Driving is safer than ever.
Over the decades, technological advancements such as seat belts, collision avoidance systems and adaptive cruise control have resulted in fewer auto accidents. Heavy investment in public campaigns and safety education has also equipped generations of motorists with the information they need to keep themselves and other people safe.
Unfortunately, millions of people still die in auto accidents every year. According to data from the Association for Safe International Road Travel, about 1.3 million individuals lose their lives in road crashes annually.
All the safety advancements in the world won’t matter if we don’t consider the human element of driving. Cars don’t drive themselves (at least not yet), and human error is sometimes the reason behind the fatal auto accidents.
If we want to make our roads and communities safer, all motorists should follow safe driving practices. As a motorist, you can easily enroll in a driving school and learn everything you need to drive safely, including the courtesy driving and use of the right driving hand signals.
Driving safety education is best started while young, and beginner motorists need to learn the basics of safe driving early on. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
Learn Basic Automotive Mechanics
You don’t have to be a certified vehicle technician, but you should at least know the following basics:
- Add coolant and oil to your vehicle
- Jump a battery
- Change a light bulb
- Pop the hood
- Change a flat tire
- Understand the different warning lights on your dashboard
Cars can break down in the most inconvenient of places. You can’t always rely on immediate roadside assistance when you need them. So, take the time to learn the basics, so you can drive and arrive safely to your destination.
Have Your Car Serviced
One of the best ways to improve driving safety is to keep your car in good condition. Technical issues can quickly become a safety issue, so it’s important to catch small problems early. Before you hit the road and do something productive during your summer break, for instance, take your car to a trusted mechanic so they can conduct an inspection. Afterward, they will recommend procedures and upgrades to keep your car safe and secure.
Assume Everyone Is a Bad Driver
All the traffic rules and safety guidelines only work if everyone follows them. You only need one bad car or truck driver making the wrong decisions to cause a traffic jam, or worse, an accident. It pays to be proactive and assume that everyone around you is a bad driver. Make sure you know how to respond to poor driving habits, such as swerving, sudden stops, lane changes and openly cursing other motorists.
Preparation requires a keen awareness of your surroundings, so always check your side and front mirrors for oncoming motorists. Make it a point to scout intersections and junctions for other cars. What’s more, look a few cars ahead of you so that you know what’s happening.
Safe driving is all about being cautious and showing respect to other motorists. For instance, tailgating is a dangerous tactic that must be avoided at all costs. Not only is it rude, but it can also endanger your life and the lives of nearby motorists. So, practice courtesy driving and avoid tailgating other motorists.
You need to keep your distance from other cars. This way, you will have enough time to react if the car ahead of you makes a sudden stop or turn. As a general rule, maintain at least two seconds of space between you and the next care.
Here’s how this is going to work: look for an object on the side of the road, such as a fire hydrant. Start counting once the vehicle ahead of you passes the object. It should take you at least two seconds to pass the same object. Anything less than that, and you’re tailgating. Eventually, you won’t have to rely on visual markers to maintain the minimum safe distance.
Maintain a Safe Speed
As you become more comfortable behind the wheel, pushing the bounds of the posted speed limits can be tempting. After all, many want to arrive at the destination faster. Following the speed limit, however, isn’t just about adhering to the law. It’s also crucial for your safety, as well as the safety of bystanders and other motorists.
So, take note of the speed limits and stick to them. If the limit, for instance, is 50 miles per hour, don’t go beyond that. Your life, along with the lives of other people, aren’t worth shaving several minutes off your road time.
Be Familiar with Your Car
Another safe driving practice you should follow is to acquaint yourself with your vehicle. Before you hop in to the driver’s seat and begin meddling with the various buttons and knobs, figure out how they work first. Determine what each knob or button does in your vehicle. This way, you’ll know exactly what to use when the situation arises. Next, understand the three main pedals: clutch, brake and accelerator.
One of the simplest new car driving techniques that you should remember is “ABC from left to right.” A stands for accelerator, B for brake and C for clutch (for vehicles with manual transmission).
Lastly, learn about the gear knob and the various position of gears. If you’re driving a car with manual transmission, you’ll need to be familiar with this. You can practice shifting when your vehicle is off, but don’t do this often, as this can damage your gearbox. Understand the positions in a way that you won’t need to check the knob while you’re behind the wheel.
Spend Time Learning Proper Merging and Parallel Parking
Many novice drivers don’t want to learn these two skills, as they’re difficult and even a bit intimidating to do. If you need practice, ask your parents or trusted friends to help you with parallel parking and proper merging. You may not be able to pull off these things perfectly on your first couple of times — and that’s ok. Practice makes perfect.
Find the Correct Seating Ergonomics
Seating ergonomics is something that a lot of car drivers tend to disregard. Many newbies, especially those who will be owning a car for the first time, are completely unaware that every vehicle has an adjustable mechanism that can change seat position.
This convenient mechanism enables you to adjust the seat angle and reach. It’s important that you position the driver’s seat in a way that you’re comfortably able to access the controls of the car, including the gear lever, steering wheel and pedals. You must make sure that you angle your seat in a way that you don’t strain your thigh and back. You need to stay comfortable while driving.
Use Your Horns and Indicators Properly
Remember that you only have two proper ways of communicating with the motorists around you. The first one is the horn and the second is your indicators. Following the best safety driving practices, you should use them when required.
Generally speaking, you use the horn to alert your presence on the road. Many motorists, unfortunately, have the bad habit of profusely honking the horn at slow-moving traffic and signals to push people to move faster. This practice is wrong. Even if you’re in hurry, you’re not supposed to do honk your horn unnecessarily whenever you’re hitting the road.
As for indicators, you use them when you’re about to turn. You also use them when you’re changing lanes. This will make sure that the motorist behind you knows you’re turning and keeps their distance accordingly.
Avoid Driving in the Wrong Mindset
When you’re on the road, your presence of mind should be on the road. If you’re feeling burned out, upset, tense or disappointed, remember that these feelings can serve as major distractions to your driving. As a newbie, you’ll need a lot of thought input for your driving actions. Having distractions in your thoughts, therefore, can easily cause you to make a mistake.
If you’re not mentally ready to hit the road, don’t drive. Similarly, make sure that you are adequately well-rested, as well as aware of your surroundings in case you choose to drive.
Drive with Caution in Inclement Weather
Many roadway accidents occur in bad weather, such as a blizzard, torrential downpour or heavy fog. Driving in inclement weather will require all of your safety knowledge, so you need to be cautious at all times. One slip-up could have disastrous consequences. Among other things, you need to slow down and maintain at least three to four seconds of distance.
If the weather takes a turn for the worse, look for a covered parking area or shelter somewhere safe. Supermarkets are always a safe choice since there’s ample parking and you can wait out the storm inside the building.
A Final Word
These pointers can increase your chances of a safe drive. Every time you’re on the road, make sure to obey all traffic laws and to follow safe driving practices. Taking a proactive stance against bad drivers helps prevent traffic accidents, as well.