As a new driver, you’re undoubtedly finding there’s a lot to learn about cars, rules of the road and mastering the art of driving. As you learn and gain experience, always remember that driving is a serious responsibility and a privilege you should not take lightly. You have the obligation not only for your own safety, but for the safety of your passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians as well.
Motor vehicle crashes cause more deaths in your age group than any other factor, accounting for more than one-third of all deaths of 15 – 24 year olds in the United States and almost one-third of all highway fatalities. And two- thirds of teen passenger deaths occur when another teenager is driving. These statistics are scary, but fortunately, you have the power to overcome many of the common causes of traffic crashes. There are some simple things you can do to make your driving safer and more enjoyable, and most of them are a matter of common sense.
Common causes of traffic accidents that result in injury or death and what you can do to prevent them:
Drinking & DrivingNearly 16,000 people die on the nation’s highways each year as the result of drunk driving, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And drivers under 30 years of age account for more than half of all drinking drivers who are killed in automobile crashes, according to the National Association of Independent Insurers. These are very grim figures, indeed.
First and foremost, if you’ve been drinking alcohol, DON’T DRIVE. Have a sober friend drive you home. Or call your parents. Or take a cab or the bus. Don’t take the chance of getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking; even one or two drinks can affect your driving ability. If you see friends who have been drinking, volunteer to drive them to their destination. It’s the best thing you can do for a friend.
SpeedingAccording to the Fatal Accident Reporting System, speeding and speed-related violations contribute to as many as 23 percent of the fatal traffic accidents reported by police. Furthermore, the chance of death or serious injury in a crash doubles with every 10 mph over 50 mph.
So slow down. You may be tempted to test the limits of your skill and your vehicle. but don’t overestimate your experience. Follow the posted speed limit, and plan your schedule so you don’t find yourself rushing to make it to school, work, or an appointment on time.
Weather ConditionsYou can’t change the weather, but you can improve your chances of avoiding weather-related traffic accidents. Many drivers don’t slow down in different weather conditions, and this carelessness leads to accidents, either because drivers don’t allow extra time to stop, because they can’t maneuver their vehicle, or because their visibility is reduced.
On a snowy, rainy, or foggy day, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. When the roads are slick, try taking an alternate route to avoid excessively curvy or busy roads. If you don’t trust your judgment in bad weather, how about taking the bus or catching a ride with someone with more driving experience? Save any unnecessary trips for sunnier days. Exercise caution and drive defensively. Remember, in any bad weather, it’s always a good idea to turn on your headlights to increase your visibility. You want to see and be seen by other drivers.
Failure To Observe Traffic SignsRoad signs and signals are in places to ensure a safe flow of traffic. But many drivers don’t heed them, or they do so in a haphazard fashion.
Yield. Right turn on red. Merge. Stop. As a driver, you have the responsibility for knowing exactly what these signs mean and for abiding by them. Yield to oncoming traffic when entering a roadway. At many intersections in most states, it’s permissible to turn right at a red light… only after coming to a COMPLETE stop first, waiting for a break in traffic, then proceeding. When merging, keep your speed up and ease into traffic. Come to a complete stop at all stop signs.
Failure To Share The Road With Other VehiclesRoads are not just for the convenience of automobiles. Heavy trucks, motorcycles and bicycles all – have the right to be there, as long as they follow the rules of the road. But their size leaves them with some disadvantages, and as an informed driver, you should be aware of them.
Disadvantages of bicycles and motorcycles include poor visibility for motorists, small size, and instability. Don’t pull out in front of motorcyclists or bicyclists. Sudden stops could cause them to lose traction and slide or crash. When passing a truck, a bike, or a motorcycle, don’t pull back into your original lane too soon. These vehicles need plenty of room, and they must compensate for sight limitations. Heavy trucks need more time and distance to stop than passenger cars.
Always be cautious around pedestrians, especially in urban areas where pedestrian deaths occur most frequently. Remember, pedestrians always have the right of way.
Inattentiveness At The WheelThere are lots of things competing for your attention when you’re behind the wheel of a car. The radio is playing. You’re talking to your friends. Maybe you’re eating lunch or drinking a soda.
Always remember that paying attention to the road is your number one priority. You need to think ahead and be constantly prepared for any situation. Distractions make you less able to concentrate on safe driving. And that increases your chances of an accident. Split seconds make a critical difference in safe driving.
Taking RisksMany drivers are likely to take risks v at the wheel. They drive too fast, or they are overconfident, racing other drivers, playing “chicken,” or dashing across railroad crossings when the warning signals are flashing.
Play it safe. Responsible drivers don’t accept challenges to race. Be sensible. When you’re behind the wheel of a car, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Failure To Communicate With OthersAs you gain experience driving, you’ll find that a lot of drivers don’t seem to follow the same rules you learned. Drivers will suddenly pull into your lane without signaling. Or they’ll make a left turn from the right lane. Some drivers seem to think they’re the only ones on the road, and this causes hazardous situations. What can you do? Be a courteous driver. Make it a habit to let other drivers know what you intend to do. Use your turn signal to communicate your intentions. Don’t tailgate. Pull to the left to give room to drivers who are merging with traffic. Remember to be patient with drivers who are unfamiliar with the area. You’ll find that courtesy at the wheel is contagious. And you’ll be a better, safer driver for it.
Vehicle MaintenanceProper vehicle maintenance is another frequently overlooked safety precaution. Remember to maintain recommended tire pressure and adequate levels of engine oil, windshield cleaner, and other automotive fluids (transmission, brake, power steering, and differential). Periodically check all belts and hoses for cracks, wear, and tightness, and replace them every two years. Follow the maintenance schedule suggested by the car manufacturer, and keep your owner’s manual in the vehicle at all times, in case you need a quick reference. Stock your car with emergency materials such as flares, jumper cables, a first aid kit a fire extinguisher and a flashlight.
A final, but important, reminder: Remember to wear your safety belt, whether you’re the driver of a car or a passenger, front seat or back. Wearing a safety belt can significantly reduce your risk of serious injury or death in a car accident. Make sure that any children in your car are properly secured in the appropriate child restraint seats.