If it has been a while since you completed Driver’s Education, all of that information that you learned may have grown a bit rusty. As we head into 2020, why not make it your New Year’s Resolution to brush up on driving rules and commit to being safer on the road?
If you need some added incentive, consider what’s at stake. Traffic fatalities on U.S. roads reached 40,000 in 2018 according to the National Safety Council. That’s roughly 110 deaths per day. And according to the World Health Organization, traffic-related deaths are now the eighth leading cause of death of people of all ages.
We would all do well to remember that we’re stepping into a deadly weapon when we enter our vehicle, but because driving is something that most of us do every day, it’s easy to take it for granted.
This article will show you nine simple ways to be safer behind the wheel in 2020, and we like to think it will be a lot less painful than attending either Driver’s Ed or traffic school.
1. Move your phone out of reach. Research shows that there’s an actual chemical reaction in the brain associated with hearing that swoosh when a new message reaches our phone. For most of us, the thrill of anticipation is hard to resist, so we may find ourselves glancing at our phone to see what has come our way. The trouble is that traffic accidents can happen in a split second.
The safe solution here is to remove the temptation. Turn off the volume on your cell phone, and move it out of sight and reach. You can even install an app on your phone like Live2Txt or AT&T’s DriveMode. These tools block incoming text and calls while you are driving and reply to incoming communications with a message that you are busy.
2. Don’t forget the turn signal. The turn signal is an invaluable tool for letting the driver behind you know what you intend to do—and yet it’s so easy to get out of the habit of using it. When you fail to engage your turn signal, you leave other drivers scrambling to react to your driving maneuvers at the last minute. So if you’ve gotten lax with your turn signal, recommit to using it when changing lanes and turning—and don’t forget to turn it off when it’s no longer needed. Giving other drivers the wrong impression causes wrecks.
3. Drop the 10-2 steering wheel position. Remember your driving instructor teaching you to envision your steering wheel as the face of a clock, then place your right hand where the 2 would be and your left hand where the 10 would be? You can forget about that. Due to smaller steering wheels and airbags, the 10-2 position is actually quite dangerous. Instead, driving experts are suggesting that you put your hands in the 8-4 position. And if you’re one of those people who tends to get lax behind the wheel, driving with one hand, a finger, or (gasp) a knee, return to the habit of placing both hands on the steering wheel in the proper position. Driving without both hands lowers the degree of control you have over your driving.
4. Slow down at yellow lights. In this busy day and age, red lights can be a miserable fate. As you sit idling at the light, your head may be pulsing with all of the places you need to be and all of the things you need to do. Perhaps that’s why people are so eager to avoid this fate by speeding through yellow lights, but this is a dangerous game and one of the most common causes of wrecks. The 90 seconds you save by running a yellow or red light is of little value compared to the damage you could do. Play it safe by slowing down at yellow lights. Which brings us to our next tip…
5. Leave 5-10 minutes early. If you’re one of those people who’s always running a couple of minutes behind, you’re more likely to get agitated behind the wheel. If an unexpected red light or a small traffic delay means the difference between being on time or late for you, you’re probably living too close to the edge. Few things will make a bigger difference in your driving experience than giving yourself a comfortable cushion for making it to your destination on time.
6. Accept the consequences of your mistakes. Everybody is going to miss their exit or make the wrong turn at some point. The mature thing to do is to own the mistake and stay within the law as you seek to correct it. The wrong thing to do is careen across a few lanes of traffic to make a last minute course correction or slam on the brakes or make an illegal U-turn to try to set things right again. It may take you a few extra minutes to get back on course, but it’s better than forcing everyone else on the road to pay for your mistakes. (And if you follow the tip above and leave early, you should be able to absorb the delay without a problem.)
7. Don’t cross lanes while turning. Crossing into a different lane while turning is a dangerous practice that can lead to chaos in an intersection. Complete your turn, then engage your turn signal and move into the desired lane. You can eliminate some of the need for these lane changes if, before you turn, you determine where you want to go. For example, if there are two turn lanes and you know that you will need to end up on the right side of the road after the turn, you can get into the outside lane well in advance. That way, there won’t be so much last-minute maneuvering. This leads to our next point.
8. Anticipate your next move. We’ve all been annoyed by the driver who decides at the very last minute to get off at a certain freeway exit and cuts across multiple lanes to make it happen. Always think ahead to the next turn that you need to make and get in the correct lane beforehand. You should also keep your eyes on what’s in front of you at all times. Watch for brake lights ahead, which can indicate that you need to start slowing down. Scan the road for exit points and shoulders. That way, if someone slams on their brakes or wrecks right in front of you, you know where you could move on the road to minimize damages.
9. Watch for people. It’s easy to get so focused on where you’re going that you forget the human element on the streets. This is especially relevant in Las Vegas where there is heavy foot traffic from visitors. Before you speed up out of an intersection or make a turn onto a street or into a shopping center, ensure that there are no pedestrians or bikers around. Everyone’s happier and safer when motorists remember to share the road.
For those of us who have been driving for a while, it’s easy to be less vigilant on the road, but that can lead to costly mistakes. Resolve to give driving the proper attention that it deserves in the coming year and beyond.
Unfortunately, you can’t control other drivers, which is why accidents happen to even the most conscientious motorists. If you do get in an accident, stay calm, contact the police, exchange information with the other driver, and document the accident scene as thoroughly as possible with photos and witness accounts. You should also contact an auto accident injury attorney to help you navigate the intricate laws surrounding accident injuries and recover the full range of damages that you are owed.