Staying Safe on the Road
By Kimberly Graf. Published on September 18, 2018
The key to any successful road trip is making sure that everyone is safe, and the best way to do this is to make sure that you are driving safely. But safe driving is more than just following the speed limit and making sure you don't run into anything; there are numerous nuances to true safe driving.
The foremost is, of course, following all laws and obeying all signs. These basics include coming to a full stop at stop signs, observing the speed limit, stopping for railroads when the lights are flashing, and following all traffic signals. Outside of this, there are several other things you can do to make sure that your time on the road is safe.
It is important that you stay alert when you are behind the wheel. Avoiding distractions like cell phones and loud music will help you pay more attention to the road. If you are looking down at your cell phone while driving, you might run over an obstacle in the road or not see a car turning onto the road in front of you. To avoid potential disasters, keep these distractions away from you when you drive. You cannot be alert when you are driving under the influence, so stay away from alcohol while you are driving.
Always use your turn signals. It's important that other cars know where you plan on going at an intersection or a stop sign, or even when changing lanes on the highway. This helps be aware of where your car will be so they can plan accordingly. This is especially important in heavy traffic. If the cars in the lane you are attempting to get into know you want over, they might open up a space for your or know to slow down shortly. This one small detail can prevent a wreck from happening.
Headlights are important as well. Always use your headlights when it is dark or rainy, and especially when you are using your windshield wipers. Your headlights should be on after dark to let other drivers know where you are. Feel free to use your bright lights, but make sure to dim them when another car is in front of you so that you don't blind the driver and cause a hazardous situation.
Hazard lights should be used any time you have to pull off the road onto the shoulder. Again, this alerts other drivers to your position. In most areas, people might even pull over to see that you are okay if your hazards are flashing, so definitely use this if you are broken down. If you need to make a phone call while you are driving, pull onto the shoulder and put your hazard lights on. This makes it safe for everyone in your car and for other drivers on the road.
In traffic, make sure that there is adequate space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. On roads with higher speed limits, this should be at least the length of another car. Any closer and you risk running into the car in front of you if they have to brake suddenly. When stopped at a traffic light, make sure that you can see the tires of the car in front of you. If you can't, you are too close to their bumper.
The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spots. A blind spot is an area where the other car can't see you, due to the limitations of their mirrors or the design of their car. In smaller cars, these spots are smaller – the other driver may be able to see you no matter what. But on bigger SUVs, and even large semi-trucks, these blind spots are enough to block your entire vehicle from view. Make sure that if you are passing a larger vehicle, you get out of their blind spots as quickly as possible. If the other driver needs to change lanes or avoid an obstacle, they won't be able to see you and may run you off the road in the process of changing lanes.
Keep your license and registration with you at all times, and make sure that your car is safe to drive on whatever type of road you're driving it on. If your car frequently stalls in traffic, you create a hazardous environment for other cars that might not expect this.
Most safe driving rules are unspoken rules of the road, but they still must be observed at all times. If everyone followed these simple guidelines, it would be much safer to travel and there would be fewer vehicle accidents overall. However, not everyone does, and that leads us to the last and most important safe driving tip: don't expect other drivers to be driving safely.
It's safe to assume that other drivers will make mistakes. Some drivers just don't drive safely, and as a driver it is your responsibility to anticipate and expect other drivers to disobey the rules. For example, don't always assume that a car is going to stop at a stop sign. Always be aware that they might not stop and be ready to get out of the way if they choose not to. This is called defensive driving, and along with following the law, is your greatest tool for staying safe on the road.
Road trips can be the most fun your family can have, but it is important to make sure that you are following these safe driving rules to keep everyone safe and happy during the ride.