Distracted Driving Tips
Defensive driving is about anticipation -- knowing what's going on around you, predicting what might happen and knowing how to react quickly when another driver catches you off-guard. It's also about protecting yourself so that you're less likely to be injured in a crash. Something as simple as putting on your seat belt could save your life in an accident.
Be in Control. Taking any medications or controlled substance could slow your reflexes and your judgment enough to cause an accident. Avoid alcohol and drugs when you know you have to drive. Over-the-counter medications or simple cold or allergy medications can cause drowsiness and affect your driving, so it’s important always to read the label of any medication you take before driving.
Being in control allows you time to react quickly to any potential obstacles in the road, like when traffic in front of you suddenly comes to a stop.
Be Well-Rested. Sleepiness is a danger on the road. Driving drowsy causes nearly 2 million accidents. It is like getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level of 0.08. Get a good night’s sleep before you drive and if your eyelids are starting to droop, take a break, pull off the road and get out and stretch or take a nap.
Be Prepared. Set yourself up in the right driving position: Adjust your seat so you are at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel and your hands are at 9 and 3 o’clock on the steering wheel. Adjust the height of your seat and steering wheel so that you can comfortably see.
Set up your mirrors to reduce your blind spots. Position your rear-view mirror so that it best covers your view straight out the rear window. Then, tilt your head until it almost touches the driver’s side window. Next, adjust your left side mirror so that you can just barely see the side of your car. Finally, position your head so that it is centered in the middle of the car above the console of the car and adjust the right-side mirror so that you can just barely see the right side of your vehicle. When your head is perfectly upright, you should not be able to see the sides of your car.
Pick out your favorite CD, or set your radio or MP3 player before driving.
If you need directions, set up your route in your phone or GPS before you start your car. Use a smartphone app to guide you around traffic jams.
Check the weather and road conditions and make any needed adjustments to your route.
Be Aware. You could be the best driver in the world, but you still need to look out for other drivers. Always put extra space between your car and the one in front of you so that you have enough space to stop quickly if you need to. Watch as far down the road as you can and check your mirrors constantly to know what is behind you. Always be planning an escape route you can use quickly in an emergency.
Do Not Assume Other Drivers Will Always Follow the Rules of the Road. Imagine that the car next to you will change lanes or that an approaching car will run the stop sign. Planning for the unexpected means you won’t find yourself reacting in a panic. Plan your movements, anticipating the worst-case scenario.
Control Your Speed. Don’t drive too much slower or faster than traffic flow. If you drive slower than everyone else, or faster than everyone else, the differences in your vehicles speeds will give you less time to adapt to what other drivers are doing.
Follow the 3-second rule. Since the greatest chance of having an accident is in front of you, using the 3-second rule will assist you to establish and maintain a safe following distance providing adequate time for your vehicle to come to a stop if necessary. When following a large truck or motorcycle, driving at night, or in inclement weather, increase your following distance an additional second.
Look Ahead. Looking ahead means more than watching the car in front of you. It means looking as far ahead as you can. Looking ahead will help you spot any hazards lucking in your path ahead.
Scan the Road. Be aware of your surroundings by constantly scanning the road ahead, looking in your side mirrors and rear-view mirror. Have the full picture of what’s happening around your vehicle to determine possible hazards and to plan ahead.
Have an escape route. The best way to avoid possible dangers in all driving situation is to keep your vehicle positioned where you have the best chance of seeing and being seen. Having an alternate path of travel is also essential, so always leave yourself an escape route, a path to move your vehicle if your immediate path of travel is suddenly blocked.
Stay Focused. You have many things to think about when you’re behind the wheel: road conditions, your speed, and observing traffic laws, signs, signals, and road markings. Staying focused on driving and only driving is critical. Distractions while driving are everywhere: your phone, the radio, your fellow passengers. If you’re running late, you may be tempted to put on your makeup or finish breakfast while driving. Studies find that almost 80 percent of all crashes involve some kind of distraction in the three seconds immediately before the accident.
Put your cell phone out of your reach, even if it’s hands-free. When you’re driving, the only thing that should be on your mind is the road in front of you. Any extra activity can take your concentration off the road. Pull over to talk and text, eat or put on your makeup.
Stay Calm. It’s hard to keep your cool when you are faced with an aggressive driver who is tailgating or cutting you off, but that is exactly what you need to do to stay safe. If possible, allow the aggressive driver to drive ahead of you and distance yourself from their vehicle as much as you can. Staying calm while tempers flare can not only save you from an unwanted accident but a road rage incident as well.
Use Proper Safety Equipment. Make sure your car is properly equipped with safety accessories like airbags, ABS brakes, and traction-control systems. Check your fluids, tire pressure, and lights before you hit the road. Lock your doors, wear your seatbelt at all times and make sure your passengers do the same. Children should be in age-appropriate car seats.
By following these tips, you’ll become a better defensive driver and help to keep yourself and everyone else out on the road safe.