I have been driving now for 33 years. In that time I have had four speeding tickets and three accidents of significance (two of which weren’t my fault). So I decided I would put together some pro tips for driving safely. I dedicate this post to my dear friend and sister in Christ, Stephanie!
1. It is vital to make sure all of your mirrors are properly “calibrated” for optimal visibility of cars around you. To this end I have created an illustration to demonstrate.
Each mirror has been designated a zone. Zone A represents your rear view mirror, which should be positioned in such a way that you can easily glance up at it and have a full view through your rear window. As another vehicle to your left or right passes out of view of Zone A, your side mirrors (Zone B Left and Right) should be positioned in such a way so that you can see the vehicle passing you. So as the front half of the vehicle leaves Zone A, it should be visible in Zone B Left or Right. Likewise as the vehicle in Zone B L/R is beginning to leave that zone, it should be visible in your peripheral vision, or by looking left or right. Keep in mind that your peripheral vision is restricted on the right side of the vehicle because of seats and/or occupants. In the illustration above you see there is significant overlap of each visibility zone. Configuring your mirrors this way insures that you won’t have any large blind spots.
2. Regardless of your mirror positioning as outlined above, ALWAYS double check your right or left side before initiating a lane change. Never rely 100% of the time on your mirrors, no matter how incredibly well you have them configured. ALWAYS glance to your right or left for a split second before changing lanes. And of course, please always use your turn signal BEFORE you change lanes. Not while you’re changing lanes or after you have changed lanes. It’s a common courtesy to other drivers to put on your signal BEFORE you change lanes.
3. Always use your turn signal when you are making a turn. Even if no-one is around, get into the habit of using turn signals at all times, in all situations.
4. While driving, don’t do anything that takes your concentration off of what your primary purpose is — DRIVING! Don’t fiddle with your radio, don’t look at your phone, don’t do ANYTHING that pulls your brain off the job of driving and remaining focused on everything going on around you. People don’t really get the idea that when you’re moving at 65 miles per hour, things happen ridiculously fast! You must be totally focused on the task of driving and being alert.
5. When driving in any kind of bad weather, be in rain, snow, sleet, or whatever — stay focused, drive slower. For rain, put four times the number of car lengths between you and the car in front of you. So if you normally drive with 2-3 car lengths between you and the other car, then put 6-12 car lengths between when driving in rain. When driving in snow, I recommend bumping that up to five times the number of car lengths, so in this example 10-15 car lengths. Snow is very unforgiving and if someone in front of you has something go wrong, you want to be able to have the space to react. Also when driving in snow, it’s a good idea to place your wheels into the tracks left behind by the car in front of you.
6. Always, always, always wear a seat belt. In nearly every state in America it’s the law. Again, people don’t comprehend the force that is applied to your body in an impact accident. Without the seat belt there to restrain you, you could fly through the broken windshield or side window and that’s going to be game over.
7. When going into a curve on a road or on/off-ramp, you want to brake before the curve and then as you go into the curve gently push down on the accelerator to speed up. Never go into a curve at full speed and then brake in the middle of the curve. Some vehicles could over-turn in those situations. So brake early, go into the curve and give your vehicle some gas to get through the curve. Take extra care when the road is wet or icy.
8. Follow the speed limit within 5-10 mph. If the speed limit is 55 mph, then you can go up to 60-62 mph without any problem. If other cars are passing you as if you’re standing still, stick to the right lanes and don’t worry about those other knuckleheads. More than likely you might see them on the side of the road later on, with a police officer talking to them. If you don’t know the speed limit of a certain stretch of road, then take the safe route and go 55 on a highway, 40 on a major roadway and 25-30 on a side street.
9. When changing multiple lanes on any roadway, always do it ONE LANE AT A TIME! Change into the lane, hold there, check around you for other cars, change into the next lane, rinse and repeat. Always use your turn signal — can’t stress that enough.
10. My last point is also one of great importance. RELAX! Don’t stress, don’t worry. Follow the steps I have outlined above and you will be more than halfway to becoming a safe and alert driver. Always double check and second guess everything before you do anything in your car. Always make sure your car is well maintained, your tires have good tread and you’re awesome! Last, but not least, I highly highly recommend joining AAA. If anything goes wrong, you have them to assist you on the road with gasoline or to have your vehicle towed. I have been a member of AAA for nearly as long as I have been driving and they have come to my rescue on more than one occasion.
God speed! Happy and safe driving!