Driving a car can feel like second nature to many of us; it's something that we do almost every single day of the week, often for hours at a time. As time goes by and we gain years of driving experience, the whole process can start to feel so simple and straightforward.
However, it's important to never forget that every single time you set behind the wheel of your vehicle and take to the road, you may face all kinds of risks from other vehicles, pedestrians, weather conditions, and road hazards around you.
Statistics show that there are around 6 million car accidents in the US each year, leading to around 100 deaths a day and countless injuries too. These numbers make for harrowing reading, and even the safest of drivers find themselves, and their passengers, involved in serious accidents on a regular basis.
It's impossible to control the actions of other people, and sometimes, you may just find yourself unfortunate enough to be on the road at the same time as a drunk driver or reckless road user breaking the rules. However, you can control your own actions, taking steps to make yourself and your passengers as safe as possible. Here are some useful tips to follow.
There are many different kinds of injuries that can occur in car accidents, from long-term joint injuries to traumatic brain injuries, whiplash, and more. The risks of these injuries are made so much worse by not wearing seat belts, with reams of evidence proving that buckling up really does save lives, each and every year.
So, every time you get into the car, make sure you never forget to attach your seat belt. Not only that but if you're traveling with passengers, be sure to encourage them to wear their belts as well. Some people can feel nervous about asking friends or family members to buckle up, but it really could make the difference between life and death, so it's worth bringing up the subject.
As well as buckling up, you'll also want to remember to clean up your car as well. Having a tidy vehicle can actually have a real effect on reducing your risks of nasty accidents occurring out on the road. How? Well, for starters, when you have little items like loose change or unsecured boxes rolling around and making noise, it's easier for you to lose focus and get distracted while driving.
Not only that but if an accident does occur and you find yourself colliding with another vehicle or having to brake sharply, even tiny items like coins can suddenly turn into dangerous projectiles, flying through the air, cutting through your skin, or even shattering your car windows, making relatively minor accidents more serious in the long term.
If you're going for a long car ride, like a cross-country road trip or a big journey across the state to visit your family, it's important to take breaks now and then. The longer you drive without taking a break, the greater your chances will be of losing focus, letting your concentration slip, and suddenly finding yourself in a dangerous situation.
Even the slightest lapse in concentration can be disastrous, and when you're driving for hours on end, with nothing but the road and the radio for company, it's so easy to get bored and tired. Take breaks, use the restroom, keep yourself hydrated, and always pull over whenever you want to use your phone or adjust the GPS or in-car entertainment system too.
Keep Distractions to a Minimum
Speaking of GPS devices and in-car entertainment systems, it's also important to do whatever you need to do to keep distractions to a minimum while you drive. In this day and age, with touch-screen devices in many modern cars and so many people using their smartphones for social media status updates and instant messaging with friends, it's easier than ever to get distracted.
It's no surprise, then, that distracted driving accounts for thousands of deaths every year. If you take your eyes off the road, just for a few seconds, to look at your phone or send a text, you're putting yourself, your passengers, and other road users in danger. It's absolutely vital to keep your hands on the wheel and your attention levels up. If you need to use a device, stop the car safely beforehand.
Take Care with Children and Pets
If you're traveling with children or pets, there are extra considerations to take into account. When it comes to children, you need to be aware of the specific rules and laws in your state, or any states you may be driving to, in regard to child seats, and you should fully ensure that each child is in an appropriate seat, as well as checking that the seats have been properly installed.
The same logic applies to pets. Many people let dogs roam around freely in their vehicles, but this can cause distractions and risky situations, not to mention the fact that it puts pets' lives in real danger if they aren't strapped in and an accident occurs. Make sure your pets are secured in carriers or restraints to keep them safe.
Perhaps the most important tip of them all is to stay alert, making the most of defensive driving techniques, and keeping your eyes on your surroundings so you can identify any possible threats in advance and take the proper action to avoid them. This ties into many of the other tips listed above, like minimizing distractions and reducing the risks of fatigue.
Ultimately, you're the one in control of the vehicle, so it's up to you to make the right calls and take the right actions. Keeping your eyes on the road, your senses alert, and your hands on the wheel will help you avoid threats and vastly reduce the odds of you finding yourself involved in any kind of serious auto accident.