With the winter season upon us, driving requires a bit of extra caution and care. Any time of year may be dangerous however if you don’t take basic safety into consideration every time you get behind the wheel.
Whether navigating through snow or fighting traffic on your daily commute, here are ten tips every driver should bear in mind to make sure you arrive at your destination safely.
Make sure your vehicle is road-ready
Whether this means making sure you have enough fuel, your tyres are fine, or adjusting mirrors and seats prior to starting your engine, make sure you can see, you feel comfortable behind the wheel, and that all basic necessary functions are in order so you don’t need to make adjustments while driving.
Turn off your mobile
It should be clear to everybody by now that it is illegal for you to be holding your phone while you are driving a vehicle. If you use your mobile as a sat-nav, then it should only be used if it is hands-free. It may seem difficult to do but try turning off your mobile if you are going to be driving. There is no phone call, text message, or app so important that anyone needs to die over it.
Don’t multi-task when driving
We’ve already mentioned that you shouldn’t have your mobile on and in your hand while you are driving, but what about food or drinks? Taking your eyes off the road for even a second can have dangerous or even fatal consequences. Driving is not the place to try and eat or have a coffee while driving in any situation. Put down the cup and save the snacks for when you arrive at your destination.
Be wary in inclement weather
We should all be more careful when driving in snowy or icy conditions, but rain can be just as dangerous, especially within the first twenty minutes of a cloudburst. Slow down, make sure your headlights are on, make sure your windscreen wipers work, and keep your windscreen clear of debris or streaks.
Make sure all your indicators work, your brakes are in good condition, and your tyres can grip the road’s surface. If your windscreen wipers begin to make noises when they go across the screen, it may be time to have them replaced. Only one headlight works? Replace the other one that doesn’t as soon as you can. Visibility is greatly reduced during bad weather, so make sure you can see far enough ahead when you travel in traffic.
Be prepared in case of an accident or break-down
Sometimes accidents happen no matter how careful we are, and sometimes vehicles break down when we least need them to. This is especially inconvenient (and more than a little alarming) when we’re already out and driving. In case of a break-down, ease your car off the road and out of the way of traffic as much as possible. Contact emergency services as quickly as you can if necessary. Turn on your hazard lights and, if possible, wait a safe distance from your car until help arrives.
If you break down at night and your battery is dead or dying, keep something brightly coloured in your vehicle such as a spare high-vis vest. You can then either drape it safely out an offside window or tie it securely to the aerial of your vehicle if it has one, this should make your vehicle more visible to other road users to help them avoid crashing into it.
If you suspect fluids are leaking out of the vehicle, exit the vehicle immediately and maintain a safe distance away from your car in case of a small fire or explosion.
Always wear your seat belt
Seat belt laws are to ensure you and your passengers’ safety. Gone are the days of having seat belts as “optional”- the days of seat belt laws are here to stay and it’s a good thing too. Buckle up every time you get in a vehicle, whether you are the driver or passenger. Many fatalities could have been avoided entirely if every passenger and driver would simply buckle their seat belts upon sitting down in the vehicle. Before your key is in the ignition and you start the engine, make sure everyone in the vehicle has their seat belt on.
Maintain a safe distance in traffic
Whether traffic is heavy or light, make sure you follow the “two-second” rule—this means you have two seconds to tap the brakes and stop your car if the car in front of you stops. Be mindful of pedestrians, children, and people on motorcycles if you are driving in a residential area.
Obey the speed limit
Just because you might have dreams of becoming a Formula One driver doesn’t mean you should drive like one. Always obey the speed limit. Know the speed limit for residential roads and motorway driving and always drive at that speed or below. Maintaining a constant speed is one of the best ways to avoid an accident and maintaining a safe distance at any speed is the best way to make sure no one gets hit or injured.
Don’t drink and drive
This should be obvious, but every year people get arrested or killed because somebody choose to go to the pub or club, drink too much, and then try to drive themselves home. Drink-driving is not just illegal, it is deadly too. If you started out the evening not intending to drink but you got caught up in the moment and decided to join in the fun, there are other options. Call a taxi, or call a friend or family. Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive.
Take a nap if you’re feeling drowsy
Whether it involves city driving or country driving, always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t “zone out” and then wonder how you got to your destination. If you are alone in the car and feeling drowsy, pull over if it is safe to do so and try taking a nap for 20 minutes. You might want to try turning the radio up or opening one of the windows but it’s better not to be driving at all if you feel like you’re fighting to keep your eyes open no matter how short a distance you may have left to travel.
Stay safe when driving and travelling. Everyone has somewhere they need to be, and we all deserve to arrive at our destinations safely.