From the moment you get into your car until the moment you exit it, you are at the mercy of other drivers. We can’t control what other drivers do, but we can make sure we are prepared and ready to respond. Here are defensive tips so you’re prepared for the perils of the road. Also, check out this infographic about safe driving.
Like people, each car has a unique personality. Some features work better than others, and conditions can cause a vehicle to react a certain way. Cars are quirky, but predicable. Knowing your car’s limits and behavioral patterns can help you predict how it will respond in certain situations. How long does it take you to stop and how much pressure is required on the brake pedal? What’s your turn radius? Does your vehicle lean when you round a corner? Does it quake when you hit a certain speed? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you avoid accidents by maneuvering your car based on its unique capabilities.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that one of the most common causes of two-lane auto accidents is unsafe lane changes. It may be tempting to swing from lane to lane when you’re running late for work or when you’re frustrated with the Sunday driver in front of you, but in doing so, you increase the likelihood of a collision. Most of these accidents involve cars traveling parallel to each other when one suddenly makes a lane change.
Most cars have at least one line of vision that is not clearly evident in the rearview or side mirrors. Even carefully placed mirrors often cannot cover every possible angle, so it’s imperative to be aware of where your mirrors fail to offer adequate sight. One of the most effective mirror position options was published by The Society of Automotive Engineers in 1995. It promoted moving the side mirrors far outward so that the angle of view barely overlaps the view of the rearview mirror. This method virtually eliminates blind spots. Drivers who are accustomed to being able to see the side of their own cars in the side mirrors may find it hard to adjust to at first.
Many of us learned the tried-and-true 10-and-2 position as the optimal placement of hands on the steering wheel, but with the introduction of safer cars has come the introduction of new methodology. Most driving instructors, as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have changed their tune, and now advocate 9-and-3 as the correct position for gripping the wheel. The reasoning is that cars handle differently these days and require a wider steering position. Also moving your hands over an inch or two means you’re not blocking the airbag.
Like the human body, cars perform best when in good shape. Routine work on your auto, like oil changes, fluid refills and tire rotations can make all the difference in your car’s driveability. It’s best not to push the timeline on manufacture recommendations, or exceed the recommended mileage on tires and parts, as pushing the limits on these factors could result in unpredictable behavior or damage. Blowing a tire that had worn tread is a completely avoidable hassle.
We can never be sure of what we will encounter on the road, but we can prepare for and respond to whatever comes our way. Be safe and drive smart.