14 Tips for Staying Safe While In Your Car
On The Road
People spend a lot of time in their cars. It’s not uncommon to have a commute of an hour or more. On top of that, there are always errands to run. We also drive to recreational activities. Sometimes, we just like to go for a spin.
These are some simple safety tips you can follow to help stay safe from accidents, crime, and plain bad luck while you’re on the road.
Tip #1 - The Walk-Around
As you approach your car in your driveway or in a parking lot, perform a quick vehicle check. Take a quick look at the tires to make sure they don’t look under inflated. You can’t tell that the air pressure is correct by just looking, but you’ll be able to tell if they’re very low. Also notice if there are any unusual puddles under the car.
Before you open the door, take a quick peek inside to make sure there’s no one hiding in the back seat. You don’t want to suddenly find yourself with an unexpected passenger.
If you see someone in the car, get away and call the police. It's not worth the trouble or risk of confronting the person yourself.
Tip #2 - Keep The Tank At Least Half Full
Try to keep your gas tank as full as you can. If there’s ever some type of emergency that requires you to evacuate the area, you don’t want to have to stop for gas or run out of gas while on the road.
Large storms cause this type of problem every year. People along the coast are ordered to evacuate because of an approaching hurricane. Or a bad winter storm blocks highways and people are forced to stay in their cars until the roads are cleared.
In both cases, it’s important to have enough gas to get to safety or to stay warm.
Tip #3 - Keep Valuables Hidden
If you need to stop at a store, restaurant, or other place while you’re out driving, be sure to store your valuables out of sight, preferably in the trunk of your car. It's important to put your things in the trunk before you get to your destination. If you pull into a store parking lot, put something in your trunk, and then go into the store, everyone who saw you do that will know that you just put some valuables away and you probably won’t be back for a while. That's an invitation for trouble.
A better way to do it is to put your things in the trunk before you head to the store. If you can’t do that, then try this:
- Park in the first spot you see.
- Put your valuables in the trunk.
- Get back in your car.
- Drive around the parking lot a bit.
- Park again.
- Go into the store.
If you do this, it’s much less likely that anyone will know that you have valuables in your trunk.
Tip #4 - Be Aware Of Your Surroundings In Parking Lots
Remember where you parked so you don’t have to wander around the parking lot looking for your vehicle. Be aware of any vehicle parked suspiciously close to yours, especially if someone is sitting in it. If you need to, ask the store security to escort you to your vehicle. This will help you stay safe.
Tip #5 - Check Your Spare
Periodically check your spare tire to make sure it’s inflated and appears to be in good condition. Also make sure that all the parts for your car jack are in place and working. You may have some type of car service that will change your tire for you, but there may be times when the wait will be too long or you can’t call them because of a dead cell phone battery.
Be sure to review the instructions for your jack before using it. Proper placement is very important to prevent injury or damage to your vehicle.
Tip #6 - Check Wipers and Wiper Fluid
Make sure your windshield wiper blades are in good condition and that you have plenty of wiper fluid. It’s very important to maintain good visibility while driving. If something splashes on your windshield while driving, you need to be able to clear it off quickly.
Even with good wipers, it may take five seconds to clear your windshield. At 50 miles per hour (80 KM/hr), your car travels 365 feet (110 meters) in five seconds. That’s a long way to travel blindly!
Tip #7 - Check Your Lights
Make sure your headlights, taillights, and brake lights are all in working order. This is important for safety reasons. If you have one headlight out and don't realize it, you'll be in the dark if the other light fails!
Also, it’s one less reason for the police to pull you over. I frequently listen to a police scanner. “Defective equipment” is a common reason for the police to stop you and run your information through their computer.
Tip #8 - Steer Straight When Waiting to Turn Left
If you’re stopped in traffic waiting for a gap so you can turn left, keep your wheels straight. Don’t turn your steering wheel until you’re ready to step on the gas. If you already have your wheels turned, you’ll be pushed into oncoming traffic if someone rear-ends you.
I frequently see people stopped with their wheels turned waiting for a gap - or an unexpected push from behind.
Tip #9 - Get In, Lock Up
Lock your doors as soon as you get in your car. Modern cars will automatically lock the doors for you once you start moving, but don’t wait for that. Lock them manually right away. Don’t give someone the chance to open the door while you’re sitting there.
The same is true when you first come to a stop. Many cars automatically unlock the doors for you when you shift into park. If you’re not getting out of your car immediately, lock the doors until you’re ready to leave.
Also, keep your windows up whenever possible. If you're stopped at a red light and your windows are down, someone may be able to reach in, open the door, and get in with you.
How clean do you keep the inside of your car?
Tip #10 - Keep The Inside Clean
If you’re in an accident, especially a high-speed accident, keep in mind that any loose objects in your vehicle will go flying. For example, if you’re on your way home from grocery shopping and are in a head-on collision, that 8-pound gallon of milk you put in the back seat may be on a path directly for the back of your head.
That’s true for anything in your vehicle. Even if it’s not directly behind you, things may bounce around a few times before they hit you or your passengers. If you or your passengers aren’t wearing seat belts, you’ll also be bouncing around the inside of the car.
Another part of keeping the inside of your car clear is junk rolling around on the floor. There’s no excuse if trash in your car rolls under your brake pedal and prevents you from stopping in time.
Tip #11 - Leave Room To Escape
When you stop in traffic, leave enough room between you and the car in front of you so you can steer around them if needed. If you are too close to them, someone else stopping too close behind you will have you trapped.
Tip #12 - If You’re Being Followed...
If you suspect that someone is following you, take four right or left turns - basically, drive in a circle. If they’re still behind you at that point, there’s a good chance that they really are following you. If that’s the case, call the police. They may direct you to somewhere where the police are located or they may dispatch a unit to meet you. Do NOT drive straight home; you don’t want to show the person following you where you live!
Why would someone follow you? Maybe you cut them off in traffic without realizing it. Maybe it’s an ex-boyfriend seeing what you’re up to. In any case, you probably don’t want to meet up with them under these conditions.
Tip #13 - Keep Distractions Away
It’s important to minimize any distractions while driving. At 50 miles per hour, you travel 73 feet every second. You need to keep your eyes on the road and stay focused. Put your smartphone away where you won’t be tempted to check it. Keep the music turned down when there’s a lot of traffic. Even involved conversations can take your attention away from your most important responsibility at the moment - driving safely.
Tip #14 - Some Things To Keep On Hand
These are a few safety-related items that can be helpful to keep in your car. They don’t take up much room and can be very handy.
- A small notebook with pens or pencils. These are handy if you need to take notes after being involved in or witnessing an accident.
- A tool to cut through seat belts and break car windows. This is useful if you’re in an accident and can’t open the car door to get out.
- Jumper cables in case of a dead battery.
- A pair of work gloves to protect your hands if you need to change a tire.
- Hat, gloves, and emergency blanket in case you’re stuck in your car in cold weather.
- Road flares to warn other motorists if your vehicle is disabled.
- Cell phone charger.
Staying safe while driving is important for your safety and for the safety of the people around you. Many of these tips will be common sense for most people. Hopefully there were a few that you hadn’t thought of before.
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