DrivingTips.com

Category - Driving Safety

Driving in the Snow (8 Helpful Tips)

Driving in the Snow Tips

Even the most skilled drivers can get into an accident when driving in the snow.

That is, if they are not careful. 

This is why, today, we’re going to give you 8 helpful tips for driving in the snow. If you follow these tips, you can keep yourself and your loved ones, as well as everyone around, safe. 

So are you ready?

Let’s begin!

8 Tips for Driving in the Snow

Source: canva.com

Here’s a summary of the tips we will discuss below:

  1. Prepare Snow Essentials
  2. Change Into Winter Tires
  3. Check Road Conditions
  4. Slow Down
  5. Leave a Safe Distance
  6. Never Turn On Cruise Control
  7. Learn How to Handle a Skid
  8. Use Anti-Lock Brakes Properly

Let’s get into the details. 

1. Prepare Snow Essentials

Even if you’re just going for a quick drive to the grocery store, having the proper essentials for the winter season is important. 

Yes, these essentials will help you be prepared for any accident that you might face. 

The essentials involve a medical kit, food and water, and some snow tools. It’s best to have all of them in an area where you can access them easily (like the compartment in front). 

For the medical kit, we suggest packing bandages, anti-bacterial solutions, gauze, and some pain relievers. 

For the food, just try to bring snacks that will help you last a few days. That includes water, too. 

And for the snow tools, you should bring an ice scraper, a flashlight, a small shovel, and a pair of gloves. 

You can never be too prepared.  

2. Change into Winter Tires

Tires serve as your car’s shoes. And with the change of weather, it makes sense that your tires change into the appropriate set. 

As the name suggests, winter tires are specifically made for ice, snow, and slippery roads. They reduce the chances of skidding and provide more grip and traction on the road. 

So before you set out to drive, make sure that you’ve already changed your tires to winter tires. Best to do it before the winter even arrives. 

3. Check Road Conditions

It’s a good idea to check the road for its texture and appearance. Different textures of snow help indicate whether it’s safe to drive over or whether you should avoid it. 

Let’s look at some of these textures. 

Shiny roads usually mean the snow hasn’t frozen yet. In turn, it is very slippery. 

If the road is dark, it’s even more dangerous since it can be deceptive – it mimics the color of the road, therefore, you don’t know if there is ice or not. So as always, be careful when driving over dark roads. 

Black ice usually forms in areas where there is less heat to warm up the roads. It is also present during the evenings and early mornings because there is not enough heat from the sun to melt the ice. 

It’s a good idea to know all these road conditions so you can be extra careful when driving over them. Or better yet, just try to avoid going on these roads. 

4. Slow Down

This may seem obvious, but it’s still worth stressing. When you drive during the winter season always reduce your speed

When you slow down, you have more control of your car. Also, you lessen the chance of sliding or skidding. 

If there’s someone in front of you who has lost control of their car, going at a slow speed will help you avoid crashing into the car. 

Slowing down will also afford you the time to change direction if you see an accident in front of you. 

5. Leave a Safe Distance

When you’re driving (even if it’s not the winter season), always make sure to keep a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. 

This way, you can have ample space and time to react to whatever it is that is happening in front of you. This might be the difference between a wrecked car and a car that’s been unscathed. 

Likewise, it’s best to turn on your headlights to keep your car visible. This will also help other drivers assess how near they are to you. 

6. Never Turn On Cruise Control

We’ve talked about slowing down and giving ample space to the car in front. However, this does not mean that you can activate Cruise Control. 

Cruise Control is not meant for driving in the snow because it doesn’t react immediately to the changes in traction and road texture. Compare this to when you’re in full control, you’ll be able to assess the braking and speeding more accurately.

So even if you are required to drive slowly and deliberately, turning on Cruise Control is not going to improve your overall drive. It might just lead you to danger. 

7. Learn How to Handle a Skid

Say, you end up skidding on the road. This isn’t a pleasant feeling, but just avoid panicking.  If you do, it could just get worse. 

If your front tires cause a skid, what you can do is lift your foot from the gas. This will eventually slow your car and will bring you back to the right traction. 

Don’t jam on the brakes as it might thrust you forward, especially if you’re driving fast. 

If your rear tires are the ones skidding, again, don’t step on the brakes. What you should do is steer the wheel in the direction your rear tires are going. For example, if the tires go to the right, steer your wheel to the right, too.  

8. Use Anti-Lock Brakes Properly

Newer cars have a new feature called an anti-lock brake system (ABS). The purpose of the ABS is to maximize the braking system under extreme conditions. 

For example, you experience a skid and you’re struggling to control your car. The ABS will come in handy as its technology will help you increase the aggressiveness of the braking. In other words, it helps you stop the car faster. 

To activate the ABS, just push the brake pedal down for a long time. This will already activate the computers that will put more force on braking. 

Conclusion

So there you have it — 8 tips that can help you drive more safely in the snow.

Snow can pose an incredible danger to individuals who aren’t prepared for it. Experts recommend drivers  avoid riding out in heavy snow. 

However, if it’s unavoidable, keep in mind the snow driving tips that we mentioned here. It will help keep you safe while driving on frosty, icy roads. 

Safe driving!

12 Road Safety Tips to Avoid Accidents

12 Road Safety Tips to Avoid Accidents

Sadly, there have been too many avoidable car accidents that have happened over the years. 

Properties were damaged. 

People were injured. 

Lives were lost. 

If only more people were aware of how to be safe while behind the wheel. 

Well, it’s never too late to start. 

This is why, today, we’re going to give you 12 road safety tips that will make you a better and safer driver to avoid accidents. 

So buckle up and let’s go!

Dangerous Driving Situations

https://www.canva.com/
Source: canva.com

Several scenarios make driving dangerous. Some are brought about by our environment, whether these mean unfavorable weather conditions or simply driving at night.

At other times, drivers cause these situations. Our driving behavior could often make or break safety standards on the road.

Let’s explore these more closely.

Environmental Factors

Some conditions are more dangerous than others. It’s not anyone’s fault — that’s how nature works.

It’s crucial to understand that we need to be more careful in some situations.

Driving in the Rain

Intense storms can lessen visibility while you’re driving. Wet roads also decrease road traction, making it difficult to control your car.

When rainwater pools on the road, it may lead to hydroplaning. However, even if the rain doesn’t reach typhoon levels and there aren’t any floods, it doesn’t automatically mean the roads are safe. A fatal crash is still 27% more likely.

Driving in Winter

If rain causes challenges to drivers, so does snow. Ice and slush on the road significantly reduce traction. Frozen patches may cause your car to skid.

You’ll also need more time and distance if you want to stop, which could be disastrous if pedestrians are crossing and you can’t halt on time.

Traveling across steep hills may also become problematic. Since your car’s tires can’t grip the ground well, gravity works against you. There’s a chance that you’ll slide backward while climbing or accelerate when coming down.

Driving at Night

Be prepared to deal with several challenges if you’re on the road after sunset. These include fatigue and compromised night vision.

The situation is compounded during winter when days are shorter. It means people will find themselves driving longer in the dark. 

You may have less accurate depth perception at night, and the glare of an oncoming vehicle’s headlights may temporarily blind a driver.

Driver Behaviors

There’s not much we can do regarding rain, snow, and darkness. Mother Nature controls them. However, sometimes, what makes roads dangerous are the drivers themselves.

Some driver behaviors make roads more dangerous. Speeding, driving under the influence, and driving while distracted are premium examples of these.

Since these are all directly within our span of control, we can make a conscious choice. 

Top 12 Safety Tips While on the Road

There are several safety practices that we can demonstrate. Here are the top 12 road safety tips. 

1. Have All Your Documents At All Times

It’s crucial to have proof of registration and insurance if an officer pulls you over. You must also be carrying a valid license.

Drivers who know they can’t show proper documentation often take pains to avoid being caught — even if it means driving away too fast or swerving through traffic.

2. Keep Your Car Roadworthy

Each time you take your car for a drive, you contribute to its wear and tear. Although you can’t keep everything in pristine condition forever, it’s best to ensure that your car is well-maintained. 

It means ensuring that:

  • Your tires aren’t bald, and the tire pressure is correct.
  • You have ample car fluids, such as engine oil, coolant, washer fluid, and brake fluid.
  • You’re keeping track of when your battery expires.
  • Your car has enough fuel in its tank.
  • All your accessories are working — these include your lights, power windows, side, and rearview mirrors, and dashboard instrumentation.

3. Wear Your Seatbelt

Remember, safety comes first. Having airbags is not a good reason to avoid buckling up when driving.

Even if you do your best to avoid an accident, sometimes it can’t be helped. If you crash into an object or another vehicle, wearing a seatbelt helps prevent serious injuries.

The shoulder strap keeps you from hitting the wheel, while the one in your lap stops you from flying off your seat. In 2017, seatbelts saved 15,000 lives.

4. Be Wary of Heightened Emotions

Being caught in traffic is never fun, especially if you’ve had a long day.

If someone cuts you off, it’s normal to feel your temper rising. But giving in to road rage is never the answer.

Heightened emotions (whether you’re feeling anger, grief, or excitement) affect your driving ability. You’re less likely to think things through. It might lead to arguments or, worse, accidents.

If you need to calm yourself down, pull over and give yourself a little breathing space. Once you’re in a better state of mind, you can go.

5. Plan Your Trip

If you’re going for a longer drive, make sure you build in time for breaks, food, or rest stops. If it means leaving an hour and a half earlier, so be it.

When you need to be somewhere and feel like you don’t have enough time, you’re more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. Speeding and swerving are examples of these.

Not taking time to eat or go to the bathroom also makes you uncomfortable. Your full attention won’t be on the road, resulting in less awareness of your surroundings.

6. Keep Within the Speed Limit

As mentioned in the previous tip, speeding is considered a high-risk driving behavior. In 2019, there were 9,478 recorded deaths involving it.

It’s easier to lose control of your car if you’re going beyond the speed limit. If you experience a collision, your momentum also increases the impact. It results in more severe injuries.

What’s more, it reduces the effectiveness of your car’s safety features (such as airbags, seatbelts, and traction control) and those in your immediate environment (like guard rails).

7. Avoid Distractions While Driving

Distracted driving is often associated with using electronic devices while driving your car. However, its definition is “anything that diverts your attention” from the road.

It means more than texting or scrolling through social media — it also applies to eating and drinking in your car. You’ll be distracted if you have kids creating a commotion in the back.

The same goes if you’re driving with overexcited friends, arguing with your partner, or playing super loud music. Pull over and finish your business if needed. It’s a better alternative than trying to settle things while being behind the wheel.

There’s a reason why most states have laws against distracted driving. Over 3,000 people lost their lives because of it in 2020.

8. Don’t Tailgate

Having enough space between you and the vehicle ahead can help you avoid crashing into it if it suddenly stops.

Applying the 3-second rule is an effective way to gauge if you have the appropriate distance. Start by choosing a stationary object like a traffic sign. 

When the car in front of you passes it, count one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand. You have enough space if you finish counting before reaching the traffic sign.

9. Don’t Drink and Drive

It might sound like common sense, but most people interpret it as “don’t drive if you’re drunk,” which isn’t necessarily the case.

Even if you’re not drunk, having a bit of alcohol in your system already affects your driving ability. And by a bit, we mean two alcoholic drinks.

If you know you’re the designated driver for the night, it’s best to remain sober.

10. Adjust to the Weather

As covered in the previous section, some weather conditions make the road riskier. Change your driving behavior depending on what’s happening outside.

If it’s raining or snowing, slow down. A slower speed gives you better control of your vehicle. 

If you’re driving at night, make sure you’re alert. Ensure your lights are on so you can see the road.

11. Be Present and Mentally Alert

See if there’s another way to travel besides driving if you’re feeling tired or under the weather. It isn’t just alcohol that impairs your driving ability.

Some medications can have a similar effect. Fatigue after a sleepless night or an all-nighter may also put you in an unfavorable condition to get behind the wheel.

If you’re sick, perhaps staying home and resting are the best things to do.

12. Drive Defensively

Like the weather, other drivers’ behavior is also out of our control. Although you might not be speeding, driving distracted, drowsily, or under the influence, they might be.

Defensive driving means looking ahead, keeping alert, and continuously surveying your environment. It makes spotting potential hazards easier.

Identifying risk is one thing — reacting to it is another. That’s the focus of defensive driving. 

Don’t assume that other drivers will follow road rules all the time. If you do, you’re more likely to be caught off-guard if they don’t.

The Wrap Up

Well, that was a lot, wasn’t it? But there’s nothing more important than being safe when you’re on the road.

Remember these road safety tips, and you’ll be in safe hands. It’s not just your safety you’re responsible for — it’s also your passengers and the people around.

So follow these 12 road safety tips and you’ll be a safe and responsible driver. 

Facts About Medicated Driving

Facts About Medicated Driving

The hazards of driving while intoxicated are well-publicized and facts are widely available. Yet many people drive after taking prescription pain medications, sedatives, and psychotropic medications like antidepressants. Others drive after using illegal drugs. Even some over-the-counter medications can impair a driver, especially an older person. Medicated driving is essentially the same as intoxicated driving, and in some cases, can cause a more serious impairment than alcohol. In this article, we will give some facts about medicated driving and why we will likely see the number of arrests due to medicated driving increase.

About the Brain

The human brain is a fascinating and complex organ, capable of nearly instantaneous responses. The frontal lobes of the brain control decision-making and judgment, while other parts of the brain recognize patterns, colors and sounds, process information and interact with other sensory organs like the eyes and ears. As you drive, your brain receives sensory data, prioritizes information, recalls similar past experiences, anticipates possible scenarios, analyzes and considers various options, and synchronizes movements to steer the car, brake, shift or accelerate. Many medications can affect one or more of these activities.

Age Makes A Difference

One of the more surprising facts uncovered about medicated driving is that age can make a big difference. Drivers at both ends of the age spectrum face some particular risks. In one study, 78 percent of drivers between the ages of 56 and 93 were taking one or more medications, yet less than a third knew of the risks medications posed to their driving ability. Only 18 percent had received education or warnings from their doctors about the potential risks of medicated driving. Young drivers have less driving experience and are more likely to act impulsively. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Health statistics. For either young or older drivers, medications that case even a minor degree of impairment can be the same as driving while intoxicated.

Prescription Pain Medications And The Impact On Driving Safety

Prescription pain medications (narcotics) affect the central nervous system and can sedate the brain. A person who has taken pain medications may have slowed reaction times or poor judgment, either of which can cause an accident. Narcotics like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, morphine, tramadol and morphine — also called opioid pain relievers — can have the same effect on the brain as drinking alcohol. They may also cause drowsiness. If combined with alcohol, psychotropic medications, sedatives or some over-the-counter medicines, the effects are magnified.

Psychotropic Medications

Psychotropic medications are used to help people who have mental illnesses or conditions like depression and anxiety. Some psychotropic medications — like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications — have sedative effects. Others — like medications used for ADHD — are stimulants. Either type of medication affects the brain, but different medications affect different parts of the brain. For example, benzodiazapines, also known as tranquilizers, include familiar medications like Valium and Xanax. These medications affect chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Common side effects of benzodiazapines include drowsiness, confusion, irritability, aggression and memory impairment — all of which can affect a person’s ability to drive safely.

Illegal Drugs

Illegal drugs are another source of medicated driving but is also referred to often as drugged driving. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found approximately 9.9 million people reported driving under the influence of one or more illicit drugs in the year prior to the survey. Marijuana, for example, affects the control of body movements, coordination, balance, memory and judgment. Studies have shown that a driver who has used marijuana is less attentive and that the drug affects the driver/s perception of time and speed. Cocaine, on the other hand, stimulates the brain and can cause euphoria, which also affects a driver’s judgment. A driver on cocaine is more likely to take unnecessary risks without considering possible consequences.

Non-Prescription Medications

Prescription medications are not the only potential problem when it comes to medicated driving. Many over-the-counter medications can also cause problems. One of the most common side effects of antihistamines is drowsiness. In one study, people who had taken diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl) had more problems on a simulated driving test then when drinking alcohol. Drivers on diphenhydramine strayed out of their lanes more frequently and had worse steering control. Researchers also found that drivers who had taken diphenhydramine didn’t realize the degree to which the medication impaired their driving abilities. Cold and cough medications like NyQuil can also cause drowsiness. Medications used to control diarrhea or stop nausea can also make some people sleepy.

Other Medication Issues

Opioid and psychotropic medications directly affect the brain, so their ability to impair driving is not surprising. However, other medications that don’t directly affect the brain can also cause problems. Medications like ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers, which are used for high blood pressure, can cause drowsiness or make people dizzy. Medications used for Parkinson’s disease can affect muscle movement and coordination. Others may affect vision or reaction time. The bottom line is that nearly any medication, whether prescribed, over-the-counter, or an illegal substance, has the potential to affect people’s ability to drive. When a medication is combined with alcohol, mental illness, early dementia, or other medical conditions, the risks go up. When a person is taking more than one medication, the possibility of medication interactions also increases and may increase the risk of impaired driving. Medicated driving is often unsafe driving, and the driver may be unaware of the impairment.

Protect Yourself

You can help protect yourself from the risks of medicated driving. Never take a medication unless you really need it. Don’t take another person’s medications — doctors base the dose on a person’ size, age, medical condition and response to medicine; you could easily take too much. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the potential side effects of a medication. Pharmacists are also a good resource for information about over-the-counter medications and their potential side effects. Never combine medications with alcohol, and don’t use illegal drugs.

Protect Your Loved Ones

Parents and adult children can also help protect their loved ones. In the case of teens, monitor behavior. If your teen shows signs of using illegal drugs, take action immediately. Many teens believe the risks of using marijuana are minor, and are not knowledgeable about the effects of other illegal drugs. Accurate information may help to dispel these unfounded opinions. As people age, their reaction times may slow. Medications can make this problem worse. Be alert for parents who seem to have coordination problems or who are forgetful. Early dementia can affect driving ability; when combined with medication side effects, the potential for impaired driving increases.

Sources used during research of this article:

How to Tell If Your Car Needs a Tire Change

How to Tell If Your Car Needs a Tire Change

Tires are one of the most important components of your car. Many critical aspects of your car, such as road grip, braking efficiency, ride quality, stability, handling, and fuel economy, depend on the quality of its tires. It is estimated that every year, tire failures account for over 200 fatal road accidents in the U.S. It is important to check your car tires periodically and maintain or replace them when necessary. Tires have a maximum life of about 10 years, but a number of factors can shorten it.

Tires deteriorate with age

Tires have a shelf life even if they are unused. Even if you use your car sparingly, its tires will slowly deteriorate. The rate at which this happens depends on conditions such as the temperature, tire pressure, wheel alignment, weight of the car, frequency of usage, driving style, and road quality. You must look out for signs of aging, especially when your tires are over five years old.

Cracks on the rubber surface and deformation are signs of dry rot. Such tires can fall apart while you are on the road. When you check the tires, don’t ignore the spare. If you notice any problem with the tires, get them checked by an expert. You must also insist on a tire inspection when your car is serviced. An expert will be able to tell you if it is time to replace the tires. In any case, don’t drive with tires that are over 10 years from the manufacturing date, which is mentioned on the tire wall.

VIDEO: How To Learn How Old Your Tires Are

Damage due to accidents

Accidents, punctures, or driving over poor-quality roads can damage tires. Driving with flat tires can also damage its internal structure. Get your tires checked by an expert if you:

a) Have an accident.

b) Hit the curb.

c) Accidentally drive with flat or nearly flat tires.

d) Drive over a speed breaker at high speed or go over a car-jarring pothole.

If internal damage is a possibility, remove the tire from the wheel to ascertain that it is safe to use. A bulge on the sidewall of a tire is a sure indication of structural damage. You must never drive with such tires because they can burst while you are on the road. A tire blowout at high speed could make you lose control of the vehicle and result in a serious accident. Never drive with tires that are structurally damaged. Replace them immediately.

Uneven wear

The engine is the heaviest part of the vehicle, therefore your car’s front tires endure more stress and wear. Uneven wear also can be caused by incorrect tire pressures, wheel alignment issues, and wheel balancing problems. Problems with the suspension or transmission can also cause tires to wear unevenly. Uneven wear will shorten the life of your tires.

To minimize problems related to uneven wear, ensure that the tires are always inflated to the recommended pressures. Both over- and under-inflation are harmful. Under-inflated tires tend to wear out faster on the shoulders. Over-inflated tires will wear out faster in the middle. Besides preventing unnecessary tire wear, correct tire pressure will also make your ride more comfortable and give you better fuel economy.

Wheel rotation (swapping the front and rear wheels periodically) will reduce uneven wear due to weight distribution issues. Tire wear on just one shoulder indicates a possible suspension misalignment. Ensure that the wheels are aligned and balanced every time your car is serviced. If there is too much uneven wear, get your car checked by an expert and replace tires if required.

VIDEO: Tire Wear Patterns Explained

Normal wear

Tires wear out with usage, and if you drive a lot, your car tires will need replacement much earlier than their maximum life of 10 years. As a tire wears, the tread depth decreases. When the tread depth reaches 1.6 mm, the tire must be replaced. Beyond this point, safety is seriously compromised. In some countries, the law requires a minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm. Even with the minimum legal tread depth, your car may be unsafe on wet roads. Drive slowly and cautiously until you get the tires replaced.

Modern tires have tread wear indicators that will tell you when the tread is down to its minimum depth. Tread wear indicators are small rubber bridges within the treads. When the tire is worn down to the bridge, that is, the bridge is level with the rest of the tire surface, it means you have just 1.6 mm of tread left and the tire is no longer roadworthy. It’s best to replace your tires when you have about 2 mm of tread left. If you drive a lot, you should check the tread depth at least once a month. Do it more frequently as the tires age.

If you experience an unusual vibration in the steering wheel or if the ride is rough, there could be a problem with your car tires. In most cases, it’s just a matter of under-or over-inflated tires or wheels that need balancing, all of which can be corrected easily. On the other hand, if your tires are worn out or damaged, you should get them replaced right away. Before you decide to replace your tires, have them checked by an expert to rule out any other problems.

How to Deal With Road Rage in Yourself and Others

Depending on the day, driving can be a pleasure or a pain. A convenient way to get from Point A to Point B, driving allows you to travel in comfort and privacy. Unfortunately, the irresponsible actions of others can sometimes lead to tension on the road. If you’ve ever found yourself screaming or making obscene gestures at another driver, or been on the receiving end of another’s road rage, you know how quickly the situation can escalate. In the future, you can take steps to quickly defuse a road rage situation and ensure that you and others arrive home safely.

Your Own Road Rage

Dealing with road rage starts with yourself and how you react to certain situations. Here are some tips on managing road rage in yourself.

Stop Road Rage Before It Starts

While anyone who drives understands how frustrating it is to be cut off or tailgated, it’s critical that you maintain your cool and refuse to respond to an aggressive driver. Make a decision before you leave the house that you are not going to let other drivers provoke you. Being aware of potential road rage situations and deciding beforehand not to engage in them is half the battle when it comes to avoiding altercations.

Defuse the Situation

If you do become angry while driving, immediately try to distance yourself from the situation by falling back from the other car or pulling off the road in a safe spot to allow the driver to pass you by. The best thing you can do to help yourself calm down and defuse the situation is to remove yourself from the vicinity of the other driver as soon as possible.

Damage Control

If you do become involved in an altercation with another driver after becoming angry, step back and realize that your reaction is probably out of proportion to the situation. If you are in close proximity to the driver, say in a parking lot or at a stop light, apologize to the driver or make a gesture to let them know that you regret your reaction. Even if you started out angry, you don’t have to maintain it. Stop yourself in your tracks and refuse to engage in negative behavior.

VIDEO: How To Deal With Road Rage

Another’s Road Rage

Sometimes, even if you aren’t angry or feel you did nothing wrong, road rage comes to you. Here’s how to handle a situation when someone else is having road rage towards you.

Avoiding Abuse

Oftentimes, being the recipient of a road rage attack can simply be avoided by respecting the rules of the road. Drive the speed limit, stop fully at stop signs and lights and never tailgate the driver in front of you. In parking lots, look before you back out and never swoop in and steal a spot that you know someone is waiting for. By being courteous and considerate to other drivers, you greatly decrease the chances that other drivers will be gunning for you.

Be Understanding

While there’s really no good excuse for another to behave abusively toward you while driving, realize that the other driver may simply be having a bad day and that his rage at you is not personal. The other driver may have just received some devastating news, be going through a personal challenge that has him ready to snap or simply have anger issues that need to be addressed. At any rate, road rage says more about him than it does about you.

Ensure Your Own Safety

If you do become a target of a driver who is jeopardizing your safety, take immediate measures to protect yourself. Slow down or pull off of the side of the road to allow the driver to pass or give an apologetic wave if you’ve done something wrong that provoked the other driver. Simply acknowledging your mistake is often enough to take the wind out of the aggressive driver’s sails. If necessary, proceed to a safe location and phone the police about a driver who seems intent on harming you.

While road rage is never an acceptable reaction, we’re all human and we all become angry from time to time. By refusing to contribute to antagonistic situations on the road, and by avoiding causing them when you can, you’ll find driving is a more pleasurable experience overall and you’ll arrive home in one piece.

Class A Motorhome Driving Tips

Class A Motorhome Driving Tips

Ahhh, the open road! If you’re a fan of traveling and particularly taking extended camping or road trips, a class A motorhome is about as luxurious as it gets.

So, you’ve saved your pennies over the years and can FINALLY afford your dream RV. You’ve done all the research, all the budgeting, talked it over with your significant other, and found your perfect motorhome. How exciting! But then it hits you…

“I have to DRIVE this thing?!? The biggest vehicle I’ve ever driven before is an SUV!”

Now, instead of imagining the wonderful times you can have in your motorhome, you are stressed about navigating city streets, merging onto busy expressways, maneuvering through tight corners in outdated RV parks, and wondering how you’ll ever be able to put the thing in reverse with your vehicle being towed behind.

As a former truck driver and CDL-A driving instructor, I can offer some pointers to help put your mind at ease.

It’s OK To Be Nervous – But Not TOO Nervous!

Whenever I was given a new truck driving student, the first thing I would try to find out was their mentality and confidence level behind the wheel. One one hand, I wanted a student who was confident, willing to learn, and safety conscious. On the other hand, I did NOT want a student who was so afraid and nervous that his or her judgement was impaired. The best students were those who were somewhere in the middle – not exactly fearless, but not crippled by their nerves, either.

The thing is – driving is dangerous. It’s the most dangerous activity we perform on a day-to-day basis and is the #1 cause of accidental death or serious injury. And that’s with your CAR! Once you jump into a huge class A motorhome, the entire playing field has changed. If you aren’t nervous driving such an enormous vehicle on public roadways, I would rather you not be on the road at all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your journey. So, let’s dive into this a bit further.

Learn How To Use The Airbrakes Properly

While there are many variations of class A motorhomes, the vast majority of motorhomes use air brakes. Unless you have driven a commercial vehicle in the past, you likely have zero experience using air brakes. In fact, everyone who uses a vehicle with air brakes is required to pass a written and driving exam so they can get a special endorsement on their driver license… except you! That’s right – Recreational vehicles are exempt from this requirement.

Now, when using air brakes, there are a few things to keep in mind….

  • It takes longer for the brakes to be applied: One of the things you’ll need to get used to is the delay from the time you hit the brake pedal to the time your brakes actually are applied. It can take up to a half second to a full second for your brakes to actually be applied after depressing the brake pedal. In an emergency situation, this is an eternity. Learn to look as far down the road as possible, actively anticipate possible emergencies, and double or tripe your normal following distance.
  • It will take you longer to stop: This is pretty obvious but needs to be mentioned. Not only does it take your brakes longer to fully apply, but with such a heavy vehicle, it will take much, much longer for your class A motorhome to stop.
  • Air brakes are prone to leaks: If your air brake system develops a leak (either in the lines, the air compressor / chambers, or elsewhere) it could cause major problems. The air in the air brake system actually keeps the brakes from applying. If too much air is lost, the brakes will be applied automatically… Even if you’re traveling down the expressway at 65mph. Most class A motorhomes include an air pressure gauge on the dashboard. If that gauge shows an abnormally low amount of air pressure, pull over immediately! It is an emergency situation. Also note that rapid pumping of the brakes will eventually reduce air pressure to dangerously low levels.
  • ABS is much less effective: If you need to brake heavily during slippery driving conditions, be aware that your anti-lock braking system will be far less effective than in your vehicle. This increases the likelihood of losing control of your motorhome and also vastly increases the following distance.

This is NOT an all-inclusive list by any means. If you would like to do more research on how air brakes work, the absolute best place to learn is by viewing a CDL study guide and reading over the air brakes section. I particularly like the way the Illinois CDL study guide covers it.

Driving In Mountains With A Motorhome

Owning a class A motorhome gives you the ability to see all of the most beautiful areas the country has to offer. Undoubtedly, some of the most frequented areas by RVers are mountainous regions. There are a few things to keep in mind when driving in the mountains in a large vehicle like a Class A motorhome:

Brake BEFORE Turns & Hills – Since you’re driving a high-profile vehicle that is much more vulnerable to rolling over, you want to brake BEFORE turns. You may not notice them in your car, but most turns have small orange “suggested speed limit” signs. Well, you’ll want to pay attention to those now. Enter corners 10mph below that speed. As you enter the turn, you will want to be off the brakes and even accelerating slightly through the turn if possible. This will shift the weight and center of gravity on your RV in a way that will make things much more stable. You also want to brake before a downhill grade to help save on your brakes.

Brake Properly Going Downhill – If you are going down a steep hill, you’ll want to use special braking methods to avoid overheating your brakes. When brakes get too hot, they become less effective to the point they will not work at all. This is obviously a disaster scenario. To avoid having that happen, you can use a simple braking technique. Here’s how it works: Choose a “safe speed”. For this example, we’ll say your “safe speed” is 40mph. What you want to do is apply the brakes until your motorhome reaches 30mph. Then, release the brake pedal and allow your motorhome to speed up to 50mph. At that point, apply the brakes until you slow to 30mph and repeat the process as much as necessary. Using this technique will allow you to apply the brakes, but then allow the brakes to cool off before you apply them again. This is the same technique used by commercial truck drivers.

Beware Of RAPIDLY Changing Weather Conditions – I’ve seen it dozens of times driving my truck through the mountains. As you begin your climb up the mountain, you see nothing but blue skies. In an instant, you’re greeted with white-out conditions, fog, high winds, and/or blowing snow. Welcome to the mountains! Always check weather conditions along your entire route when driving through the mountains. The weather literally changes in an instant.

Keep A Longer Following Distance When Driving Your Motorhome

In driver’s ed, we learn that a 2 to 3-second following distance is adequate. As you probably know already, this is definitely not the case for a class A motorhome. So, how do you calculate a proper following distance?

To know how much space you have, wait until the vehicle ahead passes a shadow on the road, a pavement marking, or some other clear landmark. Then count off the seconds like this: “one thousand-and-one, one thousand-and-two” and so on, until you reach the same spot. Compare your count with the rule of 1 second for every 10 feet of length.If you are driving a 40-foot motorhome and only counted up to 2 seconds, you are too close. Drop back a little and count again until you have 4 seconds of following distance and remember to add 1 additional second for speeds above 40 mph. After a little practice, you will know how far back you should be. Also remember that when the road is slippery, you need much more space to stop.

Drive A Little Bit Slower Than Everyone Else

When driving a large vehicle such as a class A motorhome, you need to slow it down. It takes you longer to stop, you are more prone to losing control, and you always want your following distance to be increasing. Remember, you’re in a motorhome. It’s not all about the destination, it’s about the journey!

Also be sure to keep an eye out for special speed limits, especially if you’re towing a trailer or vehicle behind you. In some states there are split speed limits – one for regular vehicles and one for larger vehicles and vehicles with trailers. California is probably the most well known example where they have 70mph speed limits except for trucks and vehicles with trailers who need to obey the 55mph speed limit (which, by the way, is STRICTLY enforced in California).

Be Patient In Traffic With Your RV

When driving in heavy congestion, you will be cut off constantly. People will seriously put their lives at risk just so they can get in front of a large vehicle. Just stay back, leave a large gap between you and the vehicle in front of you, and accept the fact that other drivers will close that gap constantly. It’s ok – they are probably on their way to work while you’re going on vacation. Just keep safety in mind, don’t let road rage get the best of you, and relax. Staying right on the bumper of the vehicle in front of you to avoid being cut off is not only dangerous, but it doesn’t save you as much time as you think.

Watch Your Head

Class A motorhomes are allowed to reach heights of 13ft 6in. Not all class A motorhomes are this height, but most of them are close to 13ft including the air conditioning units on top. Unfortunately, not all bridges in the United States are 13ft 6in tall. While you are safe on expressways, country roads and city streets are a whole different ballgame and striking a bridge is extremely costly at best, especially if you damage the bridge.

Don’t Mess With Wind When Driving An RV

You probably have never paid much attention to high wind warnings or advisories, but TRUST me, you do not want to drive your class A motorhome in very windy conditions, particularly if it is a crosswind (coming at you from the right or left vs front or back). We’ve all heard the warnings saying “travel for high profile vehicles is not recommended.” Well, guess what… That’s you! Please head these warnings. They are there for good reason. It’s just not worth the risk.

Snowstorm? Forget About Driving Your Motorhome

There is absolutely no reason to be on the roadways in a class A motorhome during a snowstorm. While a little snow can be managed, motorhomes are notoriously unstable and very dangerous during snowy or icy conditions. I’m not even going to give you any tips on driving a class A motorhome in the snow. Just don’t do it.

Making Right Turns Is Especially Hazardous When Driving A Large Vehicle

When you are making a right turn, you need to keep a very close watch on your rear tires as they will take a more inward track than your front tires. Also be very, very careful about other vehicles attempting to pass you on your right side as you’re making the turn. This is perhaps the #1 cause of accidents between cars and large vehicles.

Navigating Campgrounds & RV Parks Can Be Stressful

You would think campgrounds and RV parks would have more than enough room for you to navigate. Not so! You will quickly find that many of these places are extremely tight leaving you just barely enough room to maneuver. This is especially apparent in older state and national parks. Always remember this acronym: GOAL

  • Get
  • Out
  • And
  • Look!

Whether you’re taking a tight corner or backing into your space at the campground, always remember to GOAL if you are uncertain. This is rule #1 for commercial truck drivers. Never take a chance – EVER.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your significant other or passengers for help. Having a spotter available is infinitely helpful. You can use two way radios or even cell phones to help communicate as your spotter assist you in maneuvering.

Buy Some Cones And Practice, Practice, Practice!

Perhaps the best advice I can give is to buy about 10 traffic cones, find a large open parking lot, and practice. Learn how to maneuver your motorhome, how to back it up properly, how to parallel park with it, etc. You can read as many articles as you want and you can watch as many videos as you can, but nothing will prepare you like real world experience.

Also remember that many local RV dealerships offer motorhome training classes. You can also go to just about any truck driving school and ask if they would help you learn how to operate your rig. Most truck driving instructors would jump at the chance to help (for a price, of course!).

Have FUN!

Last but not least, have fun! Traveling around in an RV is a dream for so many people. The fact you get to have the RV experience in a large motorhome is something to be cherished. So yes, please be safe (and even be a little bit nervous to drive such a big vehicle), but also have a great time. Crusin’ around in a class A motorhome is THE LIFE!

Railroad & Emergency Vehicles – Sharing The Road

Sharing The Road With Rail And Emergency Vehicles

This short guide will cover the basics of sharing the road with railroad and emergency vehicles.

Buses, Streetcars, and Trolleys

Do not drive through a safety zone. This is a space set aside for pedestrians and marked by raised buttons or markers on a roadway.

When people are boarding or leaving a streetcar or trolley where there is no safety zone, stop behind the vehicle’s nearest door or vehicle platform and wait until the people have reached a safe place.

When a bus, streetcar, or trolley is stopped at a safety zone or at an intersection where traffic is controlled by a police officer or traffic signal, you may pass at no more than 10 mph.

Do not overtake and pass any light rail vehicle or streetcar on the left side, whether it is moving or standing.

EXCEPTIONS:

  • When you are on a one-way street.
  • When the tracks are so close to the right side that you cannot pass on the right.
  • When a traffic officer directs you to pass on the left.

Light Rail Vehicles

Light-rail vehicles have the same rights and responsibilities on public roadways as other vehicles. Although everyone must follow the same traffic laws, light-rail vehicles require exceptional handling ability because of their size.

Safely share the road with light-rail vehicles by:

  • Being aware of where light-rail vehicles operate. Buildings, trees, etc., cause blind spots for the trolley operator.
  • Never turning in front of an approaching light-rail vehicle.

Do not turn in front of light rail vehicles
Right Of Way

  • Maintaining a safe distance from the light-rail vehicle if it shares a street with vehicular traffic.

Safety Zones are marked by dotted white lines
Right Of Way

  • Looking for approaching light-rail vehicles before you turn across the tracks. Complete your turn only if a signal indicates you may proceed.

NOTE: Light-rail vehicles can interrupt traffic signals. Do not proceed until the signal light indicates you may proceed.

Emergency Vehicles

You must yield the right-of-way to any police vehicle, fire engine, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. Drive to the right edge of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) have passed. However, never stop in an intersection. If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then, drive to the right as soon as it is safe and stop. Emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way. They sometimes use a loud speaker to talk to drivers blocking their path.

Yield to Emergency Vehicles
Right Of Way

You must obey any traffic direction, order, or signal given by a traffic or police officer, or a firefighter even if it conflicts with existing signs, signals, or laws.

It is against the law to follow within 300 feet behind any fire engine, police vehicle, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle with a siren or flashing lights (CVC §21706).

If you drive for sight-seeing purposes to the scene of a fire, collision, or other disaster, you may be arrested. Casual observers interfere with the essential services of police, firefighter, ambulance crews, or other rescue or emergency personnel.

Sharing The Road With Large Trucks & RV’s

Sharing The Road With Large Vehicles

To reduce the chance of having a collision with a large truck or RV, you must be familiar with a big rig’s physical capabilities and how it maneuvers.

Large Trucks Take Much Longer To Stop

Large trucks take longer to stop than vehicles traveling at the same speed. The average passenger vehicle traveling at 55 mph can stop within 400 feet. However, a large truck traveling at the same speed can take almost 800 feet to stop. Do not move in front of a large truck and suddenly slow down or stop. The trucker will not be able to stop quickly enough to avoid crashing into you.

Trucker’s Blind Spots – The “No Zone”

Shaded areas are the driver’s blind spots.

Large Trucks

Passenger vehicle drivers incorrectly assume that a trucker can see the road better because he or she is higher off the road. While truckers do have a better forward view and bigger mirrors, they still have large blind spots and your vehicle can get lost in those blind spots. If you stay in those blind spots, you block the trucker’s ability to take evasive action to avoid a dangerous situation. Generally speaking, if you cannot see the truck driver in his or her side mirror, he or she cannot see you. These blind spots are often called the “NO ZONE.”

Large Vehicles Make Wide Turns

When a vehicle makes a turn, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels. The longer the vehicle, the greater the difference in the turning path. This is why big rig drivers must often swing wide to complete a right turn. When you follow a big rig, look at its turn signals before you start to pass. If the truck appears to be turning left, check the turn signals again; the driver may actually be turning right but first swinging wide.

Maneuverability Of Large Vehicles

Trucks are not as maneuverable as passenger vehicles. Large trucks have longer stopping and starting distances. They take more space for turns and they weigh more. When no signs are posted, these vehicles must be driven in the right hand traffic lane or as close as possible to the right edge of the roadway. On a divided highway with four (4) or more traffic lanes in one direction, these vehicles may also be driven in the lane just to the left of the right hand lane.

Avoid these mistakes when driving around large trucks:

  • Cutting off a truck in traffic or on the highway to reach an exit or turn. Cutting into the open space in front of a truck is dangerous. Trying to beat a truck through a single-lane construction zone, for example, removes the truck driver’s cushion of safety and places you and others in danger. Slow down and take your turn entering the construction zone. Do not speed up to pass a truck, so you can exit the roadway. Take a moment to slow down and exit behind a truck—it will only take you a few extra seconds.
  • Lingering alongside a truck when passing. Always pass a large truck on the left side, and after you pass the truck, move ahead of it. Do not linger. Otherwise, you make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the trucker to take evasive action if an obstacle appears in the road ahead.
  • Following too closely or tailgating. When you follow so closely behind a truck that you cannot see the truck driver’s side-view mirrors, the trucker cannot see you and has no way of knowing you are there. Tailgating a truck, or any vehicle is dangerous because you take away your own cushion of safety if the vehicle in front of you stops quickly.
  • Underestimating the size and speed of an approaching tractor-trailer. A large tractor-trailer often appears to be traveling at a slower speed because of its large size. Many collisions involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck occur at intersections when the passenger vehicle driver did not realize how close the truck was or how fast it was traveling.

How To Properly Position Your Vehicle While Driving

How To Properly Position Your Vehicle While Driving

In this guide, we’ll go over how to properly position your vehicle while driving.

Following Distances

Following distance makes a huge difference when driving. Here are some things to consider when determining your driving distance.

Taking Dangers One at a Time

Suppose there is an oncoming vehicle to your left and a child on a bicycle to your right. Instead of driving between the vehicle and the child, take one danger at a time. First, slow down and let the vehicle pass. Then, move to the left to allow plenty of room to pass the child.

Splitting the Difference

Sometimes there will be dangers on both sides of the road at the same time. For example, there will be parked cars to the right and oncoming cars to the left. In this case, the best thing to do is “split the difference.” Steer a middle course between the oncoming cars and the parked cars.

If one danger is greater than the other, give the most room to the most dangerous situation. Suppose there are oncoming cars on your left side and a child on a bike on your right side. The child is more likely to make a sudden move. Therefore, slow down, and if safe, use as much of your lane to the left as possible until you pass the child.

Persons Who Present Dangers to Drivers

Increase your following distance and allow a bigger space cushion for drivers who may be potentially dangerous. Persons who present dangers are:

  • Drivers who cannot see you because their view is blocked by buildings, trees, or other cars.
  • Drivers backing out of driveways or parking spaces.
  • Drivers who pass you when there is a curve or oncoming vehicle(s) ahead.
  • Drivers about to be forced into your lane to avoid a vehicle, a pedestrian, a bicyclist, an obstruction, or because of fewer lanes ahead.
  • Pedestrians with umbrellas in front of their faces or hats pulled down over their eyes.
  • Distracted people, such as:
    • Delivery persons.
    • Construction workers.
    • Distracted pedestrians, such as those on the phone or texting.
    • Children, who often run into the street without looking.
    • Drivers talking on cell phones or speaking to their passengers.
    • Drivers taking care of children, eating, or looking at maps while driving.
  • Confused people, such as:
    • Tourists, often at complicated intersections.
    • Drivers who are looking for a house number or who slow down for no apparent reason.

Merging In/Out Of Traffic

Whenever you enter traffic, signal and be sure you have enough room to safely enter the lane. You have to share space with traffic already on the road, and you must know how much space you need to merge with traffic, cross or enter traffic, and exit out of traffic.

Space to Merge

Enter the freeway at or near the speed of traffic. (Remember that the maximum speed allowed is 65 mph on most freeways.) Do not stop before merging into freeway traffic, unless it is absolutely necessary. Freeway traffic has the right-of-way.

Any time you merge with other traffic, you need a gap of at least four seconds, which gives both, you and the other vehicle, only a two-second following distance. When it is safe, go back to following the “three-second rule” (refer to the “Do not be a tailgater” section).

  • Do not try to squeeze into a gap that is too small. Leave yourself a big enough space cushion.
  • Watch for vehicles around you. Use your mirrors and turn signals. Turn your head to look quickly over your shoulder before changing lanes or merging in traffic. Leave three seconds of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you. Make sure you can stop safely, if necessary.
  • If you need to cross several freeway lanes, cross them one at a time. If you wait until all of the lanes are clear, you may cause traffic delays or a collision.

Space to Cross or Enter

Whenever you cross or enter city or highway traffic from a full stop, you will need a large enough gap (from vehicles approaching in either direction) to get up to the speed of other vehicles. You need a gap that is about:

  • Half a block on city streets.
  • A full block on the highway.

If you are crossing lanes or turning, make sure there are no vehicles or people blocking the path ahead or to the sides of your vehicle. You do not want to be caught in an intersection with traffic coming at you.

Even if you have the green light, do not start across the intersection, if there are vehicles blocking your way.

When turning left, do not start the turn just because an approaching vehicle has its right turn signal on. The driver may plan to turn just beyond you, or the signal may have been left on from an earlier turn. This is particularly true of motorcycles. Their signal lights often do not turn off automatically. Wait until the other driver actually starts to turn before you continue.

Space to Exit

When you plan to exit the freeway, give yourself plenty of time. You should know the name or number of the freeway exit you want as well as the one that comes before it. To exit safely:

  • Signal, look over your shoulder, and change lanes one at a time, until you are in the proper lane to exit the freeway.
  • Signal your intention to exit for approximately five seconds before reaching the exit.
  • Be sure you are at the proper speed for leaving the traffic lane—not too fast (so you remain in control) and not too slow (so the flow of traffic can still move freely).

Passing Other Traffic

Space and Speed to Pass

Always signal before passing. Do not pull out to pass unless you know you have enough space to pull back into your lane.

Avoid passing other vehicles, including motorcycles and bicycles, on two-lane roads; it is dangerous. Every time you pass, you increase your chances of having a collision. However, when you pass a bicyclist, be patient. Slow down and pass him/her only when it is safe, allowing for a minimum of three (3) feet between your vehicle and the bicyclist where possible.Do notpass a bicyclist unless it is safe to do so and do not squeeze the bicyclist off the road.

At highway speeds of 50–55 mph, you need a 10–12 second gap in oncoming traffic to pass safely. At 55 mph, you will travel over 800 feet in 10–12 seconds; so will an oncoming vehicle. That means you need over 1,600 feet (or about one-third of a mile) to pass safely. It is harder to see and judge the speed of oncoming vehicles that are traveling one-third of a mile or more away from you.

You must judge whether or not you have enough room to pass whenever you approach:

  • An oncoming vehicle.
  • A hill or a curve.
  • An intersection.
  • A road obstruction.

Do not pass:

  • If you are approaching a hill or curve and you cannot see if there is another vehicle approaching.
  • Within 100 feet of an intersection.

Vehicles appear to move slower than they really are moving. A vehicle that is far enough away generally appears to be standing still. In fact, if you can see it moving closer to you, it is probably too close for you to start to pass.

Space to Return

Before you return to your driving lane, be sure you are not dangerously close to the vehicle you have just passed. One way to do this is to look for the vehicle in your inside rearview mirror. When you can see both headlights in your rearview mirror, you have enough room to return to your driving lane. Do not count on having enough time to pass several vehicles at once or that other drivers will make room for you.

Understanding Your Surroundings While Driving

Understanding Your Surroundings While Driving

Safe driving demands more than just staring out the front window. You should always be looking around and aware of your surroundings. In this guide, we’ll cover some tips and tricks for being aware of your surroundings while driving.

Scanning By Keeping Your Eyes Moving While Driving

Scanning your surroundings (keeping your eyes moving) includes keeping a safe distance around your vehicle. When another driver makes a mistake, you need time to react. Give yourself this time by keeping a “space cushion” on all sides of your vehicle. This space cushion will give you room to brake or maneuver if you need the space.

Looking Far Ahead While Driving

To avoid last minute moves, scan the road 10–15 seconds ahead of your vehicle so you can see hazards early. Constantly staring at the road just in front of your vehicle is dangerous. As you scan ahead, be alert for vehicles around you.

Where is the green vehicle headed?

Knowing Your Surroundings

Use your mirrors. Allow enough space between you and the vehicle ahead to give yourself an “out.” Mistakes cause collisions. In the city, 10–15 seconds is about one block. On the highway, 10–15 seconds is about a quarter of a mile.

Take in the whole scene – If you only look at the middle of the road, you will miss what is happening on the side of the road and behind you

Scanning helps you to see:

  • Cars, motorcycles, bicyclists, and people that may be in the road by the time you reach them.
  • Signs warning of problems ahead.
  • Signs giving you directions.

The shaded areas are your blind spots.

Knowing Your Surroundings

Before changing lanes, look into your rear view mirror for nearby vehicles and also over your shoulder to check for blind spots. Blind spots can hide a motorcyclist, a vehicle or a bicyclist. Watch for things about to happen, like a ball rolling into the street or a vehicle door opening.

Watch for hazards–Look beyond the vehicle ahead of you. Do not develop a “fixed stare.” Keep scanning. Check your rear view mirrors every two – five seconds so you know the position of vehicles near you.

On the freeway, be ready for changes in traffic conditions. Watch for signals from other drivers. Expect merging vehicles at on-ramps and interchanges. Be prepared for rapid changes in road conditions and traffic flow. Know which lanes are clear so you can use them if necessary.

Do not be a tailgater! Many drivers follow too closely (tailgate) and are not able to see as far ahead as they should because the vehicle ahead blocks their view.

The more space you allow between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead, the more time you will have to see a hazard, and stop or avoid that hazard.

Most rear end collisions are caused by tailgating. To avoid tailgating, use the “three-second rule”: when the vehicle ahead of you passes a certain point such as a sign, count “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three.” Counting these numbers takes approximately three seconds. If you pass the same point before you finish counting, you are following too closely.

You should allow a four-second or more cushion when:

  • Being crowded by a tailgater. Allow extra room ahead, do not brake suddenly. Slow down gradually or merge into another lane to prevent being hit from behind by the tailgater!
  • Driving on slippery roads.
  • Following motorcyclists on wet or icy roads, on metal surfaces (e.g., bridge gratings, railroad tracks, etc.), and on gravel. Motorcyclists can fall more easily on these surfaces.
  • The driver behind you wants to pass. Allow room in front of your vehicle so the driver will have space to move in front of you.
  • Towing a trailer or carrying a heavy load. The extra weight makes it harder to stop.
  • Following large vehicles that block your view ahead. The extra space allows you to see around the vehicle.
  • You see a bus, school bus, or a placarded vehicle at railroad crossings. These vehicles must stop at railroad crossings; so, slow down early and allow plenty of room.
  • Merging onto a freeway.

If you follow too closely and another driver “cuts” in front of you, just take your foot off the gas. This gives you space between your vehicle and the other driver, without having to slam on your brakes or swerve into another lane.

Know What Is At Your Side

Any time you come to a place where people may cross or enter your path or one line of traffic meets another, you should look to the left and right sides of your vehicle to make sure no one is coming. Always look to each side of your vehicle at intersections, crosswalks, and railroad crossings.

At intersections:

  • Look both ways even if other traffic has a red light or a stop sign:
    • Look to the left first, since vehicles coming from the left are closer to you than vehicles coming from the right.
    • Look to the right.
    • Take one more look to the left in case there is a vehicle or a pedestrian you did not see the first time.
  • Do not rely on traffic signals. Some drivers do not obey traffic signals so before you enter an intersection, look left, right, and ahead for approaching traffic.

To maintain a space cushion on each side of your vehicle:

  • Do not stay in another driver’s blind spot. The other driver may not see your vehicle and could change lanes and hit you.
  • Avoid driving directly alongside other vehicles on multilane streets with or without traffic in the opposite direction. Another driver might crowd your lane or change lanes without looking and crash into you. Drive either ahead of or behind the other vehicle.
  • If possible and when safe, make room for vehicles entering freeways even though you have the right-of-way.
  • At freeway exits, do not drive alongside other cars. A driver may decide to exit suddenly or swerve back onto the freeway.
  • Keep a space between your vehicle and parked cars. Someone may step out from between them, a vehicle door may open, or a vehicle may pull out suddenly.
  • Be careful when driving near motorcyclists or bicyclists. Always leave plenty of room between your vehicle and any motorcyclists or bicyclists.

Know What Is Behind You

It is very important to check behind you before you:

  • Change lanes. Look over your shoulder to make sure you are not getting in the way of vehicles in the lane you want to enter.
  • Reduce your speed. Take a quick glance in your mirrors. Also check your mirrors when you are preparing to turn into a side road or driveway and when you are stopping to pull into a parking space.
  • Drive down a long or steep hill. Watch for large vehicles because they can gather speed very quickly.
  • Back up. Backing up is always dangerous because it is hard to see behind your vehicle. When you are backing out of a parking space:
    • Check in front and behind the vehicle before you get in.
    • Know where your kids are. Make sure they are away from your vehicle and in full view before moving your vehicle.
    • If other children are nearby, make sure you can see them before backing up.
    • Do not depend only on your mirrors or only looking out a side window.
    • Turn and look over your right and left shoulders before you begin backing. As a safety measure, also look over your right and left shoulders again while backing.
    • Back slowly to avoid collisions.

Check traffic behind you often to know if you are being tailgated (another driver is following too closely). If you are being tailgated, be careful! Brake slowly before stopping. Tap your brakes lightly a few times to warn the tailgater you are slowing down.

“Lose” the tailgater as soon as you can. Change lanes and allow the tailgater to pass you, or slow down to allow enough “cushion” between you and the car in front of you. If this does not work, pull off the road when it is safe and let the tailgater pass.

Know Your Stopping Distance

If something is in your path, you need to see it in time to stop. Assuming you have good tires, good brakes, and dry pavement:

  • At 55 mph, it takes about 400 feet to react and bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
  • At 35 mph, it takes about 210 feet to react and bring the vehicle to a complete stop.

Adjust your driving speed to the weather and road conditions (refer to the “Basic Speed Law” in the “Speed Limits” section). Turn on your lights during the day, if it is hard to see or you cannot see at least 1,000 feet ahead of you.