DrivingTips.com

Category - Driving Safety

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.

How to Make a Car Safety Checklist for Your Car

Car Safety Checklist

Did you know that car manufacturers use an average of 8,000 bolts when they assemble a car? But it only takes one loose or missing bolt to make that car a hazardous machine.

As a result, there have been numerous laws and pieces of legislation passed over the past few decades to increase safety on the roads and decrease the number of fatal accidents that occur every year. Nevertheless, there are over six million accidents that occur every year, and almost half of these accidents are considered serious. These accidents and collisions cause various agencies over $200 billion every year in financial responsibility.

The three main causes for this large number of accidents are:

  • Speeding
  • Driving Under The Influence
  • Driving While Distracted

The average driver can help reduce this annual statistic by making sure they are driving a vehicle that is properly maintained. They also need to learn how to prepare for the different risks they may encounter on the road.

Do Not Drive While Distracted

This is one of the first and most basic steps that you can take to become a better driver. Stop changing the radio while you are driving. Do not look at your GPS and do not talk on your mobile phone. Never read the newspaper, put makeup on, or eat a meal behind the wheel either. You should only focus on the important task that is driving. If you need to divert your full attention away from the road whilst you are driving, pull your car off of the road. You’d be surprised by how many accidents are caused by simple distractions like these that take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road, so changing your habits will definitely make a huge difference and make the road a much safer place for all drivers, as well as pedestrians.

Buy a Car with a Good Safety Rating

Every year, several consumer protection agencies reveal the safest cars of that year. Before you purchase your car, check its safety rating. If you are buying a used car, you should check for the safety rating and the car’s history. The added safety features on today’s most advanced vehicles are making it easier to remain aware while on the road. For example, blind spot monitors can help you avoid collisions, and today’s cars can also sound an alarm if you are veering off into the next lane. Or you can invest in a car that has a backup camera or that parallel parks itself. Cars are now built stronger than ever, with more airbags too. The choices are endless, but be prepared to pay extra for these great safety features.

Choose a Good Mechanic

Knowing what mechanic to go to when your car is in need of repairs in vitally important to ensuring that the repairs will be made correctly and that your vehicle will operate better and more safely once the repairs are made. A negligent mechanic that is out just to make money, on the other hand, can do a lot more harm than good to your vehicle and, ultimately, to your safety on the road.

It can be difficult to know if a mechanic is reputable or not. You can ask for recommendations from friends and family. The mechanic that you choose should have all of the proper licenses and accreditations. Your car insurance company can also recommend a good mechanic because they deal with a variety of mechanics on a daily basis.

Take Special Precautions When Driving in the Winter

Winter driving can bring special challenges for a driver. You should double-check all of your blind spots before you move your vehicle into another lane, and you should drive much more slowly and carefully in order to avoid slipping on ice and snow, especially black ice that is invisible. Also, make sure your tyres have the proper tread, and purchase snow chains if you need them.

Have a Checklist Before You Go On A Road Trip

Make sure that you thoroughly inspect your vehicle before you go on a trip. It is best that you take your car to your mechanic before you leave for your trip, but if you are not able to, you can check several areas yourself:

  • Wiper Blades
  • All Lights
  • Fluid Levels
  • Battery
  • Tires

The number of car accidents will continue to increase if drivers do not become more aware of their driving habits and the safety of their cars. Always make sure your car is well maintained and stay alert!

VIDEO: Vehicle Safety Inspection Demo

How To See Better When Driving At Night

How To See Better Driving At Night

It’s never easy driving at night — especially in traffic. You have low visibility, headlights on high beam from clueless drivers shining in your eyes, and you’re usually tired on top of that. It’s no wonder you’re wondering how to see better when driving at night.

Driving at night is proven to be more dangerous, too — 3 times as many fatal road accidents occur at night than during the day, going by the NHTSA’s figures. Seen another way, while only 25% of all driving happens at night, nighttime driving accounts for 50% of all road deaths.

Everything is worse when you drive at night — you’re less able to perceive depth and color, your peripheral vision doesn’t work very well and you have lights shining in your eyes. Basic physics work against you, too — while your headlights on low beam typically light your way no more than 250 feet, you need 200 feet to stop when you’re going at 55 mph, the legal limit in most places. There’s barely any room for error.

So what do you do? Here are 5 tips to help you get home safe when you need to drive at night.

5. Cleaning your headlight covers will help you see better driving at night

Car headlights aren’t made locked in place — they are adjustable. This is why nearly no car on the road has its headlights positioned for the best possible beam — not even new cars. It’s up to drivers to either ask a mechanic to recalibrate their lights or learn the simple procedure by reading through the manual. Drives do neither. Calibrated lights enable better visibility.

Even well-adjusted lights often fail to deliver a good beam. In many cases, for instance, aging plastic headlight lens covers that grow less and less transparent over the years are to blame. You can either buy a headlight polish kit to fix the problem yourself or look up a bit of DIY advice on how it can be done with toothpaste or other simple materials.

4. Lower dashboard and in-car screen lighting to see better driving at night

Modern dashboard displays can have a virtual Christmas tree’s worth of bright lights. If you have them all at full illumination, they can be both distracting and bad for your ability to see in the dark. This is why nighttime race drivers completely turn off their displays — they need to be able to see well and to concentrate on their driving. While turning displays off is a bad idea for most cars, it makes sense to turn the illumination down as low as it will go. This is what the dimmer switch is for. Map lights need to be turned off, too.

Many people don’t realize it can take several minutes for eyes to adjust to nighttime conditions. Having any unnecessary lighting in your car will negatively impact how well you can see driving at night. Even a cell phone car charger with a small LED light on it can negatively impact your vision.

3. Night driving glasses will not help you see better driving at night

Many sunglass displays at stores carry a certain yellow-tinted product that is supposed to offer better nighttime visibility. You only have the manufacturers’ word to go on, though.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises drivers to stay away from these glasses because they only offer the illusion of better vision.

The idea behind these yellow tints is that they enhance contrast, making dark objects stand out better. All they do really, though, is to cut down on the light you see and offer a misleading illusion of improved sharpness. If you have normal vision, vision aids can do nothing for you. If you do need prescription glasses, you should wear those and choose lenses that have an anti-reflective coating. Normal eyes don’t need extra help.

2. How to see animals better when driving at night

Running over an animal can involve terrible pain and certain death for the animal. If it’s a larger animal, though, it isn’t good for the car, either. If you hit a large deer, for instance, you can easily lose control of your vehicle or even be crushed under its weight if it lands on your roof.

There are a few tricks to avoiding these collisions at night. For instance, you need to learn to watch out for redeye glints. It’s the same effect that you get with poorly composed nighttime flash shots. The flash hits the retinas and shows them up brightly.

When there is an animal in your path, your headlights will make its retinas shine — you’ll usually see them as two small bright spots in the darkness. When you train yourself to watch out for retinal reflections, you’ll soon learn to effortlessly spot them.

This is one reason why using your high-beam headlights is a good idea. Not only will it help illuminate the eyes of animals in the roadway, but it will spread the beam into the grassy areas on the side of the road. Animals also love to wait in ditches and jump out at the last second, so be sure to scan low lying areas.

1. A clean windshield goes a LONG way in helping you see better driving at night

A dirty windshield or mirrors can easily obscure a great deal of detail. Even a quick wipe is likely to help you see better. Getting windscreen cleaners that repel dust can help you keep your windshield clean long after you clean it.