Every year, throughout the United States, unsafe driving habits cause numerous accidents and injuries. For example, distracted driving claimed 2,841 lives in 2018 while speeding accounted for 17% of fatal crashes. While aggressive driving is challenging to quantify, one American Automobile Association study tied aggressive driving to 56% of all vehicle crashes in a five-year period.
Unsafe driving puts everyone at risk. Here are some tips to ensure you are practicing safe driving.
1. Follow the Three Second Rule
There's a simple way to calculate the three-second rule while you're on the road — when the car in front of you passes a tree or other marker, count to three until you pass that same marker. If you pass the marker before you finish counting, you are following the vehicle ahead of you too closely. Increase that distance to five or even six seconds during the winter months to accommodate slippery conditions. Following too closely, known as tailgating, is one of the leading causes of rear-end accidents.
2. Avoid Distractions
Using your phone on the road can lead to hefty fines in most states. However, while electronic devices are the most obvious driver distractions, there are many others that you may not even be considering a distraction. Eating, talking to passengers and changing the radio station can all take your eyes away from the road. Remember to always pull over to the side of the road when you must deal with something that will distract you from driving.
3. Be Predictable
Part of being a good driver is ensuring that other drivers on the road are not surprised by your actions. That can be a challenge when you’re still unsure of your own skills, driver etiquette, or even the way your vehicle handles. Being predictable means always signalling your intentions to turn or change lanes. Pumping your brakes lightly to signal your intention to slow down or stop is also a good idea, particularly in poor weather when visibility might be an issue.
4. Yellow Isn’t Green
A yellow light is telling you to slow down and prepare to stop. Rushing through a yellow light will not save you much time and it increases the chances of an accident in the middle of an intersection. That accident could also be your fault, increasing your insurance rates and possibly costing you points.
5. Red Means Red
Make sure you come to a full stop at a traffic light or stop sign, even if there is no other immediate traffic in your line of vision. The fines for ignoring these are significant. Additionally, there may be another vehicle coming that you just can’t see yet.
6. Know Your Blind Spots
Every vehicle has a blind spot. This section is usually to the side of your car and cannot be seen by viewing the rear or side mirrors. Checking your blind spot requires you to turn around and physically look at the area. Some drivers may be tempted to skip this step, and instead rely on their mirrors, but you should never do this. It will only take a second to assess. Making checking your blind spots a habit can help prevent easily avoidable accidents when you turn or change lanes.
7. Drive Defensively
Do not assume that the other drivers around you are experienced and in control. You can’t depend on them to do the right thing. Instead, expect the unexpected and assume that the drivers sharing the road with you might just do something crazy or dangerous and practice defensive driving.
8. Obey the Speed Limit
Speed limits are not there to be tested and pushed, particularly if you are a new driver. It is illegal to exceed a speed limit, but it can also be dangerous. Experts put speed limits in place because they determined this speed was the maximum a driver could reach without putting themselves, pedestrians or nearby homes at risk.
9. Check the Weather
Drive according to conditions and be prepared for conditions to change, sometimes rapidly, on freeways. Slow down. Ice, snow, sleet and fog won’t just affect your ability to drive safely — they’ll also impact other drivers on the road. Again, assume the worst and drive accordingly. Better yet, if you can, stay home when conditions are bad.
10. Give Yourself Extra Time
Drivers make mistakes and accidents happen when you’re in a rush. The reality is that running through yellow lights or speeding are unlikely to save you much time. Be patient and understand that is better to arrive safe and sound than to not arrive at all or to cause a devastating accident.
11. Practice Safe Night Driving
Dusk and nighttime driving put you at an increased risk of accidents. It is harder to see obstacles or other cars. In some locations, animals may venture out onto roadways, and be hidden from view until they are nearly in front of your vehicle. Always use your headlights and don’t be afraid to slow down when you must drive at night.
12. Respect Emergency Vehicles
Pull over for ambulances, fire trucks and police when you see their lights flashing in your rear-view mirror. The idea is to provide the drivers of emergency vehicles with a clear route to get through traffic. If you see emergency or other vehicles stopped by the side of the road, give them a wide berth. If possible, turn slightly into the next lane to put as much space as possible between you and any passengers who may be exiting those vehicles.
Be Mindful On The Road
Safe driving is primarily about being aware of your surroundings and being respectful of your vehicle's power and others who are sharing the road. It isn’t difficult, but it can make the difference in getting you and others to your destination safely.