We all like to think of ourselves as safe drivers, but like most things, there’s always room for improvement. We’re compiling some of our most frequently discussed driving safety tips to create a handy guide to keep you safe on the road — no matter the situation.
Seasonal driving safety
Safe driving should be our default all year ‘round, but certain times of the year call for specific types of preparedness and driving safety.
Spring driving safety
In the spring, many states see an increase in rain showers and thunderstorms, so things like making sure your tire treads are in good shape, all your headlight bulbs are working, and replacing your windshield wipers are important. Here are just a few tips for driving safely in the rain:
- Turn on your headlights. Rain of any intensity will alter road visibility for everyone, and in many states, it’s the law to turn your headlights on when you’re using your windshield wipers.
- Slow down. In rainy conditions even the speed limit is too fast, so reduce your speed by a third on wet roads.
- Stay alert. When inclement weather comes around, it’s important to make sure you’re extra aware of your surroundings at all times, because dangerous conditions can change at a moment’s notice.
- Use your turn signal. In the rain, when roads are slick, it’s much harder to see the lines let alone stay inside of them. Follow merging best practices — use your turn signal earlier, check your blind spot with your eyes, etc.
- Turn on hazards if vision becomes overly impaired. If you’ve ever been caught in a true torrential downpour, you know how hard it is to see even a few feet in front of your car. Using your hazards can help other drivers more clearly see you.
- If you hydroplane, don’t panic. Hydroplaning can be scary, but do your best to stay calm, keep both hands on the wheel, don’t turn your steering wheel dramatically, and ease your foot off the gas. Similarly, don’t slam on the brakes. If you were braking when you started to hydroplane, ease up on the brake until you regain control of the car. If you’re in danger of colliding with a car or object, tap lightly on the brakes.
While spring often means increased rain showers, it also usually means warmer weather. Increased temperatures may also mean you need to adjust your tire’s PSI to make sure they’re getting proper traction on the warming pavements.
Summer driving safety
Summer driving safety isn’t all too different from spring, but as temperatures continue to rise, there are certain safety precautions you should take. Like we mentioned, hotter weather requires different PSI in your tires to ensure proper traction, so be sure to check your PSI regularly to make sure your tires are neither under nor over inflated. Additionally, the risk of your car overheating in the summer is much greater, so be sure your coolant is topped off.
Fall and winter driving safety
Depending on where you live, frosts and winter weather can start as early as October! While there are a number of ways you can prep your car for first frosts, there’s also certain precautions you should take on the road (and before you start driving) if you find yourself driving in winter weather like snow, sleet, or icy roads. Here are just a few tips:
- Clear snow and ice off your car before you start driving.
- Keep useful winter weather tools in your car like an ice scraper, an emergency kit, and sand or kitty litter.
- Let your car run a little before driving to warm up the interior and help melt ice off your windows. Just be sure not to do it in an enclosed space!
- Keep plenty of space distance between you and other vehicles.
Daylight saving time driving safety
Daylight saving time, whether you’re “springing forward” or “falling back”, can do a number on our circadian rhythms and cause us to be less rested. Even though we adjust our clocks, it doesn’t actually mean we’re “gaining” or “losing” an hour of sleep. So, don’t adjust your bedtimes or routine! Intentionally messing with your sleep cycle to adjust for the “new time” on the clock can make you under-rested, which can have a myriad of consequences—everything from an increased risk of heart-attack to posing a danger to other drivers by driving drowsy.
It also means that depending on your usual commute, you may be driving in darker lighting in either the morning or evening, so being a little slow on the uptake is especially dangerous when you also can’t see as well as usual.
Here are just a few tips to make sure you’re safe on the road during daylight saving time:
- Keep your regular sleep schedule. Making any adjustments to your bedtime will ultimately just make you feel more tired!
- Don’t rush, and plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, and plenty of time for a stress-free wake up in the morning. You may need an extra cup of coffee, after all.
- Slow down. Things like crosswalks, stop signs, and pedestrians will be harder to see as the sun sets earlier or rises later, so make sure you’re taking your time and staying hyper-vigilant.
Distracted driving safety tips
Unfortunately, distracted driving is a safety issue no matter what time of year it is. For many, the phrase “distracted driving” makes them immediately think of texting while driving, but that’s really only one way to drive distracted.
Understanding distracted driving
There are actually three classifications of distracted driving — manual, visual, and cognitive. Let’s break these down a bit further:
- Manual distractions are what they sound like — anything that causes you to take your hands off the wheel, like eating or looking for something on the floor.
- Visual distractions, as you may have guessed, are distractions that take your eyes off the road, such as staring too long at a billboard or rubbernecking.
- Cognitive distractions take your mind off the road almost fully, making them arguably the most dangerous of the three. This is the category that texting and cell use while driving come under, as well as extensively chatting to passengers and even issuing voice commands to your hands-free device.
Avoiding distracted driving
You can probably think of a few examples that could easily fall under more than one of these categories, including hand-held cell phone use. Whatever the category, all forms of distracted driving are serious. One study by the University of Utah found that on average, it takes the human brain 27 seconds to regain its full attention after “talking” to your hands free device. We should all make a concerted effort to avoid distracted driving, and with that, here are just a few tips to consider:
- When in doubt, pull over. This is always the safest choice if something can’t wait. However, don’t linger on the side of the road if it’s a longer stop. Get off the highway and find a parking lot you can use.
- Off. Your. Phone. We can’t stress this enough. Keep it out of your hand, even more so if it’s illegal in your state. Text messages and notifications can wait, and if it’s more urgent, only opt for hands-free calling. Newer cars even have technology to read your texts to you!
- Keep your cool. Tension and stress can lead to badly timed reactions and unconscious distraction. Lessen anxiety by taking time to notice if you’re tensing your muscles or feeling stressed. Take deep breaths periodically to reduce tension.
Avoid careless and reckless driving
Reckless driving and careless driving may sound similar, but these traffic violations are not synonymous. There are subtle differences in how the law defines these two violations depending on your state. However, there are key differences that apply in many states:
- Definition: driving in such a way that could cause damage to a person or property.
- Examples: running a red light, driving a few miles over the speed limit, or accidentally
- drifting into another lane.
- Intent: these are accidental traffic violations.
- Definition: a wanton disregard for the law and the safety of others.
- Examples: drunk driving, distracted driving, excessive speeding.
- Intent: to harm others or disregard the law.
As you can see, the major difference between reckless and careless driving is the intent. Careless driving typically involves an accidental violation; reckless driving is purposeful. The other significant difference is the penalties you may face with either of these offenses.
While the number one reason to avoid these violations is obviously to keep yourself and other drivers safe, there are also a number of penalties that come with these violations, from community service to fines to even arrest. That’s why it’s important to brush up on your state’s laws and understand all angles of careless and reckless driving.
The benefits of safe cars
We’ve discussed a lot of actions you can take on the road to drive safely, but there’s also something to be said for choosing cars with good safety ratings and features. As technology continues to improve and expand at an exponential rate, it’s becoming increasingly commonplace for newer cars to come standard with amazing safety features and designs. The safest cars on the market change from year to year, but a few key features to look for that will keep you safer on the roads are:
- High scores in all tests conducted yearly by the NHTSA and the IIHS
- Automated emergency breaking
- Lane-keeping assistance/lane departure warning
- Blind spot monitoring
- Adaptive cruise control
- Forward collision warning
- Additional air bags in the rear window or far-side of the car
Used safe cars
However, we know that buying a new car with the latest safety features isn’t always the most affordable option. But that doesn’t mean your car can’t improve its safety preparedness! A cheaper alternative can often be to boost the safety of your car with standard maintenance and repairs, like:
- Getting an oil change
- Taking your car in for a preventative annual tune-up
- Regular maintenance on those repairs you’ve been putting off, like new brake pads, fresh tires, or even a new battery.
- Updating your auto insurance policy to make sure your car, your loved ones, and yourself will be supported in the event of an accident.
Boost your driving safety with Elephant
We hope these driving safety tips have helped, because at Elephant, our customer’s safety on road is our number one priority. To make sure you’re covered no matter what happens behind the wheel, get a quote with us or log in to review your current coverages.