How to drive, safely!
We all have taken our driving exam ……. And passed; this would explain the little plastic card we have with a photo we despise and a false weight that indicates we can drive. Seriously though driving these days with road rage, a lot of young drivers with their own vehicles, and scooters we have to take a lot more precautions when setting out on the road. Let’s examine some of the things we need to be aware of and we all can be safer.
See and Be Seen
So this seems simple enough, but you would be surprised at how opposite that is for most of us. Too many of us are talking on our cell phones, thinking about work, arguing with the kids in the back seat and we forgot about everything else. For these reasons many of us have a near miss accident or unfortunately end up in an accident.
We need to be aware of our surroundings at all times. First you need to look ahead, this is very important; but most of us don’t think to look as far ahead as we are going to travel. You want to watch for any oncoming traffic entering from a side street, off a highway ramp, and pedestrians crossing the street. Also you will want to watch for vehicles braking suddenly and slowing down. By doing this you can adjust your speed or perhaps change lanes without incident. You will not want to forget to pay attention to what is going on behind you and to the side of you; this is why mirrors are on the vehicle. Be very aware of all your surroundings and ready to respond.
Not only do you want to watch for other vehicles or pedestrians but you want to watch for the terrain changes, i.e.: hills and curves that may affect the speed at which you need to travel or the lane you are in. You will need to pay attention to the traffic signals and signs as they will indicate any changes that may need to be made in your driving. Most importantly is when you come to a traffic light. You see the light is yellow, instead of speeding up to get through the light – slow down and stop as the light will be turning red very shortly. Too often people think by speeding up they will get through the light and instead run a red light and the traffic on the opposite ends has turned green and before you know it there is an accident.
A helpful tip, when driving during daylight hours and the sun is glaring down on you – have handy a pair of sunglasses to keep the glare of the sun from blocking what you will see and not see. Double the protection by using the sun visor that comes as a manufactured installment in all vehicles. The sun can be a big danger while driving as the glare can blind us and prevent us from seeing things quickly.
We are not talking about using your mouth and the words in it to communicate. This may only get you in trouble and who knows what else. I am talking about using your turn signals and brake lights. Do not flip the turn signal on right as you are turning – do so before you are turning with enough notice to the vehicles following you. Doing so will prevent a collision as the other drivers may not be paying attention to what is going around them. If you are using your turn signal to change lanes always check your mirrors first before maneuvering to the other lane (not forgetting your ‘blind spot’).
Another way to communicate to the other drivers is when you are going to slow down or stop. Do not immediately step on the brakes; tap them lightly as this gives warning of your vehicle coming to a stop or moving at a slower speed. If you have to travel at a slow speed for a safety reasons it would be best advised to use your hazard lights as this warns the oncoming vehicles that you are moving at a slower speed. Be sure to check with your local DMV that you can do this as some states do not allow you to.
At all cost do not try to direct traffic if it so happens this is needed. It’s too dangerous to yourself and unless you know what you are doing you could ask for more trouble. Leave directing traffic to the professionals – the police.
Always be sure to have in your trunk your warning devices (triangle, reflectors, flares and flash light) for incidents that may arise. If you have to pull to the side of the road for an extended time you will want to place the triangle out to warn oncoming traffic that there is a vehicle ahead pulled to the side. For safety when placing the device out you will want to carry the triangle in front of you as to warn the traffic; this will prevent an injury to yourself. Reflectors, flares, and flashlights are for night time and should be used to warn the traffic and for your safety. Always use caution when setting flare to not cause injury to self.
They post speed limits for a reason in various areas; this is for our safety and the safety of others. If you were to double your speed it would take about 4x as much distance to stop; this making your vehicle 4x as destructive power when it crashes (keep that in mind). So by slowing down you will gain a lot in reduced braking distance and just likely not to have that accident.
There are four distances in which you need to familiarize yourself with:
- Perception Distance: the distance you travel until your brain registers a hazard
- Reaction Distance: the distance traveled until you actually begin to brake
- Braking Distance: the distance it takes to come to a complete stop
- Total Stopping Distance: add all three above together
When the weather and road conditions change you will need to adjust your speed accordingly to the conditions. Roads become slippery when wet and many of get careless and just may hydroplane right across the road. During winter months you have to watch for ‘black ice’ on the road and remember to slow down for precaution. If you are to hydroplane you want to be sure not to use your brakes. Reduce the speed by taking your foot off the pedal and allowing yourself to slow down without breaking to do so; while trying to keep things in a straight line. This should help in regaining traction then from here keep the speed down in your vehicle.
Safe advice on following posted speed limits and reducing speed in inclement weather; when roads are wet – reduce speed by 1/3; on packed snow reduce by 1 /2 ; and on ice reduce speed to a crawl and stop driving as soon as you can safely do so.
Tailgating – never do this
A general rule of thumb when driving is to allow at least 2 seconds between you and the vehicle ahead of you. By following this general rule this will allow you adequate time to stop or slow down. If driving an RV you will want to allow yourself at the minimum 4 seconds or more between you and another vehicle as it will take more time to slow down when in a bigger vehicle. The same would apply with towing – more weight has been added to your vehicle.
“Overdriving your lights”
This only occurs at night. Use your high beams except when there is a vehicle ahead within 500 ft, or an oncoming vehicle approaches. Highway usually does not apply for oncoming traffic as there is enough distance between your side of the road and the other side of the road. Seeing hazards at night may take longer as your vision is impaired without the illumination of daylight. Do not use your high beams through towns or cities; this is not necessary. You may want to slow your speed down at night as your reaction to an incident is slower because of poorer lighting and not being aware of the situation in advance as you would be with daylight hours.
Now that we have gone over some safety concerns to pay attention to while driving, keep yourself familiar with them and you and your loved ones should arrive at any location safe and sound.