I always tell people: “I’m not sure if I’m a good driver, but I’m a safe driver.” Meaning, I’m admittedly 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 just 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 drivers test, and were far too excited that we passed to actually check the wrong answers. That means to this day, some of us are still guessing on 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 stay away from them in the future. This sounds simple, but sometimes we pass off accidents as just that, “accidents”, and fail to consider what we could have done differently, even if it that precaution was merely defensive. For example, it takes twice as long to brake on a road that is wet, than one that is dry. The Telegraph recommends the following method:
“To check you’re far enough away, watch for the car in front to pass an object – a lamp post, 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 emergency situations
If you find yourself hydroplaning…
You should never panic, and also do not make any 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 an 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. Other benefits of pressing the gas for short instant: 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.” 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 type of pressure on the road, put on your right blinker “to let the driver know you’ll move over when it’s save,” 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 at risk of passing on (or inflaming) feelings of “personal frustration.” Most importantly, keep your cool and focus on yourself. There’s no need to be in competition with anyone on the road. Like I said: end game is getting from one place to another as safely as is possible.
4. Never Drive while Drowsy
Did you know that 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? One quarter of American adults said that they knew someone personally that 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 that you are too tired to drive, take a cab home, let someone else drive, crash at a friend’s place, call an Uber, etc. There are so many possibilities nowadays for transportation, that there really is no longer an excuse for driving while tired. Driving 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 see someone fall asleep at the wheel, get away from him or her as quickly and safely as possible. Do not hesitate to call the police either. Any vehicle that is moving erratically is a danger to the driver, its passengers, and everyone else on the road.
Practice these safety tips on a regular basis, and keep them in mind. Knowing how to handle a sudden situation ahead of time is what will get you through. If you need any further inspiration, think about your family and friends that are regularly on the road. If not for your own sake, keep the roads safe for them.