Tips Driving a car becomes so automatic after a while, it’s easy to let safety fall through the cracks. But even if you’ve never been in an accident before, you should not lull yourself into a false sense of security, failing to carry out basic safety precautions that could save your own life, or those of your passengers, in a collision. These car safety tips can reduce your risk of getting into an accident and help you handle tiny emergencies like a flat tire.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 15,000 lives are saved every year because drivers and passengers are wearing seat belts when they get in an accident. Seat belts keep the vehicle’s occupants inside the vehicle during a collision, restrain the strongest parts of the body, spread out force from the crash, protect the brain and spinal cord and help the body slow down after effect, reducing injuries.
In order for a seat belt to work, however, it must be worn properly. Ensure that the shoulder belt rests across your chest and shoulders — never across your neck. Don’t put the seat belt under your arms or behind your back. The lap belt should fit snugly over the hips. Seat belt extenders can be purchased for larger-sized drivers and passengers that maintain security while increasing comfort.
Kids and babies need special protection in the car to prevent serious injuries and fatalities in an auto collision. The N.H.T.S.A. recommends that children be securely buckled into a car seat that is appropriate for the child’s age, height and weight. From birth to 12 months, infants should always ride in a rear-facing car seat; children aged 1-3 years must stay rear-facing till they reach the top height or weight limit permitted by car seat manufacturers. From ages 4-7 years, children should be strapped into a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they outgrow it, and then proceed up to a booster seat until they are grown enough to safely use an adult seat belt. Keep kids in the backseat at least through age 12.
Always consult with the car seat manufacturer’s instructions to install a car seat, or even better, have it properly installed at your neighborhood fire station. You can discover additional child car seat inspection stations at the N.H.T.S.A. site.
How dangerous is it to be diverted by the act of composing, sending or reading text messages while behind the wheel? Car and Driver Magazine ran a test that assessed drivers’ reaction times to brake lights while attempting to text on their mobile phones, and compared them to those of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal driving limit. Driving 70 mph in a straight line, it took an unimpaired driver .54 minutes to brake while a legally drunk driver needed an additional four feet. But when the driver was sending a text, an additional 70 feet were needed to come to a stop. Another study found that texting while driving was the possible cause of over 16,000 street deaths between 2002 and 2007.
put down the food, makeup and other distractions while driving. While text messages have a dramatic effect on a driver’s ability to stay safe on the street, other distractions take their toll as well. Talking on a cell phone, eating, use of in-vehicle technologies like navigation systems and other visual, manual and cognitive distractions take the driver’s eyes, hands, and attention from the task of driving. Try to perform activities like setting your vehicle’s route, picking music and making cell phone calls before you start to drive, and pull over to manage distractions like fights involving children.
Roads aren’t just for four-wheeled motor vehicles; even in remote rural areas, there may be pedestrians and bicyclists that are not visible to drivers until they get too close. Always keep safe speeds and take additional caution when moving around blind curves or over hills. Be watchful for pedestrians crossing the street at intersections, especially when turning right, and give cyclists at least half a car’s width when passing.
Because motorcycles do not have seat belts, it’s all too simple for motorcycle drivers and passengers to be seriously injured or killed in a crash. Motorcycle drivers should avoid the blind areas of trucks and be extra cautious of other vehicles on the road. Of course, helmets are a requirement for motorcycle drivers and passengers. Drivers of other vehicles shouldn’t pass a motorcycle too close, as a burst of air from the car can cause a motorcycle to shed stability.
Roadside emergencies can occur at any time, and drivers should be prepared with supplies that could aid in getting help, making minor repairs and signaling your vehicle’s presence to other drivers. Consumer Reports recommends a basic kit containing a cell phone, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, hazard triangle, tire gauge, jack and lug wrench, foam tire sealant or plug kit, spare fuses, jumper cables, flashlight, gloves, rags, pen and paper, disposable flash camera, $20 in small bills and change and an auto-club or roadside assistance card.
You may also want to consider additional clothes, water, and non-perishable emergency food. In cold, snowy conditions, a windshield scraper, tire chains, and tow strap, blanket, chemical hand warmers, small folding shovel and a bag of cat litter (for traction on slick surfaces) can be convenient. You can purchase pre-assembled roadside safety kits and augment them with items that suit your needs.