The weather is changing, which means you’ll soon face rain, ice, and snow during your commute. It’s important to prepare for bad weather and other road hazards before you find yourself in a sticky situation. We at LeafFilter Racing know a thing or two about safe driving, so we’ve put together this list of seven road safety tips to get you to your destination safely, every time.
Keep your focus on the road
Distracted drivers are a serious danger to themselves and others. To avoid any accidents, avoid these three types of distractions: manual, cognitive, and sight.
Manual: Leave your cell phone, breakfast, morning makeup routine, and other manual distractions at the door. Your focus should be 100% on the road at all times, as road conditions are extremely unpredictable. If you’re having a frantic text conversation with someone, tell them you must put it on pause so that you can drive. If you haven’t had anything to eat and feel a little faint, pull off at the nearest restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat. Don’t put others in danger because you needed your bagel and coffee fix.
Visual: If you’ve got children, it may be difficult to drive distraction-free, but it is important to do your absolute best in order to keep them safe. If you child begins having a tantrum or needs fed while you’re on the road, for instance, it is best to pull over and take care of their needs. Don’t take your eyes off the road until you’re safely at a complete stop, or you’ll endanger everyone’s safety. It’s also vital to ensure your children are properly buckled in at all times. Do not allow children to climb over the seats or play around while the car is in motion.
Pets can be another visual distraction, as they can become agitated or excited quite easily while on the road. Allowing your pet to move about the car may also be illegal in some areas, so check your local laws. Even if it is legal, if you’re traveling with pets, it’s best to keep them in a carrier until you get to your destination.
Cognitive: Do not, under any circumstances, drive drunk or drowsy. At best, you’ll get a ticket or suspended license, at worst, you’ll cause a potentially fatal accident. It’s just not worth it. Instead, call a taxi or ride sharing service, or call a friend to come pick you up.
To ensure your safety, and the safety of others sharing the road, don’t take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel for any reason whatsoever.
Stow a roadside emergency kit in your trunk
You’ll want to be prepared in case of an emergency. Some basic necessities in case of emergency are jumper cables, a portable tire compressor or spare tire, flashlight, a physical copy of a map, extra water, small snacks (like a granola bar), gloves, a first aid kit, a small bag of sand (which can help with traction), and a small, portable snow shovel. These basics should get you through minor roadside emergencies. Just keep everything in a small tote or bag, and keep it in your trunk at all times. Whether you have a flat tire, your battery dies, or you get stuck in a pile of snow, you should be able to work your way out of the situation. If you can’t, you’ll have enough provisions to tide you over for a few hours while you wait for help. You should also check with your insurance provider to determine whether roadside assistance is included in your policy. Keep their number handy in case of a roadside emergency. Never let an unexpected event leave you stranded.
Keep your car in good driving condition with regular inspections
This is one of those road safety tips that will help you prevent problems from popping up in the first place. Some states require an annual vehicle inspection, but if yours doesn’t, it’s still a good idea to have it done. Take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic at least once a year to make sure it’s working properly. They’ll test your brakes, transmission, tires, seatbelts, airbags, steering, exhaust system, and more. It is a good idea to go for your inspection before the harsh weather of winter months begins. This ensures that you’re driving a safe vehicle, which reduces the chances of running into trouble on the road.
Learn how to handle all weather and road conditions, including construction zones, nighttime driving, rain, ice, and fog
Many drivers never learn how to handle tough road conditions. It’s extremely important to know how your car reacts when it hydroplanes, catches a patch of ice, or runs on rough terrain, for instance. Did you know that it’s a bad idea to brake if your car hydroplanes? In order to regain traction, you should let up on the gas a little bit, but avoid braking until you feel your tires gain purchase. Have you ever slammed on the brakes at the first sign of a deer? This is a bad idea, too. Cars behind you may not see you stop in time to avoid hitting you. Your car could also fishtail, which is tough to handle, even for racecar drivers. Fishtailing could cause you to lose control of the vehicle completely. Always have an emergency maneuver in mind so that you’re able to safely avoid the danger without further compromising the safety of yourself or others.
It’s also important to know the various safety features of your vehicle. These will make a big difference in the event of an emergency. Know how to turn your high beam lights on when you run into fog. Locate your airbags and make sure they’re in working order in case of collision. Know how your anti-lock brakes work so that you can control your vehicle on ice. The best thing you can do, as a driver, is get familiar with your vehicle.
Check out this article to find even more harsh weather road safety tips from Goodyear.
Know how to perform basic repairs, like tire changes
If your tire goes flat on the side of the road, will you know how to change it and put the spare on, or will you be stranded until you can get help? If your engine overheats or your oil runs too low, will you know what to do to protect your car from further damage?
You don’t know how to reassemble your engine or perform your repairs as fast as the LeafFilter Racing crew, but it’s important to be able to perform basic maintenance and know how to identify common issues. This will not only save you money, but will also extend the longevity of your vehicle.
Drive defensively, not aggressively
Defensive driving is always having a backup maneuver in mind and anticipating other people’s moves. The most important principle of defensive driving is keeping your assured cleared distance from cars around you. For every ten miles per hour you’re driving, you should have at least one car length between you and the car ahead. This means that, if you’re driving 50 mph, you should be five car lengths behind the next car. This allows you room to stop in case of emergency, and reduces the chances of rear ending the car in front of you. Defensive driving also calls for drivers to be aware of other’s blind spots, especially semi-trucks.
However, there is often a misconception that defensive driving is the same as aggressive driving. This is simply not true. Aggressive drivers cause a lot of accidents due to impatience and reckless driving habits. They tailgate other cars, frequently switch lanes, ignore stop signs and red lights, and speed in order to save time. These behaviors all increase risk of collision and are against the law, so avoid driving aggressively. Defensive driving, in which you reach your destination calmly and safely, is smart driving.
Scan for pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals
Oftentimes, it’s not other cars that are the real dangers on the road. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and other animals are obstacles that may be tough to spot. They have just as much right to be on the road as you, so be sure to respect them to maintain road safety at all times. A lot of times, they may be too small to see from a distance, or their colors may blend in with your surroundings. Carefully watch for movement and reflections as you drive to avoid these obstacles. This is called scanning, and it will help you identify hazards in time to maneuver safely.
When you see a pedestrian, bicyclist, or animal in the near vicinity, remember the rules of the road. Always yield to pedestrians, stick to the posted speed limit, and stop at crosswalks. It’s also a good idea to leave at least three feet between you and anything you wish to pass on the side of the road. If it’s safe, you may also slow down while passing pedestrians, bicyclists, or animals on the side of the road.
All of us here at LeafFilter Racing believe that maintaining road safety should be a top priority for all drivers, both on and off the track. Practice these seven road safety tips to make the road a safer place for all. And, if you have other tips for maintaining road safety, share them in the comments below.