According to the National Safety Council, there were more than 40,000 deaths resulting from car accidents in 2018. This unwelcome benchmark has been reached for the past three years. During that same period, 4.5 million people were seriously injured during accidents.
With statistics like those, it seems many people can use a reminder on how to be a better driver. It never hurts to review the basics that can help keep you, your passengers and the others on the road safer.
Here are some tips to help you be a safer driver.
Keep Your Eyes on Your Surroundings
From the time you hop into the driver's seat, it's time to start paying attention to what's going on around you and your car. Take the time to look in all your mirrors and out the windshield.
While driving, keep an eye on the traffic ahead of you so you'll be ready to slow down or break due to road hazards or upcoming events such as a light turning red or a train crossing. Anticipate that other drivers may not see you first, so anticipate that people may back out of driveways or pull out of parking places without notice.
Watch the cars who are in the lanes beside you so you can slow down if any start to change lanes (with or without their blinkers on). By keeping in tune with what's going in their lanes as well as yours, you can anticipate dangers that might affect your lane.
Drive Below the Speed Limit
The posted speed limits are the maximum speed you should be driving on that road when conditions are optimal. So if the roads are wet with rain or slick from ice and snow, reduce your speed accordingly. If anything is causing visual issues, such as fog, you'll also need to follow additional safety measures.
Don't Let Yourself Be Distracted
When driving, we don't have much control over what happens outside of our car to help keep us safe. But within our cars, we do.
An important driver safety tip is not texting while driving. Tell your family, friends and your work that you won't be answering texts from the car so they know not to expect a reply. This should help you feel less compelled to respond.
Set your GPS, radio, and any other electronics you plan to use while driving before taking putting your car into drive.
Talk to your passengers about curbing distracting behavior. Distracting behavior is anything that is distracting to you, so let that be your guide.
Don't Drive When You're Tired
The Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 25 people reported falling asleep at the wheel within a 30 day period. So, when in doubt, put off your drive or pull over at a rest stop to get some sleep instead of driving on to your destination. Be especially diligent if you know you haven't been sleeping well or taking medication that lists drowsiness as a side effect.
Don't Drive Under the Influence
Learn how to calculate when it is safe for someone of your height and weight to drive after drinking alcohol. Don't drink on an empty stomach. If you do, adjust your drinks down to account for the lack of food in your stomach.
Driving under the influence includes marijuana and other drugs, prescription or illicit. Read your prescription labels and talk to your doctor about any limitations your prescriptions may put on your ability to drive safely.
Keep Your Kids and Pets Safe
If you have small kids or pets, be sure you know where they are before driving your car. Especially if you are parked in a driveway. Kids and pets like to follow people around and you don't want either getting in your car's blind spot when you don't know they are there.
If no one is there to keep your kids away from your car, make sure someone is watching them or they are securely locked in the house (and can't get out on their own). Make sure pets are secure behind a fence or someone else is holding their leash.
Perform Regular Maintenance on Your Car
No one likes paying for their car to be maintained, but skipping routine maintenance will make your car less safe to drive. Make sure your tires, brakes, windshield wipers, blinkers, headlights, and brake lights function properly.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Cars break down and weather can make it too unsafe to continue driving. Make sure you have what you need in your car to keep you safe and get back on the road as soon as you can. Knowing you are prepared will help you remain calm.
All cars should have what they need to fix a flat tire on board. You'll need a jack, a lug wrench, and a spare tire. If you live or travel where it snows, you'll also need chains for your tires.
Prepare an emergency pack with a flashlight, extra batteries, first aid supplies, an emergency thermal blanket, some granola or breakfast bars, and some bottles of drinking water.
If your car has broken down, move it to a safe spot on the side of the road, if you can. Put on your hazard lights and put safety cones behind your car if you have them.
Take Defensive Driving or Safe Driving Courses
Being prepared and practicing safe driving techniques is one of the best ways how to not be scared of driving.
If driving makes you nervous or anxious or you are timid about driving, consider talking to your doctor about it and/or taking a take some driving lessons that focus on how to drive defensively. Getting some practice anticipating and evading dangerous events can help you feel more relaxed and prepared for situations that may arise.
Use These Tips on How to Be a Better Driver
The above tips should help remind people how to be a better driver. If a situation comes up while driving, remember to slow down or pull off the road until conditions improve.
Now that you've gotten some tips about safer driving, check out the travel section of our website for some great places to go and put those tips to use.