A majority of Americans, over 200 million of them, own a valid driver’s license, and many of them are operating motorcycles, cars, and pickup trucks on roads and highways every day. The good news is that most drivers are safe and responsible about how they operate a motor vehicle, but some of them are unsafe for various reasons. These unsafe drivers are distracted, impaired, or unprepared for the weather, or their car itself is faulty somehow, and these drivers are more likely to cause an auto accident. They may go out of control or hit another car or property, and might even cause injuries or accidental deaths. While you cannot prevent other people from driving drunk or change the weather, you can take a number of sensible steps to make yourself the safest driver you can be, and keep your car in good shape, too. And of course, you can and should keep a sharp eye out for unsafe drivers or bad weather, and be prepared if something goes wrong. All of this can lower the odds of you getting in an auto incident.
Check Your Tires
A car’s tires should not be taken for granted. True, tires are tough and they can last for quite a while, but they are not indestructible, and they are going to get worn down over time. How often should you have your tires rotated or changed to keep your car in good shape? A good basic rule is to have your car or truck’s tires rotated every 3,000 to 6,000 miles or so, or have the tires rotated every time the oil is changed. It may help to keep a log of the date and odometer reading every time you get your car’s tires rotated like this, and rotating those tires helps keep them in good shape for a longer time. And of course, worn down or damaged tires should be replaced at once, and tire shops may offer many different brands of tires for you to choose from.
New tires, even relatively cheap ones, are going to perform better than worn out or damaged tires, and better yet, some tires are designed to operate in certain conditions where ordinary tires would struggle. Some tires are especially rugged and geared for off-road driving, essential for stunt and enthusiast driving. Not only that, but winter tires are designed to have a good grip on roads slick with ice or snow. In fact, some regions of Canada require (by law) for citizens to use these tires during designated winter months, for safety’s sake.
What might happen to tires to make them unsafe or unsuitable to drive on? Bear in mind that over time, a tire’s grips are going to get worn down, and the tires will start to become slicker and therefore less safe to drive on. This issue may be even worse during rain or snow. Also, old tires may start to deflate and go soft slowly but constantly, and they will keep deflating even if they’re pumped back up with air. These deflating tires reduce the car’s mileage since they are not firm enough, and they may make the car’s driving erratic and sloppy. This makes the car unsafe to drive, and many auto accidents involve one or more cars with very old tires on it. Lastly, bear in mind that old tires may be more likely to get ruptured or even explode when they run over sharp or hard objects. Fortunately, many tire shops can be found across the U.S. today, and a concerned car owner can find a local one and get new tires put on if necessary.
Get Enough Rest
This may sound oddly mundane or irrelevant, but it’s quite important for car driving: get enough sleep. It is well known that drunk or high drivers are very dangerous since substances are impairing their minds and reducing their coordination and judgment. But even if you’re not drinking or abusing drugs, you may be a sloppy and dangerous driver if you are very tired, and this is a documented fact. An exhausted driver has dulled reflexes and a shorter attention span, and they may be too slow to react to sudden changes in the road, such as another car running a red light or an unexpected group of pedestrians. The worst-case scenario is when a driver simply falls asleep at the wheel, and of course, that can easily lead to an auto accident and probably some bodily injuries. This has been known to happen before.
Avoiding this scenario is simple enough: do not drive a car or operate a motorcycle if you are drowsy and tired. Use your best judgment to know the difference between “I’m getting a bit tired” and “I’m about to fall over and start sleeping.” It is one thing to drive later at night while you’re a bit tired. But driving while you’re exhausted is dangerous, so try to arrange your driving and evening plans accordingly. If possible, have someone else with you, a trustworthy person who can either drive you to and from an event late at night or who can drive you home in your car. Assuming this person isn’t also exhausted, this avoids the problem entirely. And if your surroundings and schedule permit, you might simply nap before you drive somewhere, but be sure that you’re safely alert and awake when you wake back up to drive. Again, careful judgment should be used, and this trick might not be sufficient for a long drive home. It may work for a shorter drive, though.
Overall, be sure that you’re sleeping well if you want to or must drive often, and many Americans could afford to sleep more. Many people sacrifice sleep for the sake of work or leisure activities, or they cannot sleep well due to stress or similar issues. Many surveyed Americans (82%) say that getting another hour of sleep every night would be somewhat or extremely valuable to them, so perhaps you could try that, too. Your driving skills at night may improve accordingly.
Paying Attention and Driving Defensively
How else can you keep yourself safe while driving, aside from having the energy and avoiding drugs or alcohol? Another tip is one that sounds obvious but is often overlooked: pay careful attention to everything that is around you. Many drivers today cause accidents simply because they are not looking where they are going, and these are considered “distracted” drivers. What are they looking at instead? Often, they are using handheld electronics, such as sending text messages on a phone, or they are using the car’s dashboard features for more than a few seconds at a time. Some drivers might choose to play music very loudly in their car or even use headphones for audio, but this is, of course, a bad idea. Doing so means you will not hear the alarms of emergency vehicles, such as fire engines or ambulances, and failing to yield to them or make room in certain circumstances is actually illegal. If a vehicle is displaying its lights and sirens, you must pull over and make room for them.
Or, you may not hear the honking of a car that’s about to hit you (or you’re about to hit). Already, around 15% of all Americans aged 18 and over have hearing trouble of some sort, but they usually learn how to manage that. Don’t make yourself artificially hard of hearing (so to speak) by using too much audio while driving.
Some drivers are dangerous not because they are drunk or distracted, but because they drive aggressively, often going too fast or turning too sharply or failing to observe proper yielding rules of the road. Driving aggressively takes many different forms, but it is always a bad idea, and it is at best annoying to other drivers and at worst, can cause an accident. For example, an aggressive driver may squeeze into a lane where there is not quite enough room, or they speed recklessly to beat a yellow traffic light before it turns red (or they run the red light entirely). Such drivers might also speed through school zones or parking lots, where slow driving is the norm. So, be sure to never drive like this, and remember that safety and manners on the road are vastly more important than shaving a few seconds off your travel time. And be sure to watch out for drivers who do drive recklessly, and keep away from them or at least be ready to honk at them or get out of their way.