crash is three times more likely for teens at night than during the day. It advises that teens drive at night with an adult supervisor.
Be safe when driving around your school. This article provides tips for teen drivers on how to keep themselves and others safe when they're driving around their school. For example, it tells teens to stop for school buses, not to park in fire lanes, and get to school early so they aren't rushing.
Don't carry teen passengers. As this article from AAA notes, teen passengers can be a huge distraction for teen drivers. It is best if teen drivers avoid having teen passengers in their own cars, and they should also avoid riding as passengers with other teen drivers.
Always be prepared. As this article from Consumer Reports notes, it is a good idea to always keep certain items in your car, and you should especially have them around if you're going on a long trip. The article suggests teens should definitely have jumper cables on hand and recommends putting together a roadside emergency kit.
Be aware of maintenance issues. This article teaches teens a few vehicle maintenance factors to look out for. It cautions them to be aware of fuel levels, to routinely check tire pressure, to regularly have the oil changed, and so on.
Get plenty of sleep. As these tips from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles note, teens are often sleep deprived. It encourages teens to get more sleep so that they can be more alert when driving.
Play HeadsUp. Toyota created this interactive challenge computer game. The road challenge game helps teens learn how to minimize distractions while driving.
As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports, in 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau predicted that the number of people 70 or older would increase from 29.1 million to 52.7 million in 2030. That means an increase in the number of older drivers on the road, and as the IIHS hypothesizes potential risks to traffic safety. Following are tips to help the nation's aging population stay safe on the road.
Stay physically active. This article presents tips for older drivers from the Mayo Clinic. One tip explains that when drivers stay physically active they're able to be better, safer drivers. They have the strength to steer and better flexibility for making movements needed to drive safely.
Have your vision checked regularly. These safety tips encourage older drivers to prioritize good vision. The article asks seniors to have their vision checked each year and to keep corrective lens prescriptions up to date.
Have your vehicle adapted, if needed. The NHTSA offers the “Adapting Motor Vehicles for Older Drivers” booklet. The booklet offers a comprehensive look at how seniors can assess their needs and go about modifying their vehicle if necessary.
Keep an eye on health conditions. The Washington D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles provides these tips for older drivers. The article asks older drivers to “manage their chronic conditions.” It explains that some older drivers may have health issues, such as diabetes, that could affect their ability to drive safely if not properly maintained. It asks drivers to carefully follow their doctor's instructions.
Know how medications affect your ability to drive. These tips from the National Institutes of Health ask senior drivers to be aware of how their medications can affect their ability to drive. As the article notes, if your medication says it shouldn't be taken while operating heavy machinery then don't driving while taking it.
Avoid high stress situations. These tips for older drivers from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation advise seniors to “avoid stressful driving situations.” These could include rush hour traffic or inclement weather.
Use familiar routes. This article advises older drivers to stick to familiar routes, especially if they're going to be driving at night or in inclement weather. As the article notes, older drivers tend to have more accidents “per mile driven,” sticking to familiar routes will make for a safer ride.
Be careful at intersections. As this article notes, intersections are a high-risk area for older drivers. It explains that “failure to yield” is a common cause of fatal collisions involving the elderly. Use extra caution in intersections and be sure you know who has the right of way.
Continuously scan the road ahead. This article advises older drivers to always be looking ahead. Scan the road for possible problems so that you'll have plenty of time to plan accordingly. The article also notes that as long as you won't become distracted, riding with a passenger can be a great help in this area.
Know when it's time to stop driving. This article provides advice and suggests questions older drivers can ask themselves in order to determine whether it's time for them to give up driving. For example, to assess their driving ability, seniors might ask themselves, “Do other drivers honk at me?” “Have I had some accidents?” “Do I get lost, even on roads I know?”, etc.