Getting behind the wheel of your car may seem like a mundane event in daily life, but it is most likely the most dangerous thing that you will do all day long. Most people started out after getting their license being very safe and conscientious drivers, but as the years roll by, a few bad habits may have settled into our own driving routine. Probably most of us could use a refresher course on safe driving practices again.
That is why we thought that we would write a post about driver safety to help give everyone a reminder that safe driving practices still rule the road.
To start check out this video, called 15 Defensive Driving Secrets That Can Save Your Life:
Vehicle Maintenance and Check-Ups
One very important thing that drivers may forget about is maintaining their vehicle and getting it checked out regularly by qualified mechanics. Not only does having your vehicle operating in good mechanical condition help prolong the life of your car, but it also makes sure that it is able to be operated safely.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before operating your vehicle:
- Check the Fluids Regularly – Do you regularly check the levels of essential fluids such as engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid?
- Rear and Stop Lights – Do bulbs work proper? Do they show a red light? Do brakes operate stop lights when activated? Is the glass clean?
- Tires – Are they inflated to the recommended level? Do you check regularly for worn treads, cuts or breaks?
- Windshield Wipers – Do they operate properly and wipe your windshield clean?
- Exhaust System + Muffler – Is it free of worn or rust spots and tightly secured to the vehicle? Is it quiet?
- Car Horn – Does it work?
- Filters (air filters, oil filters, and fuel filters) – Do your regularly inspect and replace filters on your car?
- Battery – Do you check the battery terminals for corrosion and clean them if necessary?
- Brakes – Do they hold promptly and evenly? Does the parking brake hold the car properly?
- Head Lights – Is the head light glass clean? Do both the upper and lower beams work? Are lights aimed to avoid glare?
- Steering – Is steering wheel free of excess play? Wheels properly aligned and balanced? Wheel bearings tight?
- Rear View Mirror – Does it give you a clear view of the road and drivers behind your vehicle? Is it free from cracks and discoloration?
If you’re unsure about any maintenance tasks, consult a professional mechanic or refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for guidance on how to properly maintain your vehicle.
Safe Driving Tips
Now that you know that your car is safe and road worthy, it is time to focus on getting on the road. The first tip is one of the most important. Always make sure to wear your seat belt, as well as make sure that all passengers are properly restrained in your vehicle. It has been proven that seat belts are essential for preventing severe injuries in case of an accident. In short, wear your seatbelt. It saves lives.
Do Not Tailgate
Make sure to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Tailgating another vehicle is an unsafe practice. This allows for ample reaction time in case of sudden stops or emergencies. The general rule in driving is to maintain a distance of at least three seconds from the vehicle in front of you. If the weather is poor, consider leaving an additional second or more in case you start to slide or skid.
Inversely, you must respond safely to tailgaters. If someone is following your vehicle too closely, add twice as much space between your car and the car in front of yours. This increases your ability to see and prepare for a collision. Then gradually decrease the speed of your car to slightly below the speed of surrounding traffic. Then safely move your vehicle into the right-hand lane to let the tailgater pass without incident. Do not hit the brakes suddenly (brake check) unless you are forced to do so to avoid a collision.
Use Mirrors & Check Blind Spots
It is always a good practice to be aware of what other drivers around you are doing and expect the unexpected. Before changing lanes, merging, or making turns, always make sure to check your blind spots by looking over your shoulder to ensure there are no vehicles or obstacles in those areas. Doing a shoulder check is an important way to avoid an accident.
Mirrors are the most important way to see what is behind your vehicle. Always use mirrors when starting to drive the vehicle, backing up, changing lanes and changing speed/braking. A lot of drivers may have been taught that you should see just a little bit of your car in your side mirrors as you are driving. But this isn’t true. Angle the mirror slightly out a bit more (so you can not see your car) and you instead see more of the road.
Use Your Turn Signals
You should always use your turn signals when driving to let other drivers (as well as bikers or pedestrians) know that you plan to turn or make a lane change. Signaling alerts other drivers to help prevent potential collisions. When you have completed your turn or lane change, make sure the signal has turned off. You don’t want to be the person driving down the road with your blinker still flashing, with no intentions of turning. This can cause confusion with other drivers.
Avoid Drowsy Driving
Avoid driving when you are overly tired. Additionally, some medications may cause drowsiness and make operating a vehicle very dangerous.
“Fatigue is a serious threat to road safety, and a problem that affects everyone on the road. All drivers must take the risks of fatigue seriously, and take steps to stay alert and focused on the road.”Gareth Jones, President and CEO of the Canada Safety Council
The Canada Safety Council finds drowsy driving to be such an important road safety factor that they made it part of their 2023 National Road Safety Week campaign. Find out more here: https://canadasafetycouncil.org/stay-alert-stay-safe/
- Getting adequate rest before driving your vehicle.
- Taking breaks during long road trips.
- Avoiding driving during times when you would normally be sleeping.
Distractions, such as using mobile phones, putting on make-up, eating, or adjusting the radio, can significantly impair your ability to focus on the road. Keep your attention solely on driving and minimize distractions to prevent accidents.
Police around Atlantic Canada have really cracked down on distracted driving. In New Brunswick, you’ll be fined $172.50 and lose three points from your license if you violate the legislation. In Nova Scotia, the fines for distracted driving start at $233.95 and lose 4 points from your license. In PEI, you’ll be handed five demerit points and fines between $575 to $1,275 if you’re convicted of distracted driving. Fines and points don’t mean anything when it comes to safe driving and protecting yours and other’s lives.
Another distraction can be children or passengers. Don’t allow children to fight or climb around in your car. Make sure all passengers are always buckled in their seats and calm. Too much noise can easily distract you from your focus on the road.
To find out more about distracted driving, check out our distracted driving post at: https://cantiniinjurylaw.ca/distracted-driving/
Do Not Drive Impaired
Never drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medications that impair your ability to drive safely. Even an over-the-counter cold medication can alter your response times, so assess yourself honestly before deciding to drive. Driving while impaired can seriously affect your judgement on the road. This affects yours and other’s safety.
The average drinker can only metabolize one drink per hour. One drink equates to 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. If you plan to drink, designate a sober driver or use alternative transportation options.
Figure 1 – Trends in annual, police-reported, impaired-driving incidents in Canada (total, alcohol and drugs)
Although this may be the last tip on our list, it is far from the least. Planning your trip may not seem like an important factor in safe driving, but it definitely is. Know the fastest and safest routes before you start your trip. You can avoid undue traffic and possible delays due to construction.
Another thing to plan for is the weather. Knowing road conditions and weather can help you drive more safely. Check the weather and road conditions before heading out on the road to make sure you drive safely for the conditions. When roads are wet, especially in a heavy downpour or the first thirty minutes of a storm, your braking times increase. Slow down to compensate. Add extra space between your vehicle and other vehicles.
Adjust your seat, mirrors, and climate controls before putting the car in gear. This can keep you focused on the road.
CLG Injury Law has over 35 years’ experience representing Atlantic Canadians who have suffered injuries following a motor vehicle accident. For more articles and safety tips, go to https://cantiniinjurylaw.ca/blog/.
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CLG Injury Law understands that you may have been hurt in an automobile accident. Contact us today to get us fighting for you in your corner. Let’s get you back on the road of recovery.