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With summertime here, a lot of people will be getting ready for vacations and road trips. Getting behind the wheel is more than just gassing up and go; responsible drivers make sure they prepare ahead of time. What are some practical steps to be sure all goes safely?
A report in the Australian Journal of Social Issues notes that one of the most significant steps a driver can take to reduce the risk of fatalities is to improve his behavior at the wheel. Before setting out, a driver may want to ask himself about his mood and his physical condition. Road rage can lead to all sorts of issues, or on the physical side, certain drugs or medications can affect driver reactions. Even an over-the-counter cold medication can alter your response times, so assess yourself honestly before deciding to drive.
Always, always, always buckle up. The National Safely Council says that seat belts saved 75,000 lives between 2004-2008. Those least likely to buckle up are teens, rural drivers, intoxicated drivers and commercial truck drivers.
Drive Defensively! Expect other drivers to make mistakes. Anticipate their moves, even the wrong ones. When you drive defensively, you stay alert, watch for potential road hazards and keep a safe distance.
Avoid distractions while driving. Don’t multitask – talking on the phone or texting can kill.
When in doubt, yield. If you aren’t sure who has the right of way, err on the side of caution. Better to lose a little bit of time than to get caught in a collision.
Use your blinkers. Confusion is the enemy of safe driving. A study for the Society of Automotive Engineers shows “Nationwide, neglected or improper turn signals cause 2 million car accidents a year.” Not using your signal can invalidate your insurance claim after an accident, making you financially responsible for any damage incurred. (a good reason in itself!)
Regular oil changes and fluid checks can save you from surprise breakdowns on the road. Brakes should be in prime condition, tires should have plenty of tread and be inflated properly. Properly inflated tires make for safer handling, whether the roads are dry, wet or icy. Keep headlights in good working order.