Driving Safety Tips: Avoid Paying for Others' Mistakes

If you're actually willing to read a page of driving safety tips, then you're probably not part of the problem. We've spent many hours on the freeways and highways, and we firmly believe that many of the worst hazards are created by people who clearly don't know - or seem to care - how poorly they're driving.

In other words, nobody heads out of the house thinking "I think I'll drive as poorly as I can today." Rather, people drive the way that meets their own immediate needs. If that means speeding, tailgating, and talking on the cell phone, so be it.

But if you're sincerely looking for ways to improve your driving by learning some defensive driving tips, good for you. Just by paying better attention to what you're doing behind the wheel, you'll be a better driver.

Having said that, we humbly offer these driving safety tips:

  • Wear a safety belt. We can't believe the myth persists that in the event of an accident, you'll be safer if you're thrown clear of the vehicle. Call us crazy, but we feel quite a bit safer when we don't fly headfirst through plate glass.

  • Follow at a safe distance. You probably learned in Driver's Ed that you should follow two seconds behind the car in front of you. And then 10 minutes after you got your license, you learned that if you actually do this, people will cut in front of you. So, strike a balance.

    One of the best defensive driving tips we can offer is to be aware of your following distance and always allow yourself enough time and space to stop suddenly. This is especially important in traffic jams, where the temptation is to become impatient and take off to a rocket start as soon as the traffic starts moving.

  • Use your blinkers. This is one of the most-ignored driving safety tips. Few actions in life take less effort than signaling a turn. It may seem like a trivial matter, but if nothing else, it's a courtesy to other drivers (and a good way to avoid a pointless traffic ticket).

  • Adjust your mirrors to your advantage. Your rearview mirror should give you a view of your entire rear window. Your left and right side outside mirrors should show only a tiny bit of the side of your car.

    Most people adjust these mirrors incorrectly so that they show far too much car. Turn these mirrors out so you can see what you really need to see: the adjacent lanes of traffic.

  • Glide to red lights. This safety tip is also a fuel-saving tip. Many drivers keep gunning the motor right up to a red light, only to have to hit the brakes hard and wait for the light to change. Why risk skidding and rear-ending another driver? Take it easy and coast up to that light.

  • Brake smart. If you have anti-lock brakes (as many cars do nowadays), you can brake hard in an emergency. If you don't have anti-lock brakes, be sure to squeeze the brakes instead by applying increasing pressure to the pedal.

  • Merge onto freeways at a reasonable speed. It's appalling to see people speed down an on-ramp and lurch into the traffic as if they have the right-of-way (they don't). It can be equally frustrating to see a car attempt to merge at 45 miles per hour, then hang out on the shoulder timidly waiting their turn while the driver behind them is clearly letting them in.

    If merging gives you anxiety, practice it. Merge enough times until you get comfortable gauging the speed of cars in your rearview mirror and determining whether you should go in front of, or behind, that next approaching vehicle.

  • Pass on the left. This is another of the most-ignored driving safety tips. Sure, there are situations where you must make an exception and pass someone on the right. But in general, you're supposed to pass on the left.

    This allows for a smoother flow of traffic and prevents a slower-moving car in a middle lane from being surrounded by speeding traffic as they try to move to a slower lane.

That's about it. Driving safely is mostly a matter of taking our time and using common sense. And we can all do that.

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