Driving can be dangerous. Whether you are dealing with bad weather, distracted drivers, or simply the inherent risks that come with operating a vehicle, there’s always the potential for an accident. But while you can’t always control the conditions around you, you can take steps to minimize your own risk and ensure that you’re keeping yourself as safe as possible when behind the wheel. Here are five tips to help you be the safest driver you can possibly be.
1. Take a Defensive Driving Course
According to the World Health Organization, 1.25 million people die each year in vehicle accidents worldwide, with 20-50 million more sustaining injuries or becoming permanently disabled due to road accidents every year. But while these statistics are staggering, the good news is that many of these accidents are preventable. One of the best ways to avoid becoming a statistic yourself is to take a defensive driving course. These courses teach you how to anticipate and react to potential hazards on the road and can be an invaluable asset in helping you stay safe behind the wheel.
Defensive driving courses typically last around six hours and can be taken either in person or online. Prices vary depending on the provider but are generally very reasonable, often costing less than $100. While taking a defensive driving course may not seem like the most exciting way to spend a Saturday, it could save your life.
2. Obey the Speed Limit
It’s no secret that speeding is dangerous. Not only does it put you at greater risk of an accident, but it also increases the severity of any accidents that occur. And yet, despite the well-known risks, speeding is still a common occurrence on our roads today. In the United States, speeding is a factor in nearly one-third of all fatal accidents. And while speeding may help you get to your destination a few minutes faster, is it worth risking your life? When behind the wheel, always obey the posted speed limit, even if it feels like you’re crawling along. The life you save may very well be your own. Not to mention, driving slowly is more economic; it uses up gas less quickly.
3. Put Down Your Phone
We’ve all seen the stories of horrific accidents caused by distracted drivers, yet many of us continue doing it ourselves. It’s easy to submit to the cognitive bias that “It could never happen to me.” Whether we’re sending a quick text, checking our email, or updating our Facebook status, using our phones while behind the wheel is a dangerous habit. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2020, distracted driving claimed about 3,142 lives in the United States. And while hands-free devices may help reduce the risk, they’re not foolproof. The best way to avoid being involved in a distracted driving accident is to simply put your phone away while you’re behind the wheel. It may be tempting to stay connected while on the road or to take a photo of the sunset, but it’s not worth risking your life.
4. Ensure Your Vehicle Is in Good Working Order
Before setting out on any journey, it’s important to ensure that your vehicle is in good working order. This means checking your tires, brakes, and lights to ensure they’re all in proper working condition. If your brake pads appear to be less than 1/4 inch thick, it’s an indication that they need to be changed. It’s also important to check your vehicle’s fluid levels, as low oil or coolant can lead to engine failure. If you’re unsure how to do this, consult your owner’s manual or take your car to a qualified mechanic. Remember, given that one in three Americans has bad credit, it’s important to learn how to do some basic car maintenance yourself, as it can be difficult to obtain financing for major repairs occasioned by neglect.
5. Drive Sober
It’s no secret that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of accidents and fatalities on our roads. So, if your lifestyle involves drinking even casually, make sure to always have a designated driver or take a cab home. The few dollars you spend on a cab ride are well worth it when compared to the cost of an accident or taking the life of another driver.
And if you’re taking medication, be sure to check the label for any warnings about operating a vehicle. Many common medications can cause drowsiness, which can be extremely dangerous when behind the wheel. If you’re tired, pull over and take a nap or wait until the effects of the medication have worn off before continuing on your journey. Also avoid mixing medications with alcohol, as they can further impact your cognitive function.
If you’re behind the wheel, always make safety your top priority. By following the tips above, you can help ensure that you’re the safest driver on the road. And if you’re ever in doubt, remember that it’s always better to err on the side of caution.