How to Become a Safer Driver
The reasons for wanting to know how to become a safer driver are too numerous to mention. However, some of the less appreciated reasons include:
- Cheaper auto insurance: Insurance companies rate drivers based on their driving history. If your driving history is spotty, you will be deemed high risk and will pay higher premiums as a result.
- Lower risk of criminal charges: Over 40 million tickets are issued every year for speeding alone. Once you add in other moving violations as well as DUIs and other illegal and unsafe forms of driving, several million drivers risk jail time, fines, and having to hire a bail bond agent to post bail by driving in an unsafe manner.
- Reduced exposure to traffic injury or death: Unsafe driving causes over 2 million accidents per year. Not only were those accidents responsible for injuries to the at-fault driver, but to innocent passengers and bystanders too.
- Better finances: Every one of those 2 million accidents exposed the at-fault driver to lawsuits, property damage, and medical bills. As bankruptcy attorneys know well, over 60% of bankruptcies are triggered by medical bills.
Now you know the reasons why to become a safer driver, but do you know how to become a safer driver? Here are seven steps for how to become a safer driver:
The majority of accidents caused by driver error come from inattention. Thus, one of the easiest steps for how to become a safer driver is to avoid distracted driving. In fact, over 40% of driver-caused accidents could be avoided by eliminating distractions and paying closer attention to the road. Some examples of inattentive driving include:
- Improper lookout: This catch-all category includes any time that a driver causes an accident because the driver fails to see something. This could be accidents where a driver hits a pedestrian or bicyclist, pulls in front of an oncoming vehicle, or backs into a light post.
- Electronics: 48 states ban texting while driving and 20 states require hands-free technology be used for voice calls while driving. These laws were spurred by the nearly 400,000 injuries and deaths caused every year by crashes caused by distracted drivers.
- Other distractions: Anything that requires drivers to take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, or their mind off their driving can pose a distraction. Some examples include eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, putting on makeup, or looking for a lost object.
Distracted driving is especially dangerous at high speeds. At 55 miles per hour, your vehicle can cover about 300 feet during a 5-second distraction. Even if you are fortunate enough to avoid hitting a vehicle or person, your car could leave the road or strike a stationary obstacle, resulting in substantial expenses for body collision repair.
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol causes about 10,000 deaths per year at a cost of about $44 billion to the U.S. economy. These costs include everything from medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and vehicle repair bills. Even a single car drunk driving crash could cost your insurance company thousands of dollars for a few stitches and auto glass repair.
Drunk and drugged driving are often targets of those teaching how to become a safer driver because they are preventable. If every driver and every friend were responsible enough to recognize the signs of impairment and take a ride share or taxi instead of driving, the U.S. would see a substantial drop in impaired driving accidents.
Driving while under the influence can have a severe impact on your driving skills including:
- Lowered alertness
- Impaired decision-making and judgment
- Slowed reactions
- Loss of coordination
Drunk driving law makes it illegal in most states to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. This is equivalent to about four to five drinks for the average size person. Someone who is smaller than average might reach 0.08% in fewer than four drinks while someone who is larger than average might require more than five drinks to reach 0.08%. However, generally speaking, each can of beer, glass of wine, shot of liquor, or bottle of malt liquor raises your blood alcohol content by about 0.02%.
Another key for how to become a safer driver is to remember your driver education classes and drive defensively. Defensive driving is a state of mind where you look for ways to anticipate other drivers’ actions and proactively avoid putting your vehicle in their path.
Defensive driving can minimize the risk that you will cause an accident or fall victim to one. For example, defensive driving suggests that you should leave adequate space between you and the car ahead of you. This gives you the time to stop or otherwise move out of the way if the leading car hits its brakes.
Similarly, defensive driving would have you look for escape routes while you are driving so you do not get trapped into an accident that is not your fault. For example, if you are on a multi-lane freeway, you want to leave yourself an opening rather than riding between multiple vehicles. That way, you will have a place to go if you one of the cars around you blows a tire, swerves suddenly, or stops unexpectedly.
Some other principles of defensive driving include:
- Plan ahead: By positioning your vehicle where it needs to be early, you can avoid rapid lane changes that might surprise other drivers.
- Never make assumptions: Whether it means checking your blind spots or anticipating other drivers turning in front of you, you can reduce your risk of accidents by remaining vigilant when driving.
- Be patient: Patience is a virtue, particularly when driving. Slowing down, avoiding aggressive driving, and observing the rules of the road might make your commute a few minutes slower but will get you to your destination safer.
The greatest benefit of defensive driving is that you minimize your risk of getting into an auto accident, including those caused by others. Falling victim to an accident caused by someone else and having to hire a personal injury attorney to receive the compensation needed for medical bills and car repair can be devastating. Avoiding those accidents by learning how to become a safer driver can reduce your risk of getting caught by surprise.
Keep Your Vehicle in Good Condition
Vehicle problems are responsible for about 40,000 accidents in the U.S. every year. As a result, auto repair services are key components of how to become a safer driver.
By far, the most common cause of accidents resulting from vehicle problems is a bad tire. Most of these accidents are preventable with a few steps:
- maintain proper inflation in your tires: Underinflated or overinflated tires can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
- Inspect your tires: Worn tires can lose their grip on roads, particularly when there is water or debris on the road surface.
- Replace tires on schedule: Tires should be replaced at least every six years according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tires that are subjected to more extreme conditions (such as heat or cold), higher than normal mileage, or abuse (such as over- or under-inflation).
Another way that you can keep your vehicle in good condition is to stay aware of any technical service bulletins or recalls for your vehicle. Recalls are generally reserved for serious safety issues. This means that if a recall is issued for your vehicle, you should make every effort to take it to an authorized service center for repair.
For example, in one of the best-known cases of recalls, the combination of design problems with the Ford Explorer and manufacturing problems with Bridgestone/Firestone tires exposed drivers to a high risk of rollover accidents. Once the problem was identified, the vehicles were recalled for truck repair service to replace the tires and the Ford Explorer was redesigned in later model years.
The NHTSA survey also found other systems that can cause a critical failure leading to a car accident. Problems with brakes, steering, engine, suspension, and transmission contribute to about 12,000 vehicle accidents per year. Understanding how to become a safer driver includes keeping all these systems in good working condition. Regular service and inspections can prevent your vehicle from falling into disrepair and causing a fatal car accident
Avoid Unsafe Road Conditions
Unsafe road conditions account for about 55,000 accidents in the U.S. every year. Some examples of the road conditions that cause accidents include:
- Debris on roads
- Snow and ice
- Blind intersections
- Sharp turns
- Poorly placed or confusing road signs or signals
To learn how to become a safer driver, you must be prepared for unexpected road conditions. Some steps that you can take to lower the risk of an accident due to poor road conditions include:
- Limit driving in bad weather: If you do not need to go out in snowy, foggy, or rainy conditions, stay at home.
- Slow down: Speeding is dangerous in good conditions, but speeding when conditions are poor can be a disaster.
- Stay alert: As you might remember from drivers education, you should keep your eyes on the road. Distractions, including distractions outside your car like billboards or digital signs, can shorten the time for you to recognize and react to a road hazard.
One of the primary reasons you should try to avoid accidents due to road conditions is the difficulties you will have if you try to recover any compensation for an accident caused by road conditions. Specifically, if your auto insurance is not sufficient to cover your medical bills and property damages, you might need to sue the city or county responsible for the road conditions. Although there were 1.35 million lawyers in the U.S. in 2019, you might find it difficult to find one that will advise you to sue a city or county.
A lawsuit by an accident injury attorney against a city or county for being negligent in its design, construction, or maintenance of roads can be very difficult. Even if your city or county can be sued (a process that is barred by many states), you and your lawyer would have to prove that the city or county was negligent and not just making a judgment call about how roads are designed and built.
Understand the Limitations of Trucks
Truck traffic has increased in recent years because of the growth of e-commerce. That is, since goods ordered online must be shipped, delivery companies and the postal service have had to increase their capacity. This has resulted in an increase in the number of trucks on the road.
With this increase in trucks, drivers must become more accustomed to sharing the roads with them. Thus, it is critical for drivers to understand that driving a semi-truck and trailer is very different from driving a passenger car. For example:
- A truck is heavier. This means that the truck will take longer to stop, accelerate slower, and barrel right through anything in its path. As a result, drivers should give trucks more space and allow for greater reaction time in the event of an emergency.
- Truck drivers have limited visibility. Remember, when a truck is pulling a trailer, the trailer blocks the driver’s view behind the truck. Moreover, the driver has large blind spots, particularly on the right side of the truck and trailer. Drivers should minimize the time spent alongside trucks or trailers so you do not get hit during a lane change.
- Truck drivers are sometimes fatigued. Due to rigorous schedules, truck drivers sometimes suffer fatigue while they are driving. Being patient and staying vigilant while passing or following a truck can help you to escape any accidents that may result from inattention or fatigue by truck drivers.
Driving carefully around trucks and understanding their limitations will not only be critical to understanding how to become a safer driver, but it can also help you if you are ever involved in a truck accident. Specifically, it can often be difficult to assign fault for a traffic accident. The more careful you are, the easier it will be for a truck accident lawyer to show that you were not responsible for the resulting accident.
Although it may be difficult to control, you should try to keep your wits while you are driving and particularly when you are in an emergency situation. Decision errors account for about 684,000 auto accidents every year in the U.S. Illegal maneuvers, misjudging another vehicle’s speed, and other bad decision making create the conditions for an auto accident.
Worse yet, freezing or driving aggressively after making a mistake can compound that mistake. Similarly, becoming enraged after someone else makes a mistake can lead to road rage. Research indicates that road rage caused over 12,000 injuries and over 200 murders in the U.S. Everyone, including you, makes mistakes and remaining calm in the face of bad driving can save lives.
Lessons in how to become a better driver can also be viewed as how to become a more patient and more attentive driver. Remaining calm, driving defensively, slowing down, and understanding the limitations of the other drivers around you can save money and lives. Driving is one of those activities where prevention can be worth more than a cure. Avoiding accidents and the conditions that create accidents will help you avoid the misery and cost of injuries and financial losses that result from accidents.