The following is a guest post from Marina Myshkina of the IMPROV Traffic School, an online traffic school that entertains and educates about traffic laws and driving safety.
We all know the rules of the road and we follow them — at least most of the time. With winter weather making travel increasingly cumbersome, it’s important we avoid making these seemingly small mistakes that could lead to big accidents. Here’s our recommendations for safely surviving traffic.
- Ditch distracted driving. This includes texting and talking on the phone, jamming out to your favorite tunes on the highest volume possible and eating a tasty burger. There are a bunch of other distractions we could mention, but you probably get the picture. According to the CDC, approximately nine people are involved in auto accidents per day due to distracted driving — and that’s in the United States alone.
- Don’t swerve while trying to avoid hitting an animal. If you spot a deer, raccoon, squirrel or some other creature on the road, don’t swerve to miss it! We understand that it’s an innocent animal and everything — but when the alternative is swerving into traffic or slamming on your brakes, we think you should just carry on with driving as you always do to avoid a possible ten-car pileup. Note that deer and other creatures are most active from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and that using your high beams can help to spot the animals early (which will allow you to safely coast into the next lane to avoid it).
- Take a nap. Believe it or not, driving while you’re sleepy is illegal in some states, and it’s seen as just as bad as drunk driving by the law enforcement of those states. It’s called “drowsy driving.” It’s estimated that drowsy driving causes approximately 100,000 crashes per year in the United States (according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). It’s better to just grab a hotel room than to risk it.
- Stop speeding. Not only can it land you a speeding ticket, but for every one mile per hour that you clock on the speedometer, the likelihood of getting into a car accident increases by four to five percent.
- Understand assumptions aren’t accurate. People put their turn signals on and forget about them — and it doesn’t mean they are going to make a turn. And not everyone you drive next to is practicing safe, undistracted driving.
- Always wear your seat belt. Did you know that seat belts actually go through a ton of testing to ensure that they can keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible on the road? Seat belts are designed to stop you from catapulting forward if the car makes a sudden stop, and the stopping distance is 4 or 5 times greater with a seat belt than if you were not wearing one.
- Give pedestrians the right-of-way. There are a lot of laws surrounding the right-of-way of pedestrians, and they vary state by state. It would be useful to read about the pedestrian laws in your area. Pedestrian deaths make up approximately 14% of total driving-related deaths.
- Make room for bicyclists. Always leave enough room for them when there is a dedicated bike lane or a bicyclist riding beside you.
- Give other drivers the right-of-way when they have it.
- Stash a winter survival kit. This is key to have in your car in case your car breaks down, or in case you get stuck in traffic. If you have small children this is even more important — keeping snacks, candy or small toys in the kit can save you a lot of stress. A kit should also include a lighter or matches, first aid materials, a flare or two, a flashlight, and food and water. A blanket wouldn’t hurt either.