Safety should be top of mind all the time, but especially during the holiday season, people might be concentrating on several different things at once, and they might be forgetting to take some simple precautions that could prevent disaster. But, a single moment of paying less attention to safety could mean a lifetime of pain for you or someone else — or, someone could lose his life altogether. Is it worth it? At McIntyre Law, we see clients every day whose lives have been turned upside down by injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents, or who are trying to recover from the loss of a loved one. No matter what the circumstance, it’s incredibly sad, which is why we want to offer you our suggestions for avoiding an accident, because many of them are preventable.
Think about your condition when you drive
Don’t drive when you’re tired. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that there are about 100,000 crashes per year that are a direct result of driver fatigue. That results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in property damage. If you’re feeling even a little drowsy, don’t get behind the wheel. You might be sure that you would never, ever drive under the influence of alcohol. Doing that is never safe or okay, and you always follow the rules. But, did you know that some drowsy drivers are even worse than drivers under the influence of alcohol? It’s true. If you need to drive, have a cup of coffee or take a rest before you go so that you are in tip-top shape when you’re behind the wheel.
Don’t drive when you’re distracted. Distracted driving comes in many forms. You could be distracted by your mobile phone or other technology, food, passengers, or even the car radio. A best practice while driving is to leave your mobile phone in your trunk, in a bag or someplace else that is out of reach. Try to get into the habit of doing the following:
- If you must use your mobile phone, either for talking or texting, find a safe place to pull over first.
- Avoid eating while driving. Even if you’re on a long road trip, stop at a rest area or restaurant, or pull over to a safe spot and eat while the car is not in motion.
- If you are unsure as to where you’re going, program the address into your GPS before you begin.
- Ask your passengers to maintain normal speaking voices and be respectful of your need to drive without distraction. As well, keep music in the car to a reasonable volume.
Use a “space cushion”. That means that you should drive with plenty of space in front, behind and to each side of the car. If you need to do a quick maneuver, you can do so with less likelihood of colliding with another vehicle or object.
Be aware of the surroundings. Don’t fall into “driving stare”, where your eyes are fixed straight ahead. Instead, be constantly checking your mirrors and your space cushion. That way, you’ll always know what’s in close proximity.
Avoid having loose objects or food on the passenger seat. Try to avoid keeping a sandwich, handbag or other object on the passenger seat beside you. If the car were to swerve or if you have to brake suddenly and the car jolts, your instinct could be to “protect” your belongings from spilling onto the floor or flying around inside the car. Instead, the priority should be avoiding a crash, even if it means that your bag empties on the floor or you lose a sandwich. Avoiding the possibility that the instinct will kick in to “save” your things is better than having a crash.
Follow road rules and be courteous of other drivers
We all learn the rules of the road, and we have to prove that we know them in order to get a driver’s license. So why do so many people “forget” to use signals, speed, or go through red lights or other traffic stops? Well, either they think that the rules don’t apply to them, or they don’t think that they will ever cause an accident. That is simply untrue. Use your signals appropriately, dim your high beams when necessary and drive at a reasonable rate of speed. As well, be cautious of aggressive drivers (and don’t be one) and exercise reasonable courtesy when driving.
Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol!
Have we said this before? We can never say it too many times. DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is no joke. If you’ve been drinking, get a designated driver or find an alternate method of transportation. Your life, and the lives of others, depends on it.