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The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Safer, More Alert Driver

Let’s have a show of hands if you have ever picked up your driver’s instruction manual after passing the written exam. No? No one? Hm. That figures out. In truth, it is safe to assume that you haven’t given a follow-up look nor a second thought to that booklet since your test was marked “pass.” Am I right?

Fear not! We have got you covered!

Our intention is to pick-up where the study booklet leaves off. Providing you with tips and information on taking command of your vehicle, and by way of association, the road as well. Below is a list of 14 different ways to becoming a safer, more alert driver:

Check Your Fluids & Indicator Lights

Industry standard dictates that you should have your car serviced every 3,000 miles. However, you should also perform a weekly check of your engine fluids, (e.g. gas, oil, antifreeze/water, transmission, windshield) to ensure the levels are properly maintained. This simple check eliminates the possibility of running into troubles often caused by neglecting these areas of the engine. Thus, making you, and the road, a bit safer to drive.

Panning

Make sure that your eyes are constantly shifting, from straight-ahead, to rear-view, to passenger-side view, to driver’s side mirror, at all times. Not to the navigation panel display, and not your cell phone, nor your passengers. No, not, ever.

Mirrors

For every automobile you enter, your first action should always be to buckle up, followed by adjusting your mirrors. That’s Driver’s Education 101. These mirrors are the eyes behind, and on the sides of, your head. Use them wisely, and make sure they give you access to both of your blind spots.

Plan Ahead

Try to memorize your route prior to arrival, so as to not call your attention away from getting to your destination safely. If Siri, or OnStar gets it wrong, pull over and reset. There is no reason for you to have your face buried into the screen of a device while you are driving. We’re totally riding shotgun with Oprah on this, guys and gals. Take heed.

Safe Lanes

On the freeway, or in other multi-lane traffic, the middle lanes are always the safest, and smoothest lanes of traffic. The speedsters are always wreaking havoc in the far-left, and the right side lane is generally occupied by oncoming and off-going traffic; or those in need of roadside assistant. So drivers, beware.

Rough Weather Conditions

rough weather conditions
Rain or snow can impair vision and handling, always drive under the speed limit in these conditions.

For starters, if you can avoid making the trip altogether, then we would highly recommend doing so. Most of us are entangled with something commonly referred to as “responsibilities,” so staying home just because there’s a tiny blizzard heading toward your town, is out of the question. Here are our recommendations for those drivers who must hit the road in rain, sleet or snow:

Tires

  • Regularly check the condition of your tires. Whether or not the car is yours, old or new, have a mechanic garage, car or tire dealership verify their condition. The old “penny” method may have been tried or true, but does not cut the muster in meeting our safety standards.
  • Purchase tires that are specific to the weather in the area(s) where you will drive the most. There are hundreds of manufacturers, and probably just as many tire treads to choose from. Pep Boys usually has great deals on tires.
  • Apply snow chains whenever there is snow. No matter how many inches are expected, but in the effort to be more cautious. Better safe than sorry. The good news is, in the effort to make life even more easier, someone has come up with the idea of plug-on snow chains, so stay on the lookout for those as well.

Sleet/Rainy Weather

When the roads are slippery, most people will default to applying the breaks suddenly, with both feet as hard as they can.  This is the fastest way to lose control of a vehicle. The best response is to remain calm. Then, take your foot off of the accelerator, maintain a tight grip on your steering wheel: locking it to straight alignment position, followed by a series of quick, soft brake applications until you have full control. Easy.

Tip #1: Did you know that tires age even when they are simply being stored? Don’t fret. There is a way to verify your tires age. By law, each tire produced has a manufacturer’s date is indicated in the serial number on the tire.

Road Hazards/Emergencies

road hazards/emergencies
If you find yourself in a bind – know some basic skills like changing a tire.

No matter how safe of a driver you are, emergency situations find their ways to live and breathe. Could be a careless driver mimicking a maneuver from a video game, or debris carelessly left in the road that had fallen off during transit. These things happen. However, there are ways to conduct oneself in emergency situations to avoid less disruption of traffic flow, and to help prevent matters from escalating.

Hazard Lights

Train yourself to apply your hazard lights immediately after an occurrence, so that it becomes a natural reflex. These lights are a warning signal to other drivers around you, that there is danger and to proceed with caution. Familiarize yourself with the hazard lights switch/button in every vehicle you operate. It can save lives.

Flashlight

Carry a regular, battery-operated flashlight. In the event, that you are driving at night  you lose power in your car, a flashlight might be your only guiding light. Even if you have a flashlight on your cell, you will want to preserve phone battery for making or receiving calls.

Flares

A small supply of flares may seem like overkill, but police and truckers carry them for a reason. They are the ultimate deterrers of the flow of traffic in an emergency situation and while you may not need them, someone else might. These could totally make you look like a hero in an emergency situation. Just be sure to follow the ignition instructions carefully,

Fire Extinguisher

Speaking of ignition, there are several ways a fire can start: gas, chemical, electrical or a dance of seduction. The latter being highly unlikely on the open road, of course, but actual physical fires can occur at any time, and almost anywhere. An extinguisher is the quickest, most effective way to combat a flames without the presence of fire department personnel.

Emergency Kit

Invest in an emergency response kit to keep in your vehicle. Even if it has the very basic supplies, it is always good to have on hand. Emergencies happen and sometimes, if only to stop the bleeding, it can help to keep someone alive until an emergency response unit arrives.

Don’t Engage Road Rage

Road rage is a very real, and very dangerous thing. It is when a driver is so frustrated with either life, another driver, or both, that they become enraged and act-out violently. Often times, using their vehicle as a weapon in retaliation. Our advice is to simply disengage the individual(s), and to change direction. If the person(s) follows you, have caused damaged, or have harmed you or your passengers in any way, take down as much information about the make, model and license plate information as you can. Along with a description of the offenders. Never under any circumstance pull over, or exit your vehicle to engage with someone experiencing road rage.

Avoid Distractions

texting-and-driving
Texting & driving is dangerous and illegal in many states.

We live in a time of newness. So much is happening, with some many things are going on around us, that are very hard to ignore; although, if there was ever a good time as any to do so, it would definitely be while behind the steering wheel. Here is a review of the most common distractions you may encounter while driving, inside or outside of your automobile:

  • Traffic Accidents
  • Amusement Parks/Themed Attractions
  • Displays – Advertisements
  • Wild Animals
  • Construction – Erections, Detours, Structural Work
  • Loudness – Horn-blowing, Voices, Music, Miscellaneous Noises and Sounds
  • TV Screens/Monitors
  • Cell Phones – Calls, Texting, Navigation
  • Deep Conversations/Heated Arguments
  • Bumper Stickers
  • Luxury Cars
  • A Good-Looking Person

If you are following our guidelines for becoming a safer, more alert driver, these distractions are a thing of the past because your eyes are now constantly glued to your surroundings. So this section we will file under, “Things that are Good to Know.”

Precious Cargo

Pets are great travel companions, but make sure they are comfortable in the car so as not to distract you.

Autos are built with the intention to haul passengers. Everyday life allows for us to do more than just that, and so we find ourselves tasked with delivering and transporting the things we need and care about most. This area will discuss safely storing and securing precious cargo.

Babies/Small Children

Any child under 4 feet tall should be secured in a strapped-down car seat, in the adjacent backseat. There is wide-spread discrepancy as to which direction the child should be facing, however we feel it is up to the parent or guardian to decide.

Pets

When travelling, it is safer to have your pets secured in a kennel, in case you are involved in a fender-bender. Pets can suffer fatal injuries from the impact, as well as from the airbags upon deployment. Some companies make seat belt attachments specifically designed for your dogs

Moving/Camping Supplies

Furniture, appliances, luggage, ice coolers, tents, propane…the list may be endless, but the capacity for storage is limited. You may find yourself with the need to store items outside of your car or SUV. In this scenario, there are only two viable options: the roof, or a trailer pull.

When selecting items to pack inside your vehicle, give priority to items that are smaller, and without any handles, or tread. These items tend to be slippery, and more difficult to secure against high-winds, and therefore more likely to shift in transit. Just ask anyone responsible for freeway debris.

When securing items on the roof, or oversized items in the trunk, be sure to use as many luggage tie straps, bungy cord hooks, carabiners and rope as possible. After you’ve strapped everything nice and tightly, strap on another layer. Then, take a short test-drive around a residential area with those brutal speed-bumps to check your work. Did it shift? If so, try again until everything remains in place.

If you’re going to use a trailer pull, your best option is to go for a covered unit. It’s weather-proof, preserves your belongings and serves an added layer of protection. If a covered unit is not an option, then be sure to load heavier, bulkier items first, securing them tightly to the wall of the trailer. Top-heavy items should lay flat, along with the longer pieces and anything that is awkwardly shaped or protruding. Items with similar shapes or surfaces can be tied together, making it harder for to move around. Place a tarp or a thick blanket over everything before tying it all down, to prevent fly-aways from taking out a windshield.

Tip #2: Make sure that child seats are free and clear of any and all choking hazards, sharp objections and all other possible dangers. This frees your mind of worry, and allows you to focus on your responsibilities as a driver.

Lay Off the Horn

You would be surprised to know that many of us are clueless as to the horn’s intentional use. Neighbors think it is an alarm clock, while road-ragers use it as a frustration button. Neither of these uses are acceptable, and usually can lead to unnecessary stress to those within an earshot. As mentioned above, it can also be a distraction to drivers, whose eyes may be taken off the road in response to horn-blows.

The horn is simply meant to be used as an alert, to notify other drivers of your existence to avoid a collision. We tend to forget the horn’s purpose, and show little regard when it sounds off as  part of the security system because usually it’s false alarm. Still, it can be a helpful tool when used properly.

Going Against Sunlight

Ah yes, the forces of nature. A few of us traveling east in the morning, and west in the evening, are all too familiar with battling sunlight while operating a vehicle. Here are ways to beat the powerful source of light on your daily commute, in order to get you home safely.

Leave Earlier, or Later

Sounds simple enough, but no one wants to miss out on sleep, nor do that want to miss out on money. But, it remains a simple solution to an ongoing problem.

Use the Sun Visor and Sunglasses

Consider these your shields of armor in your daily fight against the sunlight. Sure squinting works, but for how long? To add, think of the long-term effects like, frown lines.

Window Tint

For a decent price you can have your windows tinted to protect you from those glaring UV rays. Though, there are some restrictions as to whether or not a windshield can be tinted. Check your state and local law books to determine what tint levels are acceptable in your area, if any.

Headlights

Driving with the headlights on, is a great way to alert non-cautious, optically-challenged drivers that you are there to share the road. As an informed driver, they will likely be more apt to throw signals before switching lanes, and make other conscious decisions if your presence is known.

Defensive Driving

Unfortunately, there some serious traffic violators and speed demons you will come up against regularly. The best way to handle those types of drivers are to steer clear of them as far as possible, allow them the right-of-way, and to keep a watchful eye out for them.

Tip #3: Never, ever tailgate. Not only is it unsafe, but you should leave enough space between you, and the cars ahead of you so there is room to make any last minute maneuver, if necessary.

As you can see, there is much more to safe driving than simply obeying laws. In this reading, our goal was to help you discover new information regarding driver’s safety and alertness, and to encourage you to return to us in the near future for all things DMV driver’s test-related. We strive to be the most reliable resource in this industry, as the “go-to” site for those who are learning, and for readers just like you.

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