I always tell people: “I’m not sure if I’m a good driver, but I’m a safe driver.” I am not sure I know every rule of the road, but I’ll respond appropriately with quick thinking and take more safety measures than necessary. If it looks like I can’t quite make the turn because a car is coming, I’ll wait. If it’s my right of way, but someone else is trying to cut in, I will usually let that (rude) person cut. When it comes down to it, I want to make it from point A to point B in one piece (the same goes for the people in the car with me, if any).
I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way. Many of us just got the minimum amount of points needed to pass our driver’s test and were far too excited that we passed actually to check the wrong answers. That means to this day, some of us are still guessing what the “shoulder” is or who turns first at an intergalactic seventeen-way intersection (or something like that).
For those of you that didn’t quite catch how to handle some quick-thinking-necessary situations, I’ve checked with the best and brightest of the auto professionals on how to keep safe, educated, and aware on the roads.
1. Know Your Limits
Driverside.com recommends that you recognize past errors and attempt to avoid them in the future. This sounds simple, but sometimes we pass off accidents as “accidents” and fail to consider what we could have done differently, even if that precaution was merely defensive. For example, braking on a wet road takes twice as long as braking on a dry one. The Telegraph recommends the following method:
“To check you’re far enough away, watch for the car in front to pass an object – a lamppost, bridge, or sign. Then count how many seconds go by before you pass the same object. If it’s under four seconds, you should back off and allow more space.”
2. Know how to handle emergencies
If you find yourself hydroplaning…
It would be best if you never panicked and did not make sudden calls, such as braking suddenly, which could cause your car to spin out. Your course of action depends on the type of vehicle you are driving, says DefensiveDriving.com. If you are in a car without four-wheel drive, “look for open space and travel in that direction” and continue to steer gently towards it. Cruise control is also a no-no in rainy weather, as your car will register this as a slowing down and try to amp up the acceleration. This is not what we want.
If your tire suddenly blows out on the highway…
You’re in for a tricky and “counterintuitive” solution, says Popular Mechanics.
“Press the gas pedal for an instant,” Says author Mac Demere. “The goal is to hit the
accelerator just long enough to stabilize the vehicle. Another benefit of pressing the gas briefly is that it prevents the driver from pushing the brake or turning the steering wheel. If the only thing this accomplishes is to lock up the driver’s brain while they remember what to do, then I’ve succeeded as an instructor.”
Yup, that’s right: DO NOT “jerk the steering wheel before the car has slowed down.” Unfortunately, this also increases the chances of your car spinning out.
3. Do not engage with road rage or aggressive drivers
If an aggressive driver is trying to pass you or putting you under some pressure on the road, put on your right blinker “to let the driver know you’ll move over when it’s saved,” says Esurance. That way, the bullying driver won’t pass you on the right. Never engage in “inflammatory gestures,” yell anything out the window, or honk furiously.
Esurance even suggests not making eye contact with other drivers who risk passing on (or inflaming) feelings of “personal frustration.” Road rage is contagious, and many drivers who feel road rage can also start to feel a sense of entitlement on the road. These are the people who “cut up” a truck, but drivers who have these moments of arrogance are more likely to get injured by a large commercial vehicle because they are thinking of themselves and pass on their aggression to you, making you think you’ve done something wrong when you all you have done is follow the rules of the road.
Most importantly, keep your cool and focus on yourself. There’s no need to compete with anyone on the road. As I said: the end game is getting from one place to another as safely as possible.
4. Never Drive While Drowsy
Did you know you can still do rote menial tasks while in Stage 1 sleep? Did you know that 37% of American drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year? In addition, one-quarter of American adults said they knew someone who had crashed due to falling asleep at the wheel. In the past year, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that crashes due to driver fatigue have resulted in approximately 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries.
If you feel too tired to drive, take a cab home, let someone else go, crash at a friend’s place, call an Uber, etc. There are so many possibilities nowadays for transportation that there is no longer an excuse for driving while tired. She was going while sleepy is almost as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Defensive driving is just as important. If you see a car swerving or someone falls asleep at the wheel, get away from them as quickly and safely as possible. Do not hesitate to call the police either. Any vehicle moving erratically is a danger to the driver, its passengers, and everyone else on the road.
Practice these safety tips regularly, and keep them in mind. Knowing how to handle a sudden situation will get you through. If you need further inspiration, think about your family and friends regularly on the road. If not for your own sake, keep the streets safe for them.