They’re called accidents for a good reason: They’re unpredictable and no one intends to have one. Nevertheless, accidents happen. The key is to be as proactive as possible so you don’t get involved in one. Here are 10 tips that may help you avoid them in the first place.
Know the Area or Familiarize Yourself Ahead of Time – Think how many times you’ve been behind a driver who seemingly doesn’t know where they are? We’re not talking about a driver acting spaced out, for that’s another matter, but a driver who is obviously unfamiliar with the area and driving either too slow, too fast, or too erratically for safety. We’ve all been in this situation from time to time and the best defense is a good offense. When you’re going to be traveling in an unfamiliar area, be sure to use maps, real-time traffic alerts, navigation system and an alert passenger to help you co-pilot the route.
Avoid Making Left Turns on Yellow Facing Oncoming Traffic – Yellow signals caution, yet it is such a common occurrence for drivers to try to get in that left-hand turn despite seeing traffic heading right toward them from the opposite direction. It’s better to wait it out. Red lights don’t last all that long – although it sometimes seems so. That few seconds chance you take trying to complete your left turn may be all it takes for you to wind up in a serious accident. Don’t take the risk.
Don’t Make a Left Turn into a Driveway in Front of Oncoming Traffic – You spot the driveway or entrance to a strip mall at the last minute and decide to make that quick left turn into it – even though you’re doing so in front of oncoming traffic. This is just an accident waiting to happen. Your foot could slip, you could gun the accelerator and take the turn too fast, or you could get hit head-on from a vehicle coming at you. A safer course of action is to wait until the traffic is completely clear before attempting the left turn. Or, drive around the block and make a right turn into the driveway or entrance, thus avoiding oncoming traffic (except those trying to make a turn into the same place you’re going right in front of you).
Take Care You Don’t Underestimate Other Drivers’ Speed – It’s easy to underestimate just how fast the drivers around you, behind you, in front of you, or coming at you in the opposite direction are actually going. If you get it wrong and you’re attempting a risky maneuver – like making a turn in front of oncoming traffic, passing on a two-lane roadway, or other moves – you could become involved in an accident. It’s much better to be overcautious than to gauge other drivers’ speeds wrong. That few extra seconds time you think you might save isn’t worth it.
Curb the Urge to Speed – Speaking of speed, this is never a driver behavior that’s going to be your friend. At worst, it can put you at great risk of having an accident. At best, it might shave a few seconds of time from your trip, but you’re engaging in a roll of the dice. Anything could happen. In addition, driving too fast when it’s raining, snowing, when there’s road construction, traffic snarls or an accident is similarly jeopardizing your safety – and everyone in your car, along with other drivers and their vehicle occupants and any pedestrians. Slow down, obey the speed limits, and increase the likelihood you’ll arrive at your destination in one piece.
Avoid Driving Beyond Your Capabilities – Everyone likes to pride themselves on being a good driver, and, generally speaking, most of us are. We try to obey traffic laws and signals. We’re courteous (for the most part), and do our best to set a good example on the road. Unfortunately, some of us overestimate our driving capabilities and attempt to handle situations we’re not prepared for. We may lack the skill required, for example, to safely drive off-road, especially on ascents and descents of steep terrain. Never mind that our vehicle is equipped with full-time four-wheel drive or is off-road ready all-wheel drive. If we don’t have the experience using such technology, we may very well wind up having an accident that could result in serious injury. The same thing applies if we fancy ourselves a track driver and tend to take corners and curves at speeds even professionals wouldn’t attempt.
Bone Up on Driving Experience – Before You Need It — The younger the driver, the least experience they have and the more danger they’re in if they attempt to drive beyond their capabilities. But experience on the road – or the lack of it – isn’t confined to newly-licensed drivers. Some of us simply don’t have any history of driving on rain-slick or icy roads, during a severe wind- or hail storm, in heavy nighttime traffic, and other precarious and potentially dangerous situations. Either avoid driving in such conditions or fine-tune your experience in somewhat less perilous situations until you’ve gained more skills.
Keep the Sun Out of Your Eyes – Driving home with the blinding glare of the sunset in your eyes is not only tiring, it’s downright dangerous. You can’t properly see the traffic ahead, oncoming traffic, potential road hazards or an emergency maneuver by cars in front of you. This is what sun visors are meant for – and wearing polarized sunglasses. When you’re operating a motor vehicle capable of inflicting grievous bodily damage, you simply have to be able to see clearly. There’s no getting around this fact.
Drive Only When Well Rested – Long-distance drives, especially at the start or and of a vacation, often means drivers are tempted to stay behind the wheel long past their physical and mental endurance. There comes a time when you have to sleep, when your body clock winds down and your eyes are going to close. You don’t want to be operating a vehicle when that happens, for the results can be deadly. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that one in five fatal crashes involves drowsy drivers. Making frequent stops to stretch your legs, get a meal or hot or cold beverage (non-alcoholic, of course), or even taking a nap will help. So will enlisting the assistance of a licensed passenger to spell you driving. Naturally, start off each lengthy drive by getting a good night’s sleep ahead of time.
Avoid Alcohol and Prescription Drugs When Driving – Drinking and driving have long been the cause of thousands of injuries and deaths each year. Yet drivers continue to mistakenly believe they can tip back booze and then safely drive. Combining prescription drugs that a doctor prescribed for a medical condition with alcohol only intensifies the risks of having an accident. And recent research points out that combining alcohol and marijuana (medical or recreational) doubles the risk of having a motor vehicle accident.