7 Safety Tips for Preventing a Car Accident
1. Practice defensive driving.
Defensive driving, similar to the role of defense in a team sport, is the art of adjusting to those around you and preparing to react to any problems or issues that arise. A defensive driver always has an “escape” route in the back of his or her mind in the event of a dangerous situation, such as observing where the shoulder is clear if there is a need to pull over. Defensive drivers stay in the slow lane, except when passing, and maintain a safe distance behind other vehicles (figure one car length for every 10MPH, according to “The Car Chasers” Perry Barndt).
2. Avoid distractions.
According to the DMV, 26% of accidents are caused by cell phone use. Actions like texting, eating, applying make-up, and surfing the internet are 100% avoidable, and avoiding these acts will make the commute a safer one for you — and for everyone else on the road. Let your insurance help you become a safer driver, as well. Programs like Esurance’s DriveSense program or Progressive’s Snapshot tool can award you for driving safely by providing discounts.
3. Know your vehicle and maintain it properly.
Make sure to follow the guidelines of your owner’s manual to keep your vehicle in peak operating condition. Replacing old tires and worn brake pads are a must, as well as making sure you have functioning windshield wipers in case of a sudden downpour. Edmunds’ editors recommend knowing the specific performance limits of the car you drive. For example, you should know how well your vehicle accelerates around a curve or up a hill, the quality and pressure of your tires, and how long it takes your vehicle to come to a complete stop.
4. Trust your gut instincts.
Does that driver weaving in and out of traffic seem like he might be drunk or overly tired? Does the pick-up that passed you have an unsecured load in the trailer? Just how fast is the person going around the corner with that enormous, top-heavy RV? Observing these behaviors, and making sure to keep your distance when you see something off, can keep you safe. Frequently checking your blind spot is also vital. Know what you cannot see– and be extra cautious about what you can.
5. Be comfortable.
You don’t want to be adjusting your seat or steering wheel at 65MPH. Make sure you’re at a comfortable height and distance from the wheel before you turn the key in the ignition. This issue is especially true if you are beginning a long drive or if someone else uses your car and occasionally adjusts these settings. Edmunds also recommends making sure you are close enough to the wheel to have your hands comfortably at 3 and 9 o’clock, the position that allows you maximum vehicle maneuverability in case of incident.
6. Prepare your route ahead of time.
Accidents can easily happen in the moment it takes you to look up a destination on your smart phone or GPS. A wrong turn can lead to confusion and further distraction. Planning your route ahead of time on a long journey, or simply knowing your stops for an afternoon of running errands, can keep you focused on the road rather than brainstorming or searching for road names and landmarks.