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Category - Driving Safety

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.

What to Do if You’re Involved in an Auto Accident

What to Do if You’re Involved in an Auto Accident

There’s no doubt that being involved in a car accident is a frightening experience. It’s natural to feel panicked and confused, or even angry at first.

However, if you should find yourself in this situation, there are nine essential steps that you should complete in order to handle it correctly. Jot them down on a piece of paper that you keep in the glove box of your car. It’ll be a helpful “cheat sheet” to guide you through this stressful situation.

Step 1: Stay calm and get safe.

If your car is drivable, carefully maneuver it to the side of the road so you can get out of the way of oncoming traffic. If your car cannot be driven, and you are not seriously injured, exit the vehicle and move to a safe spot away from oncoming traffic. This is of particular importance if the accident occurs on a busy highway.

If the accident occurs at night, set out road flares to alert oncoming drivers. However, be mindful that road flares can spark fires from leaking fuel or other fluids. Many electronic road flares are available now which are becoming the safer alternative.

Be sure to protect the scene if there are any injured people trapped in a vehicle or on the roadway. Position your vehicle to protect them if possible, and attempt to alert traffic from a safe location.

Even if there is no fire, try to obtain fire extinguishers from your own vehicle or anyone passing by. Having a fire extinguisher and not needing it is perfectly fine, but needing one and not having it is a sure way to cause serious injuries or worse.

Step 2: Don’t apologize after a traffic accident.

Whether it’s your fault or not, don’t apologize. This implies guilt, and it can be used against you in a court case. There may be other factors that contributed to the accident that you’re not aware of, so resist the urge to say, “I’m sorry.”

Many of us apologize just to be kind, especially after a scary situation like a traffic accident. Even if it was your fault, you have the right to a defense and to protect your own interests. Stay quiet and let your insurance company work out the rest. That’s what you pay them for.

Step 3: Contact the authorities.

Call 9-1-1 as soon as possible, or inform someone close by to call 9-1-1. Make sure you know where you are located such as cross streets or mile marker posts. The dispatcher will also want to know about any injuries, the types of vehicles involved, and other time-sensitive information.

The police will write up a report and help maneuver traffic safely around the accident. Be sure to get a copy of the report or the report number to give to your insurance agent and/or attorney. Also point out any witnesses who may be able to help you.

As soon as you’re able, call your auto insurance company and notify them you’ve been in an accident. They will help guide you on what to do.

Step 4: Get witnesses to stick around after the accident.

Look around. Were there people walking nearby who saw the accident? Did any good Samaritans pull over to see if you needed help? Be sure to point these individuals out to the police so their statements can be taken. If the case goes to court, their statements can help support your claim.

If you’re able to, talk to the witnesses and get them to stick around until the police arrive. People are busy, and once they see there are no injuries they may be anxious to get on with their day. But having their statements can really help you out if you weren’t at fault.

Step 5: Provide contact information.

The police and the other driver(s) involved in the accident will need your name and insurance information. You should always keep an insurance card in your wallet and in your glove box. Jot down your name, insurance company, and policy number on a piece of paper. You do not need to provide your home address or phone number since it should be your insurance company, not you, who handles settling the claim from here on out. Make sure you get the other drivers’ names and insurance information, too. The police can facilitate the transfer of information if necessary.

Step 6: Record facts as soon as you can after the accident.

Jot down everything you can remember about the incident. Write down the date, time, weather conditions, location, and how the accident occurred. It’s best to do this as soon as possible while the details are still fresh in your mind.

There are many phone apps available that will help you document any accident scene. If you don’t have the app, take as many pictures and videos as you can. In the videos, relay any pertinent information via the audio. The more pictures and videos, the better.

Step 7: Go to the hospital – even if you feel “okay.”

Injuries often present themselves several hours after the accident has occurred. By then your body has relaxed and the adrenaline has gone, allowing you to feel the full extent of your injuries. It is important to be evaluated by a doctor so you can receive the medical treatment you need, and also to ensure that there is a record of your injuries.

Make sure you pay attention to aches and pains in your body even months after the accident. Many injuries will not present themselves for a while.

Step 8: Contact your insurance company as soon as you can after an accident

The number for your insurance company will be printed on your insurance card. Once you have a police report and have been evaluated by a doctor, contact your insurance company to report the incident. Your agent will request the police report number and the other driver(s) insurance information. Your agent will also help you make arrangements to have your car photographed, so the damage can be recorded. In addition, your agent will give you the name of your insurance company’s preferred mechanic or body shop to take your car for repairs.

Step 9: Contact an attorney if any injuries are involved.

In most cases, an attorney won’t need to get involved. If, however, the case needs to go to court, your attorney will help plead the case on your behalf and ensure that you receive adequate compensation for the damage. He or she will also help make sure that you have all the information and documented evidence needed.

If you have an attorney on retainer, contact them as soon as possible. This is especially true after an injury, whether it is you that is injured or another party. Even if the injuries seem minor, that can change in the days or weeks to come. Protect yourself!

5 Stupid Things You Should Never Do After a Car Accident

What Not To Do After A Car Accident

It’s scary, isn’t it?

You’ve just been involved in a car wreck. Your heart is pounding. Your life is flashing before your eyes. You check yourself over. Nothing appears to be broken, and you’re not bleeding. Now what?

This is where most people let their emotions get the better of them. Don’t freak out and do these 5 unusually stupid things.

VIDEO: What To Do After A Car Accident

Driving Off After An Accident

Almost every state has a Vehicle Code or Transportation Code. If they do not, then it will be codified in the state’s “penal code.” Either way, leaving the scene of an accident is considered a “hit and run,” and is a misdemeanor or felony.

Insurance companies don’t look too kindly on the practice, either. Your insurance rates will skyrocket, you may not be able to afford coverage, and the state may revoke your driving privileges. In short, even if you don’t have ill intentions, you should absolutely NEVER drive off after a car accident.

Be VERY Careful If You Decide To “Protect” The Accident Scene

You may actually be erasing key evidence if a crime has been committed. Let the police do the detective work. You hang back and protect yourself. Also, insurance companies need to know the details of the accident, so you don’t want to change or alter anything on your vehicle before an adjuster has had a chance to look at it.

Finally, this is for your own safety. If you try to block off the scene on a busy road, you may put yourself in more danger. Get in your vehicle, if it is safe, and wait for help. If it’s not safe, move to a safe location away from your vehicle and call for emergency service.

Never, Ever Say “I’m Sorry” After An Accident

When you admit guilt, you are setting yourself up to take legal responsibility. Never do this without a lawyer present. If the other driver gets a confession from you, you might unwittingly give up all future rights in any lawsuit or insurance case against you. Even in cases where it may be obvious you were at fault, you should never admit to any wrongdoing after you have had a car accident. The laws are very clear about how you do not need to self incriminate yourself, so don’t!

Avoid Negotiating With The Other Driver At The Scene

Some drivers are tempted to negotiate directly with the other person involved in the accident, for fear their insurance rates will increase if they go through their insurance company. Usually, negotiating is a bad idea. You can’t be sure the other person is honest. If they hand you a check, it may not be good. If they offer cash, you don’t know where it came from.

People tend to avoid going through their insurer when there is something to hide. Keep things on the up and up, and you won’t have any legal problems later.

Forgetting To Document Everything Can Be Costly

Most people know to take pictures of damage to both vehicles. However, what you might forget to do is write down everything about the scene. It seems like overkill, but your memory will fade fast. By the time police arrive, you’ll have completely forgotten some of the finer details — details important to the accident.

For example, the police will want to know who was driving, which direction each driver was going, where you were going, and so on. They will also want to know the circumstances of the accident to determine fault. You will also want to file a police report and get the officer’s name and badge number.

Your insurance adjuster will also want to know all about the accident in vivid detail.

You should write down the VIN number for the other vehicle, the make, model, and year of the vehicle, and its color. If you can get driver information, do it. Take down the driver’s name, driver’s license number, and at least get the name of the other person’s insurance.

Getting the tag information lets you track down someone if they flee the scene before the police arrive.

Take pictures of the accident from several angles. The goal is to get pictures of the damage in context. This means anyone looking at the photos should have an idea of the size, scale, and extent of the damage.

If you’re injured, and EMT arrives, make sure you get a copy of all medical records related to the accident and your injuries before you leave the hospital.

Final Thoughts

Being in a car accident is scary, and it’s easy to slip up and make mistakes at the scene. That’s why you should keep a checklist of things to do in the event of an accident right in the car with you at all times. Shove it in the glovebox. That way, if you’re in an accident, you don’t have to think. You just do.