When you’re on the road, you can’t help what other drivers are doing. Whether you’re rear-ended or someone hits you while making an illegal turn, sometimes accidents just happen.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do to keep yourself safe on the road! By taking the time to learn how to be a safer driver, you can greatly reduce your chances of getting into an accident, regardless of what other drivers are doing.
Silence Your Phone
Although you probably already know you shouldn’t text and drive, it bears repeating. One study found that by using your phone while you’re driving, you increase your chances of experiencing a fatal crash by 66 percent.
If you aren’t using your phone for anything else, put it on silent in the backseat. Any call or text you receive behind the wheel can wait until you get to your destination.
If you are using your phone for other things, get everything up and running before you pull out of the driveway. For example, if you’re using GPS, enter your destination and get the directions up before you start your car and pull up your playlist before you back out into the street. That way you aren’t updating your destination or switching songs when you should be focusing on the road.
Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep is a way of life for many people, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. It can actually be extremely dangerous if you get behind the wheel when you haven’t gotten enough rest.
Between 2005 and 2009, over 83,000 crashes were blamed on at least one drowsy driver. With more drivers on the road today, that number is likely much higher.
When you’re tired, you’re more likely to miss your exit, you’re more likely to drift from your lane, and frequent yawning means squinting or closing your eyes when they should be wide open.
The simples solution is to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep every night. If you don’t get the sleep you need, have a backup plan ready to go. Ask a friend if they can drop you off at work or know how the bus system works so you can always hop on at the nearest bus stop. If you have a flexible work schedule, try sleeping in, or ask if you can work from home.
Keep Your Hands Off the Dash
Your phone isn’t the only thing that can keep your hands busy behind the wheel when you’re supposed to be focusing things on the other side of the windshield. Your dashboard can distract you from the road too.
Adjusting the thermostat and changing radio stations can distract you in an older car, but touchscreen dashes can be extremely distracting in newer cars. You greatly increase your chances of experiencing an accident by touching the screen instead of keeping your hands on the wheel.
Minimize how much you have to do on the screen when you put the car in drive by getting everything set up and ready to go. Play your favorite music, pull up your GPS if you need it, and turn on the air conditioning so there’s less you have to do when your vehicle is moving.
Consider Your Passengers Carefully
People in the car can distract you too! That’s why it’s a good idea to consider your passengers carefully.
Have a friend who always acts a little rowdy in the car after having a few drinks? Is there an in-law who enrages you while you’re driving? Say no to giving them a ride or ask someone else to drive.
You also have to think about the kids! Set yourself up for success by planning your ride ahead of time. Whether that means making sure all the kids have a toy to play with or a screen to watch, or you put up literal barriers between the kids to keep them from fighting, it’s important to keep the kids calm and quiet so you can focus on the road.
Strike a Balance Between Offensive and Defensive Driving
There’s no question that defensive driving is extremely important. Keep your eyes open and anticipate the actions of other drivers. For example, don’t assume that the other car isn’t turning if they aren’t using a turn signal, and don’t assume everyone else will hit the brakes slowly, giving you plenty of time to stop.
Just make sure you aren’t too defensive! Strike a balance with offensive driving by doing things like merging in a timely manner and turning on a busy street quickly so being overly cautious doesn’t cause an accident.
Know When to Pull Over
Sometimes, no matter how good of a driver you are or how much you’re paying attention to the road, you should pull over. A few examples of times when you should stop the car include:
- In heavy rain
- In heavy snow
- If you need to reprimand kids in the backseat
- Dropping something important between the seats
- Medical emergency
- Change in handling of the car
However, you may not be familiar with some of these factors, especially since they only come from experience. Speaking to someone familiar with various causes of car accidents, such as car accident attorneys, police officers, or even driving instructors, can help you recognize the signs that it’s time to pull over and ensure everyone in the vehicle is safe and secure.
Upgrade Your Car
Although it’s not an option for everyone, it is something to think about. If you have the money and you’re in the market for a new vehicle, upgrade to a newer model.
Cars today have more safety features than ever before, many of which will help you become a safer driver. Backup cameras prevent you from hitting anyone when pulling out of a parking spot, lane assist can make sure you don’t drift over the line on the interstate, and automatic emergency braking can keep you from hitting someone else who slams on their brakes at the last minute.
You can’t change whether or not other drivers on the road are paying attention to what they’re doing, but you can do a better job of making sure you’re safe behind the wheel. When you do things like avoid drowsy driving, silence your phone, and plan ahead for passengers, you can increase your chances of getting to wherever you’re going safely.