While some may have fond memories of learning how to drive, there are others of us who cringe at the flashbacks to a father who screamed at us, a mother who acted like she was going to press her own foot through the floorboard, or a driving instructor who swore we should always take the bus wherever we were going.
One thing everyone needs to understand is not just how to drive but how to drive defensively. With insurance rates on the rise, you want to protect your investment. But more than that, you want to protect your family and yourself from the other aggressive drivers that are on the highways.
Here are seven things to keep in mind the next time you step behind the wheel of your car.
This should seem like a no-brainer, but speeding is still a major problem, even with some states giving out fines in excess of $2,000 (http://blog.esurance.com/speeding-tickets-where-does-your-state-rank/#.Vqa_01MrKRs). But why is it so important to maintain the proper speed when you are driving? The reality is that if you are going sixty miles per hour on the interstate, you will need almost five seconds to bring your car to a complete stop (http://blog.esurance.com/stopping-distance-is-the-3-second-rule-wrong/#.VqbA7VMrKRs). If you are driving too fast for conditions, then you will not be able to stop in time if there is a wreck or obstruction in your path. Instead, keep up with the traffic around you without going over the speed limit. If everyone around you is speeding, move to the right lane and let them get the speeding ticket. The little bit of time you might save is not worth it.
Give everyone else room to move.
Another defensive driving trait is being sure to yield the right of way to everyone else. Don’t feel like you have to weave in and out of traffic and cut off other drivers, especially if they are driving aggressively. Instead, you should be sure to yield to other cars and not cut them off. Also, keep in mind that yielding the right of way includes for those you share the road with. Don’t try to race through pedestrian crosswalks and always look out for bicyclists that are using the same street as you.
You can’t drive safely if you aren’t watching where you are going. One of the most common excuses is that it “takes two to make an accident” or “they should look out for me.” But you can’t assume that another driver is going to be paying attention. The only person whose behavior you can control is your own. This also goes for people who drive distracted. You should never, ever text and drive, nor should you try driving while having a long conversation on the phone.
Don’t drive if you are distressed or distracted.
Many people, when they get stressed out or emotional, feel they have to get out and get away by hopping in the car and going somewhere. But if you do this, you are liable to have your mind on the situation you were trying to escape rather than paying attention to the road in front of you and the other drivers all around you.
Wear your seat belt.
Just for a five-year span during the past decade, seat belts saved the lives of over 75,000 people (http://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/newtsm/tk-bua/SeatBeltTop5Flyer.pdf ). If you are involved in an accident while driving just 40 mph, you will be hit with so much force that you can actually be propelled through the windshield and out of the car. Even within the car itself, you can sustain head and torso injuries that can prove fatal. Not only should you defend yourself with seat belts, it is also imperative that you teach your children to do the same and get them into the habit while they are young.
Don’t forget to check your blind spots.
Every car or truck has at least one blind spot. Your mirrors will not show you everything around you. Before you back up your car or change lanes, always look over your shoulder and make sure there isn’t a car or bike hidden outside of your peripheral vision. If you ignore this, the next sound you may hear will be the crunch of metal.
Finally, you have to remember that the weather can also affect your driving. If it is foggy, raining or even snowing, you need to slow down and be sure you aren’t following too closely behind the car in front of you. A wet road is much harder to stop on than a dry one. Also, be sure to check the tread on your tires and ensure they are properly inflated. This can make a big difference in your ability to slow or stop your car.