My teenage daughters are now driving. Being a car accident attorney, I unfortunately know firsthand all the things that can go wrong on our roads, risking injury to my daughters. As I have been teaching my daughters to drive, I have also been teaching them the common ways our clients’ accidents have happened.
My theory is that if I educate them on how car accidents commonly happen, I am also educating them in how to avoid car accidents. And so I hope to also educate you.
Judge a car by its cover. If you are driving near a car drifting in its lane, moving erratically, with dirty windows, and maybe showing many places of body damage, give this vehicle a wide clearance. If a car’s condition indicates an inattentive owner, it could easily suggest an inattentive and poor driver, too. Also, drifting in the lane often identifies a tired, drunk or cell phone-preoccupied driver — so you should get away from that vehicle.
Don’t drive your vehicle on empty. Fill up your gas tank before the warning light is on. A good guideline is to never let it get below a quarter of a tank. This prevents you from running out of gas in the middle of the road, and risking a car accident, and also having to stop at an unfamiliar, and possibly unsafe, gas station.
Allow plenty of time to reach your destination. Stop-and-go traffic, school bus stops, traffic signal stops, and bad weather create traffic delays and stress to your drive. Plan ahead to be on time.
Avoid drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is as much of impairment as driving while intoxicated. A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 2.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes (approximately 730 in 2009) and 2.0% of all crashes with nonfatal injuries (approximately 30,000 in 2009) involved drowsy driving. Think “you snooze, you lose.”
Beware aware of road rage. If someone flicks you off or honks their horn obnoxiously, don’t react. You never know if that person has road rage issues, and you don’t want to escalate the situation. Know that there are all types of personalities on our roads. Road rage is a real problem.
Don’t allow clutter to pile up in your car. A messy car can make for a messy accident. If you take your shoes off when you drive, put them in the back seat or trunk. Don’t allow things to slide or roll under your brake pedal. Heavy things, like textbooks, could become a dangerous projectile if you have to brake quickly. Or you might be distracted as they slide about your car, which means you won’t be able to give your full attention to the road.
Don’t tailgate. Always stay at least one car length behind the vehicle in front of you. While driving, you should be able to see the back tires of the car in front of you. If you’re traveling at a higher speed, maintain a further distance, enough so that you can see its side mirrors. The general rule is, the more you can spare, the better.
Get directions to where you’re going before you leave. Don’t rely on using the Google Maps on your phone. Consider printing easy-to-read directions before you leave your house. If you do get lost on the way, pull over into a lighted parking lot safely, and then check the GPS on your phone or call for directions. Don’t be a distracted driver while on the road.
Allow a safe distance – especially around large vehicles like semi-trucks. Consider the blind spots for other drivers around you, especially semi-trucks, and minimize the amount of time you spend in them. Remember that truck drivers have limited visibility. If you get behind a semi-truck, follow this rule: If you can’t see their face on the trucks side mirrors, they probably can’t see you. If you attempt to pass a truck, make sure you have plenty of time and space to maneuver safely.
Always use your turn signals. Even if you think you are the only driver at an intersection, use them anyway. As trivial as it seems, a 2012 national study reports that 1 -2 million accidents per year can be avoided by drivers using their turn signals. Turn signals are intended to let other drivers know what you intend to do, and allow enough time for the other driver to respond appropriately.
Do leave yourself an out. An out is a safe move that you can make should the worst happen. In practical terms, that means making sure that you have as much space as possible to maneuver your car if you need to do so quickly. For the most part, this consists of keeping people out of your blind spot and steering clear of the wall. This obviously isn’t an option in heavy traffic, but then again, there isn’t as much risk in heavy traffic because of the slow speed.
Be alert in parking lots. You may not think you are going fast enough to get hurt or to hurt someone else, but think again. We’ve represented many people injured in parking lot car accidents. Parking lots leave you particularly vulnerable to risk because of the competition for spots and the limited vision. The best advice is to drive slowly. Remember that getting a prime parking spot isn’t worth risking injury to you or someone else. Think of parking away from the front door – it’s safer for driving and you’ll get a little exercise in, too.
Know your blind spots. Just about every vehicle has at least one blind spot. These are minor flaws in a vehicle construction that block your vision for one reason or another. Adjust your side mirrors and rear view mirror to provide you with a complete view behind you, but don’t rely solely on them. Actually turn to look directly into the lanes beside you to avoid missing something left undetected by your mirrors. Most drivers can’t see in the area between their side mirror and their rear view mirror, which is why you’re supposed to swivel your head before changing lanes.
Move to the right for sirens and lights. Emergency vehicles can appear suddenly in your rear-view mirror. If you see lights flashing and hear a siren sounding, do the following: Move to the right, apply your brakes slowly and evenly until the emergency vehicle passes you, then resume normal driving. Remember that emergency vehicles sometimes have to drive through red lights or against the normal direction of traffic.
Don’t drive too fast for road conditions. Just because a speed limit is 65 mph doesn’t mean that’s the reasonable speed for the current weather conditions. Rain can dramatically reduce your car’s braking and handling abilities, as well as limit your visibility. You have a duty to drive as a reasonable person would under the circumstances. Which in a thunderstorm might be 25 mph in a 65 mph zone. And there is nothing wrong with pulling over to the side of the road, putting on your hazards, and waiting out the bad weather. Because you have allowed plenty of time to reach your destination.
Questions About Your Car Accident Case?
Call 1-813-915-1110 now to speak with Attorney Mike Hancock for a free explanation of what money you are entitled to recover for your medical bills and lost wages. Educate yourself on how to avoid car accidents. Be a safe driver. Our phones are answered 24/7/365. You can also reach us by e-mail.