No one wants to be in a car accident, but millions of us are in them every year. Sometimes we are totally innocent and get bashed in by a distracted driver. At other times, we are at least partly at fault. Accidents are completely undesirable because they cost money and lives, jack up insurance rates and create a lot of hassle as you wait for your car to be fixed or you spend time in a cast.
What then should we do to avoid accidents while on the road? Here are several pointers provided by experts:
- Drive courteously and defensively. That means to anticipate other drivers’ movements, as well as areas where you know traffic gets congested and people make dangerous turns, for instance. You also need to let people who seem to be in a huge hurry enter your lane when merging, rather than trying to “teach them a lesson.” Aggressive driving matching other people’s aggressive driving=accident waiting to happen.
- Keep your eyes moving. Not only will this keep you more alert and less prone to drowsiness, it will give you a comprehensive view of all that is occurring around you. This will lead to far greater anticipation on your part, lowering your risk of an accident. Look at your rear-view mirror, your side-view mirrors and then up front again, rather than staring out the front windshield at all times when driving.
- Obey posted speed limits. Many accidents are the result of vehicles that are speeding beyond lawful speed limits. In addition, allow at least two seconds of time between your vehicle and the one in front of it when driving on the highway. Any less than this can make it difficult to brake in time to avoid an accident.
- Don’t drive after drinking or taking drugs. About 1/3 of all car accidents involve the use of alcohol or drugs. This can apply even to certain prescription drugs. When the doctor says, “Don’t drive while on this painkiller,” then you shouldn’t drive.
- Exercise greater caution when approaching intersections. This is where a huge slice of car accidents occur. Look in all directions when approaching these convergences of vehicle lanes.
- Another area in which to use extreme caution are highway exit ramps. Many accidents occur here as vehicles move too quickly on sharp curves, don’t use signals to indicate exiting, etc. Next time you go by a highway exit ramp, check for skid marks. Many of these ramps and exit lanes are filled with tire marks, indicating unsafe driving in those areas and a much higher accident rate.
- Avoid driving in conditions that are more favorable to accidents, such as intemperate weather and at night. Driving at dawn and dusk are particularly dangerous times as well and demand greater alertness on the road.
- Keep your vehicle in good working condition. Many car crashes are caused by faulty brakes, broken suspensions, tire blow-outs and other preventable mishaps. Your windshield wipers should be in good condition, and make sure that all of your lights are working. Burnt-out brake lights cause many accidents because the person behind the vehicle has no idea that the driver in front is slowing down by applying the brakes.
- Use your turn signals. A fair share of car accidents is caused by drivers failing to use their turn signals. When other people have to guess where you are turning or if you are turning, they might guess wrong and an accident can result.
- Avoid all needless distractions, such as cell phones or the need to constantly change radio stations or tracks on a CD. While driving, it’s not a great idea to rearrange your car’s interior, and it’s also unwise to try and eat a meal. It’s almost inevitable that you will drip a bit of sauce on your shirt, then look down, then … trouble. Many experts even advise against driving while drinking coffee, especially if it is super hot. Soups should be avoided as well, in addition to messy foods such as chocolate. If you need to read directions, pull over for a few seconds. It will be worth it to avoid an accident.
- Use your headlights in poor weather conditions. Many modern vehicles turn these on automatically, but if your vehicle does not, use your headlights when it is difficult to see other cars and trucks for any reason.
- Keep children under 12 in the back seat. They are not allowed in the front seat in some states, and they can be very distracting when there. Protect your child’s health and put him/her in the back seat.
- Wear a seat belt! More than half of all people killed in vehicle accidents were unrestrained. Wearing a seat belt cuts your chance of injury several-fold.