No one will admit to being a terrible driver, but we’ve all, at one point or another, tried multitasking while driving behind the wheel on the road. Most of us have also gone on long road trips by car.
So, to help improve the safety of you, your passenger and other road users, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of safe driving tips to keep in mind next time you decide drive.
Let’s get started!
Basic Safe Driving Tips Everyone Should Know
1. Perform Simple Safety Checks
Start by inspecting your vehicle’s headlights and turn signals, be sure that both front and rear headlamps are working properly and visible enough a couple of yards away. Take a reading of your tire pressure and make sure you maintain the recommended maximum. While at it, take a peek under your vehicle and ensure there are no loose objects or leaks.
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2. Adjust All Mirrors And Seats Before Placing The Key In The Ignition
Do not ignite the vehicle as soon as you get into the car, take a moment to check if the mirrors and your seat are in position.
If either mirror needs adjustments, simply place your head on the driver’s window and adjust the left mirror until the left-end of the car is visible. To adjust the right mirror, tilt your head to the center of the vehicle and adjust the mirror to get a better view of the right-end of the car.
When you return to your natural sitting position, you will not see either end of the vehicle, but your blind spots will be reduced.
3. Do Not Use Your Mobile Device
Seems like an obvious one, however you’d be surprised how many of us fail to keep our mobile phones at bay whilst driving. And drivers using a mobile phone are four times more likely to crash their vehicle.
Mobile devices are one of the biggest distractions to drivers because they demand full attention: manual, visual, and cognitive, causing you to take your hands off the steering wheel, your eyes off the road, and your mind off the road.
If you happen to be a passenger in a moving vehicle operated by a distracted driver, you need to intervene as they are putting the occupants of the vehicle at risk.
4. Practice Defensive Driving
Defensive driving is a set of driving skills that helps you anticipating major risks and potential hazards.
If you look far ahead, focus your attention on the road, and keep your eyes sharp, you will easily spot potential hazards. Once you have spotted a potential hazard and decided what to do, act immediately.
Here are some defensive driving tips:
• Drive at a controllable speed.
• Do assume you know another driver’s intention.
• Prepared to react to other drivers.
• Yield at intersections, even if you have right of way.
• Stay focused on the road and remove all distractions such as mobile phone use, unstrapped toddlers, etc.
5. Watch Out For The Other Guy
Sometimes, you could be driving as safe as possible, obeying all traffic rules and speed limits, and someone crashes into you. There’s nothing you can do about that.
When you’re driving, it doesn’t hurt to assume everyone else on the road is an idiot. Be prepared for sudden stops, tailgating, swerving, unsignaled turns, and every other imaginable bad driving behavior. There’s a big chance you’ll eventually be right and it pays to be prepared.
6. Look Far Ahead When Driving
You need to be fully focused while driving, but all that focus need not be on the car before you.
In order to take in, process, and respond to everything happening on the road, you have to constantly scan the road about half to a full mile ahead. This way, you can tell if you’ll need to let go of the gas pedal and prepare for a stop.
7. Don’t Follow Too Closely
Since you cannot read the intention of the driver in front of you, don’t tailgate. Maintain some distance between your car and the car ahead in order to give yourself enough response time should the car ahead make a sudden turn or stop.
Experts recommend using a three to four seconds gap.
This simply means you should look ahead for a stationary object, as soon as the car ahead of yours passes the object, start counting the seconds until you pass the same object.
You can increase this to seven or eight seconds when driving at night or in bad weather.
8. Avoid The NO-Zone
Larger vehicles such as trucks and buses, due to their raised driver’s seat position, have a blind spot known as the NO-Zone.
Since the drivers of these vehicles cannot see certain areas around the vehicle, tailgating these vehicles of driving directly ahead of them is risky.
While following these vehicles, make sure you can see the driver through his mirror, and honk often so they know you’re there.
To stay out of the large blind spot in front of these vehicles, always make sure the entire front of the vehicle is visible in your rearview mirror.
9. Follow Traffic Signals
Pay attention and obey traffic lights. They’re designed to reduce commotions and accidents by regulating the flow of traffic, and they work best when everyone sticks to the rules.
Besides, most come with traffic cams. So you can still get a ticket later even if there’s no police officer hereby.
10. Be Extra Careful In Bad Weather
Be extra cautious in bad weather: increase the space between your vehicle and the one ahead, consider driving below the speed limit, and be alert around curves. If the driving conditions worsen, consider waiting it out in a safe place.
When the visibility is affected, either by fog or snow, and you decide to park by the side of the road, make sure to turn off your lights. Drivers also struggling with the poor visibility will be on the lookout for other cars to follow and they might not realize in time that yours is stationary.
11. Wear Your Seat Belt
Worn properly, a seat belt prevents you from being tossed around inside of a crashing vehicle or, at worst, flung out through the windshield. Statistics show that over half of all accident fatalities were passengers not using seatbelts [source: NHTSA].
12. Don’t Drive Drowsy
A sleeping driver will drift off the road even on a relatively straight highway. Add trees, ravines, utility pole, and other cars to the equation and dozing off for a couple of seconds increases your risk of getting in an accident. At highway speed, the result of a few seconds of sleep can be even deadlier.
Get adequate amounts of rejuvenating sleep! Make sure you follow a sleep routine or you can aim for a solid six to eight hours of sleep on a regular basis. If you’re driving and feel a bit groggy, don’t try to fight it. Either have a friend take over the wheel while you sleep or park somewhere and get a short nap.
13. Avoid Distractions
Using mobile phones while driving is illegal in most countries. The reason is that it reduces the driver’s reaction time by 20 percent. A 20-year-old driver using a mobile phone behind the wheel has a reaction time equal to, or worse than, that of a 70-year-old driver.
Other than mobile phones, eating, fiddling with GPS or other electronic devices, applying makeup, or interacting with passengers also distract a driver’s focus from the road.
14. Don’t Speed
At higher speeds, the risk of crashing your vehicle increases. Research shows that the likelihood of being involved in a car crash increases by 4–5 percent for every mph you travel [source: ERSO].
For short trips around town, driving at 10 mph will save you a couple of minutes while increasing the likelihood of crashing by up to 50 percent. The risk of crashing is even higher on long trips. If you leave five to ten minutes earlier, there’ll be no need to over speed.
15. Don’t Drive Drunk
Alcohol causes impairments that can lead to crashes, but what harm could a beer or two do?
Reaction time, coordination and inhibitions reduce even at low blood-alcohol levels, which can cause the best drivers to make foolish choices. At higher levels, coordination is close to zero – I mean, you can’t even walk in a straight line, – your vision gets blurry or doubled and there’s the risk loss of consciousness.
Even if you consume just a bottle of beer, you risk going to jail if you get caught driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. Put safety first and call a cab or designate driving to someone sober.
16. Pack An Emergency Kit
Have a first-aid kit handy in case you find yourself or some other road user in an emergency situation. Also keep road flare, flashlight with a pair of fresh batteries, jumper cables, drinking water, and a phone charger in your vehicle in case you need to dial 911 or roadside assistance.
Tips For Driving Safely At Night
17. Aim Your Headlights Correctly
Sometimes the headlights in brand-new cars are uneven or pointed lower than they should. So it’s up to you to aim them correctly. It may take a couple of tries to get them pointed perfectly, just make sure they aren’t blinding oncoming traffic.
If you have difficulty getting the right aim, be sure that your light isn’t blocked. Make a routine of cleaning out dust from your headlights. If you have an older car with plastic covers, make sure they are still transparent enough to let light through.
18. Dim Your Instrument Panel And Dash Lights
Make your vehicle’s dashboard dimmer. The light emitted by most dashboard LEDs and large infotainment screens fitted in modern vehicles can be a source of unnecessary distraction and can also diminish your vision. Dimming dash lights will reduce the amount of light reflected off of the windshield thereby resulting in improved nighttime visibility.
19. Don’t Wear The Wrong Glasses
Fashion or prescription glasses can become another source of distracting light for drivers, that’s why it is important to choose glasses that improve nighttime visibility.
If you have to wear glasses while driving, choose one with an anti-reflective coating. The coating reduces unnecessary reflections inside your lenses while allowing more light through.
20. Become A Retina Spotter
Sometimes even high beams fail to illuminate much, one way you can avoid large animals such as deer, moose, and elk when driving at night is to catch your headlights reflecting off the eyes of these animals.
You’ll spot them as tiny bright spots far ahead, thereby giving you ample time to slow down or come to a stop.
21. Don’t Stare At Oncoming Lights
When driving at night your eyes get used to the dim glow of the dashboard and the road ahead which makes it easy to be disrupted by bright headlights.
If you have to, shield your eyes with one palm or turn your gaze away from oncoming high beams. Suppose it’s a car behind you that’s the source of distraction, you can easily adjust your rear or side view mirror to get the reflection away from your eyes
22. Give Your Windshield A Wipe With Newspaper
Sometimes your windshield that was sparkling clean by day might reveal glare-causing streaks at night. You can easily get rid of these with a newspaper or a microfiber cloth. In order to keep the inside of your windscreen, mirrors, or side window free of smear, you should consider keeping your hands off.
23. Bolt-On Some Fog Lights
Just as the name suggests, fog lights illuminate the fog and help the driver see the road better. Since fog often floats a few feet above the road, these lights are aimed as low as possible any higher and it will create glare in the fog and confuse oncoming drivers.
Even when it’s not foggy these lights can still be useful because they illuminate wider and farther than typical low beams.
24. Add Auxiliary Lights—Cautiously
Be sure to confirm the legality of any auxiliary lamps before installing them as some are only meant to supplement your high beams while many others can only be used off-road.
The reason is that light beam from LEDs or a high-intensity discharge (HID) source can be like as bright as daylight, but after a while, your eyes get used to the brightness. Then when you turn off the extra light, your eyes will need as much as 30 seconds to adjust to now dim looking low-beam.
25. Clean And Adjust Your Exterior Mirrors
Dirty mirrors and windshield produce the same distracting effect on drivers.
Smeared mirrors can produce glare in your eyes when they diffuse the light from cars behind you into various shapes. Wiping with a microfiber towel or newspaper will help remove the smear.
And then to protect your eyes from the headlights of cars behind you, aim the mirrors downwards, this way you can move your head away from the light or tip forward to see the cars behind you.
26. Keep Your Eyes Healthy
Doctors often recommend moving your eyes and scanning around instead of focusing straight ahead to reduce the effect of eye fatigue and glare while driving at night.
If your eyes are feeling strained from use and cannot perceive road situations correctly, there’s nothing the cleanest windshield or the brightest headlight can do to help.
27. Combat Fatigue
Your best bet while driving around this time is to stay alert for sleepy drivers on the road. Take some caffeine to keep yourself alert or pull over someplace safe to rest your eyes or make a stop for the night.
There are other recommended activities that can keep you alert: Playing the radio at medium volume, periodically letting fresh air in through the window, and talking out loud or singing to yourself.
28. Increase Distance And Reduce Speed
Make use of your headlights to gauge if your distance from the next car is safe. If you cannot bring the car to a gradual stop without flooring the brake pedal, then you’re following too close.
Another option is what’s called the “Two seconds rule.” What you do is look ahead for a stationary object, count out the interval it takes your car to pass the same object after the car ahead has done the same. If it takes less than 2 seconds, you need to slow down.
29. Use High Beams When Appropriate
High beams are really helpful in open roads or rural areas, they let you see far up the road and prepare for a swerve or to reduce your speed in response to conditions ahead.
Just make sure you dim them when you are closing in or following another car – they’ll be grateful for the gesture. If you’re shopping for a new car, we recommend you go for the ones with adaptive technology that dims the headlights depending on the presence of other vehicles.
30. Study The Road Ahead
Scan the road ahead for anything that will alert you of oncoming drivers such as gimmers of light at bends or light at the top of a hill. And also keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians, cyclists, and animals crossing. They can be difficult to spot, especially when there’s nothing reflecting the light back.
31. Take Regular Breaks
Long-distance driving has a way of eating away at your attentiveness, that’s why it is recommended to take regular breaks to refresh your mind more so if you’re driving at night.
You can make a stop every two hours and simply walk around the car a couple of times while sipping your coffee to wake your mind.
32. Don’t Be Distracted
Taking your attention off the road is to fiddle with the radio, text, or dine is endangering not just yourself and passengers, but other road users too. Your reaction time after a tiring day at the office will be greatly reduced, taking your eyes off the road even for a split second is what it is – inviting trouble.
Long Driving Tips
33. Plan Ahead
Take some time to gather information on where you are going. This will relax your nerves so you can enjoy the journey. This also involves planning your route and plotting possible motorable diverts you can take, using your GPS or maps; figure out where you can stop for refills, food, and resting spots along the way; check the weather reports to know what to expect on the road; and also keep in touch with someone at your destination so they know where you are at all times.
34. Know Your Limits
There are people that can sit behind the wheel for 14 hours, others have a maximum of 4-6 hours. Boredom and physical problems could be the main factor behind this. You should know and work with your limit so you can plan around it.
35. Sleep The Night Before You Leave
Make sure you get a good night’s rest a night or two before you leave because fatigue on the open road is very dangerous. If you are making the journey very early in the morning, ensure you sleep earlier than you normally would the night before. Do not consume any intoxicant before or on the journey, and avoid any physically tiring task.
36. Take A Break Every Two Hours Or 200 Km
For long-distance journeys, it is recommended to take a driving break every 2 hours or 200 Km. Stop to grab a bite, ease yourself, fill up, or simply stretch your muscles. This way you’ll get a mental boost until the next stop.
37. Share The Drive
You can easily reduce how tired long-distance driving makes you feel by sharing the driving with someone else. If possible, plan to have someone take over when you start feeling tired so you can get some rest.
38. Dress For Comfort In The Car
Your ability to focus on the road while driving long distance journey will depend on how comfortable you are. Place a pillow behind your lower back if they tend to hurt when you sit for long; since your arms and part of your legs will be exposed for most of the journey, be sure to apply sunblock before you leave and every two hours after that to reduce the risk of sunburn.
39. Don’t Rely Solely On Cruise Control
Many drivers rely on cruise control for the most part of a long trip and for good reason – they make the journey endurable. But it can also lead to laziness and a loss of focus on the driver’s part. If you are using cruise control, make it short and try to keep your focus on the road ahead.
40. Eat Light And Stay Hydrated
Heavy meals or junk food aren’t ideal for a long-distance journey. They can leave you feeling dull, bloated and uncomfortable. Keep your digestive system relaxed by eating snacks and small portions of healthy meals accompanied with enough water to keep you hydrated.
41. Fresh Air Is A Must
Getting plenty of fresh air is essential to staying alert. Even if your car has air conditioning, it is recommended to open the window at intervals to get a fresh supply of oxygen into the car.
42. Obey The Rules Of The Road
One way you can increase your chances of arriving at your destination in one piece is to follow driving rules. Obey speed limits, know when it is okay to overtake and honk before you do so, and also make sure everyone is buckled in.
Driving Safely In The Rain
43. Be Especially Careful When The Rain First Starts
During the dry season, engine oil and grease from passing cars build up on roads and highways. The first rains are notorious for one thing, making the road incredibly slick as the water mixes with the motor fluid. This is slick mixture reduces friction between tire and the asphalt, which is why drivers are advised to drive at a low speed. After a few hours of rainfall, the water will eventually wash away the greasy build-up.
44. Slow Down
The chances of getting involved in an accident while speeding increases on wet roads and that’s because wet roads aren’t effective at helping a speeding car to come to a halt as a dry road will. If the forecast predicts a wet day or it’s the rainy season, always leave the house 15-20 minutes earlier than usual to give yourself additional travel time so you won’t feel the need to hurry.
45. Increase Your Following Distance
Wet roads reduce friction between tire and asphalt, thereby making your vehicle take longer to grind to a halt. We recommend putting up a safe following distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. A distance you can cover in 8-10 seconds will allow enough time to identify and respond to road hazard.
46. Brake Earlier And Slower
If you practice safe driving habits, you will have little need to slam on the brakes and risk getting rear-ended. When you need to slow down or stop on wet roads, go easy on the brake pedal, smoothly and earlier than you normally would. This reduces your risk of skidding off the road or into the car ahead of you.
47. Turn Off Cruise Control
Driving with cruise control on wet roads could actually speed up your car if you hydroplane, besides that, when you use cruise control, chances are you may not be as alert as you need to be.
48. Avoid Big “Puddles.”
Since you have no way of knowing how deep a puddle is, it is best to drive around them or take a different route if necessary. The reason is that water and electrical systems don’t get along and sometimes a seemingly shallow puddle may float your car.
49. Turn On Your Wipers
Consider replacing your wipers at the beginning of the rainy season. Your wiper blades need to be in good condition to clear water from your screen or risk distorting your view and distracting you. Be liberal with the windscreen washer and avoid following large vehicles closely so you don’t get obstructive splash and spray on your screen.
50. Turn On Your Headlights
A few raindrops can make your car less visible to oncoming vehicles, consider turning on your headlights to help them see you in time. However, do not use high beams when it is raining to reduce distractive diffusion the rain creates.
51. Turn On Your Defroster
Fog build-up on the windshield distracts the driver’s attention and also reduce the visibility of the road. The best way to get this off is to turn the rear defrosters and the A/C.
52. Keep An Eye Out For Pedestrians
Pedestrians taking shelter under a hoodie or umbrella during a rainstorm may have an obstructed view of the road, which means they could step into the road at the wrong time. When driving in the city or road with pedestrians, you need to be extra watchful.
53. Pullover When Things Get Bad
If you can barely make out the car ahead of you because of the rain, then you need to find a safe place – away from the road – and wait for the storm to subside. Better to arrive late than never.
54. Don’t Brake If You Hydroplane
If your vehicle begins to hydroplane, don’t panic and slam the brake or turn the steering wheel. This could worsen things and send you into a skid. Instead, slowly ease off the gas pedal and steer straight until your vehicle regains traction with the road. Tap the brake pedal slightly if you need brakes but your vehicle isn’t equipped with anti-lock brakes else brake as you normally would.
55. Exercise Extra Caution At Intersections
Engage the brakes slow and evenly as you approach intersections. Not every driver has the proper training to handle adverse driving conditions, so don’t assume you know what the other driver wants to do, better to anticipate their movements.
56. Driving Through Water
Be very cautious where water has flooded onto the road. It is not advisable to drive through moving water if you cannot see the bottom of it.
Slowly drive through the water, if it rises above the bottom of your doors, attempting to drive through could cause electrical damage and leave you with a heavy repair bill or worse, water might get into the engine forcing you to replace it
57. What To Do If You Stall In Deep Water
Do not try forcing the vehicle to start, you might hydro-lock and ruin your engine if water gets into the cylinders. If you can, get someone to help you pull out the vehicle using a tow rope or cable winch.
Highway Driving Safety Tips
58. Always Pay Attention To Surroundings
When driving through the streets, new drivers have a tendency to stare straight ahead all the time, but highway driving requires that you also keep an eye on what’s happening on all sides of the car.
59. Remember To Always Signal
Reading and using signal lights are a very important driving skill, more so on the highway. Since neither you nor the driver ahead and behind you can read minds, always use your blinker to communicate with other drivers – and please signal 4-8 seconds before you make a move.
60. Lane Changes
Using the signal light and switching lane works hand in hand. It is important to maintain a safe distance prior to changing lanes and also ensure you check for any car coming up in your blind spot.
61. Entering And Exiting The Highway
When you join the highway from an entry ramp, ensure your signal light is on before taking any gap you see, and when you join the highway increase your speed to match that of the highway traffic. If you want to exit the highway, use your signal light so other drivers understand your intention, and then slow down as you enter the exit ramp.
62. Pick A Slow Time
If you are learning to drive on the highway or trying to improve your confidence, it is recommended to do so after rush hour. Choose a time when the weather is conducive and there are fewer cars on the road. This way you can learn faster without the pressure from impatient drivers honking at you.
63. Stay In The Right Lane
Stay in the right lane if you’re not yet comfortable driving at high speed. The left lane is for passing other cars, so when you are confident enough you can practice passing a few cars using this lane, but until then drive on the right or middle.
64. Make Sure You Are Comfortable
Driving on the highway and driving on the street are two different experiences. If you are not comfortable driving on the highway don’t for it, keep learning on the streets. When you feel it’s time to move to the highway follow the last two tips and have an experienced driver or professional with you.
65. Carefully Get Out Of Your Vehicle After An Accident
If you ever get involved in an accident while driving on the interstate, pulling as far off the road as possible will help to prevent more damage to you or other drivers. Who knows, a distracted driver may not realize on time that your car is stationary if you stop on the side of the road.
Safe Driving Tips For Seniors
66. Stay Physically Active
Physical activity improves your flexibility and strength, which in turn, can improve your safety while driving by making it easier to turn the steering wheel, look around or over your shoulder, and make other movements. Walking is a great way to include exercise in your daily routine.
67. Schedule Regular Vision And Hearing Tests
Even if your eye-sight and hearing are okay, it is recommended to visit a doctor and schedule regular vision and hearing tests as these two senses tend to decline with age. Some problems related to these two are easier to correct if detected early.
68. Manage Any Chronic Conditions
Work with your physician and follow instructions for managing any chronic conditions that may impact your safety behind the wheel – especially seizures or diabetes. It is important to know that many medications taken to manage such conditions may induce drowsiness or dizziness as a side-effect.
69. Understand Your Limitations
Make adjustments to meet your physical limitations. If you feel pain in your hands when gripping the steering wheel, you can always use a steering cover that makes steering more comfortable. You could also adjust or change your vehicle to a model that helps you avoid collisions, manage your blind spot, safely change lanes, and more.
70. Drive When The Roads — And You — Are In Good Condition
Driver safety is higher during the daytime and in good weather. Consider using public transport when visibility is poor or the area is unfamiliar. Other than the driving conditions being optimal, be sure to drive only when you are calm and sober.
71. Stash Your Cell Phone And Focus On The Road
Being distracted while driving exposes you to risk. Stash the phone someplace safe and leave it there till you get to your destination. If you plan to use a GPS device, then key in your destination before you move the car – do the same to your stereo.
72. Update Your Driving Skills
There are lots of community education programs or local organizations that teach older adults driver safety. Consider taking a refresher course to update your driving skills so you and others can stay safe.
With these simple steps and you can reduce your risk of having an accident and the accompanying repair bill. If you become concerned – or others have expressed their concern – about your ability to drive safely, it might be best to stop driving. Consider using a van service, taking the bus, hiring a driver or taking advantage of other local transportation options.
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