Coping With Heavy Traffic – 5 Defensive Driving Tips

Lower gas prices means more cars on the road…especially during commute hours. Unfortunately, that also means bigger chances of fatal crashes…according to a University of Alabama study.  The National Safety Council has created handy list of tips to help you stay alert and spot in advance…daily hazards that are avoidable.

  • Check your mirrors every three to five seconds while always scanning ahead for possible dangers.
  • Always give the right of way to fellow motorists, but be prepared to react to unexpected lane changes and turns.
  • Keep a safe distance between you and other vehicles…especially during heavy traffic…by reducing speed to give yourself sufficient response time
  • Be vigilant for signs of impaired, distracted and yes…aggressive driving.  Keeping calm under pressure is a valuable skill to develop…use techniques like deep breathing to keep focused.

Everyone wants to avoid accidents…and “Watch out for the other guy” is old expression that has merit.  Yet, we are all “the other guy” for other drivers.  Recognizing the top unsafe driving behaviors that lead to collisions is a valuable skill you can develop to recognize in others and yourself. Learning how to avoid each dangerous behavior naturally develops safer driving habits and collision avoidance techniques.

  1. Following too closely – California freeway drivers encounter this daily. Three seconds of distance between your own vehicle and the one ahead can make all the difference.  If you’re being tailgated…just maintain your speed and move over to let him or her pass if they wish. Never speed up to accommodate the tailgater!
  2. Driving too fast – Watch closely for both the posted speed limit and weather conditions. Remember, treacherous weather conditions override the posted speed limit. Slow down if rain, snow or icy conditions dictate.
  3. Violating right of way – Make sure you’re yielding properly and following all traffic signals and stop signs by driving at an appropriate speed to give yourself time to react and take a moment to scan intersections before entering them.

Read More

Quarterly Vehicle Safety Checklist – 4 Keys

Most American residents experience some kind of change in seasons each year…even in California and Florida.  Seasons can be a helpful cue for reminding drivers to run through a quick safety checklist…to help avoid accidents and unnecessarily large future repair bills.  Use the old James Taylor song to help remind yourself (it works!…Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall) that using this handy checklist can make you and your vehicle better, safer “friends”.  Car care tips can be tedious and boring, but this four point list will help keep your vehicle looking and running in tip-top shape.

  • Wiper Blades – Inspect & Replace them regularly.  Everything can wear out and break.  Wiper blade rubber usually becomes dry and brittle during the Summer…especially if they’ve already been through only one rainy season.  You can’t keep your eyes on the road of you can’t see through your windwhield.
  • Tires – Pressure & Tread Depth – Tires can easily lose one (1) pound of air pressure each month…even if your car just sits in the driveway.  Under-inflated tires translates into lower gas mileage and poor handling, and can suffer unnoticeable damage that compromises car performance and safety.  A monthly check on tires is highly warranted.  Don’t just check it randomly or yearly…it’s important to do it monthly.   A tread depth check is easily done by looking inside the grooves on the tire.  At every six to 10 inches, a raised wear bar will appear, and if the tread is worn to the same height as the bar, it’s time to replace the tire.  It’s important to several spots on each tire…because wear is often even.  Time for new tires?  RTFM (read the friendly [owner’s] manual)  to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation for size and type of tires.
  • Brakes –  Nothing is more critical to vehicle safety than properly functioning brakes.  Disc brakes on newer vehicles are constantly assaulted by dirt, moisture and road salt.  Pay attention to how your brakes respond. Does your vehicle stop evenly …or kind of pull to one side?  Any noises?  Some noises can be harmless and not uncommon.  But loud or constant noises when you apply the brakes should be checked out professionally.
  • Battery – Verify its Strength…don’t assume all is well with the car battery just because your vehicle starts.  That next turn of the key may be your unexpected tipping point.  If you’re comfortable checking your own battery…great!  Usually it’s best have an auto care & repair professional do it for you.

Read More

Wrong-Way Drivers: 3 Keys to Survival

It happens day and night, by drivers from a wide variety of situations.  Yes,  drunk drivers comprise the majority of wrong-way driving accidents (60% have blood alcohol content [BAC] above legal limits), but the reality is there are a variety of causes in addition to alcohol related issues. Your best defense is to take 60 seconds right now to consider the possibility it may happen to you…and visualize implementing a few simple suggestions (following shortly)…and maneuvering through the incident to survival.

And surviving a wrong-way accident is no small feat.  A National Transportation Safety Board’s  (NTSB) special report on wrong-way drivers stated that they cause a significantly higher injury and death rate, despite only accounting for only 3% of all crashes.  360 deaths occur every year as a result of wrong-way accidents.

While the NTSB has offered recommendations for marking freeway on and off ramps more clearly…and erecting barriers that create less confusion for drivers…the brutal truth is that wrong-way drivers are hard to prevent.

If you find yourself in the frightening freeway scenario of seeing headlights heading in the wrong direction…toward you…burn these few simple suggestions into your brain now….to help protect yourself and loved ones.

  1. Buckle Up – Always rule #1…before you even back out of the driveway.  Seat belts simply increase greatly your chance for surviving any type of crash.  AAA tells us that seat belts saved more than 12,000 lives last year.
  2. Slow Down – …IMMEDIATELY!  It can only add precious moments to your decision making.
  3. Scan Ahead –  Keeping an eye on the horizon…or at least far ahead of your own headlights…increases your chances of seeing the wrong-way driver in advance.
  4. Swerve To The Right – Wrong-way drivers often gravitate to their far right because they think it’s the slow lane, rather than the fast lane.  Swerving to your right is always recommended in a head-on collision situation because it will deflect much of the force of the impact.  Hitting a stationary object or rolling into a ditch instead of a moving vehicle (especially if you’ve slowed down) is much safer than a head on collision…so even if swerving seems equally dangerous, do it anyway.

Read More