Driving Safely: Commonly Ignored Tips and Tricks
We all like to think we know the basics of staying safe behind the wheel, but do we really? Driving takes focus and skill, but there are plenty of little things we do and forget to sabotage our safety on the road. Here are some of the most effective and time-tested tips I’ve learned about driving and car safety that are often ignored by drivers, new and old alike
Don’t play “slot cars”
Every accident I’ve witnessed personally has been the result of people speeding and passing each other simply to get a few spaces ahead. Often it doesn’t work at all, since all their effort is rendered null by the great equalizer: a red light.
Speeding isn’t worth it.
You might shave a few minutes off your commute, but it’s better to be five minutes late than miss your appointment entirely because you’re sorting out a speeding ticket on the side of the highway. The cost is too high, especially since it could be your life.
Airbags have limitations.
Yes, an airbag can save your life – if you’re buckled in. If not, they stand a much higher chance of killing you. Wearing your seat belt not only protects you from threats outside the car but inside as well.
Prepare for exits in advance.
Don’t wait to change lanes until the last second if you can help it. The cars behind and beside you won’t have enough time to prepare and you increase your chances of taking the wrong exit or having a fender bender. Some of the most severe accidents I’ve seen have been the result of a last-minute attempt to take an exit.
If you see an accident, stop.
It’s not only the right thing to do; in many cases, it’s the law. Usually the hold-up isn’t as bad as you’d think, and most employers are understanding and even appreciative of their employees taking such responsibility.
Just be careful not to cause another accident by stopping suddenly or parking somewhere dangerous. Pull over when possible, and be wary of traffic if it’s necessary to walk to the scene from where you’re parked.
Keep the gas tank full.
Don’t let your gas tank get below ¼ of a tank during the winter if you live in an area that gets cold. Keeping a full gas tank can prevent the tank from freezing over in harsh weather conditions. When your gas tank is empty, products like HEET can be used before filling to prevent freezing as well.
Take care in the cold.
Let your car run first before driving in cold weather. This is an old tip, but many new drivers dismiss it. Immediately driving a car that’s been sitting out in the cold can cause the car to stall out while you’re on the road, which is incredibly dangerous.
Get your oil changed regularly.
Get your oil changed regularly. I can’t begin to tell you how many repair bills I could have saved by keeping up on this. Every 6-8 weeks is the standard, but absolutely never go beyond 3 months. The life of a car can be extended by keeping up on oil changes, so what you save on the procedure you pay for later.
Be wary of GPS.
Keep your GPS software updated. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the wrong side of town, or simply at the wrong place, because of location change or even roadwork. When taking a long road trip, never rely exclusively on GPS. After 3 cross-country trips, I learned that one the hard way. Print out hard copies of a couple different routes through sites like MapQuest and Google Maps. GPS's are susceptible to lost satellite reception during rain, storms and even cloudy days.
There you have it, some of the basic but most often ignored driving tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years. Be safe!