Something very scary happened Saturday when I was out running errands. As I was driving down the street, a woman pulled out from a parking lot directly in front of me! That’s not so unusual here in Memphis, but what made this one stand out were the round eyes of a pre-schooler peering at me over the rear door panel as I slammed on my brakes. I was so close I could see his big brown eyes blink. The driver (his mother, I presume) was oblivious; she was on her cell phone.
While I’m sure none of YOU need safe driving makeovers, I thought a few safe driving tips couldn’t hurt. Maybe the cell phone lady will read this.
1) Before you think about getting in your car, consider your condition. Are you too sleepy to drive? Too angry? Too happy (as in, intoxicated)? Too…anything other than attentive? Take a few moments to really think about the fact that you’ll be guiding a potentially lethal weapon through the streets. There is never a more appropriate time for mindfulness than when you get behind the wheel of a car.
2) Consider the condition of your car. It’s not a bad idea to check the tires before you get in (I learned this the hard way a few months ago.). Once in the car, take a second before cranking up to turn the radio volume to zero. From what I understand, this is especially important if your teenager was the last one to drive the car. Also, check your seat position and that all mirrors are properly adjusted. Finally, check the gas gauge before you leave. I’m always surprised when my little ‘close to empty’ light blinks on, and even though I probably have a good 30 miles before I go completely empty, I panic.
3) Fasten your seat belt. It’s the law. (In TN, and if it’s not the law in your area, it should be.)
4) It’s a good idea to leave 5-10 minutes earlier than you need to so that you’ll have plenty of time to adjust to any delays. I’d rather sit in the car and read
People The New Yorker because I arrived early than to have a major stress episode over being late. (One of my pet peeves)
5) Allow plenty of distance between your car and the one in front of you. The proper distance is debatable and dependent on traffic conditions. The three-second rule works for me on highway driving. When the rear of the vehicle you’re following (which is what you’d probably hit first if they stopped suddenly) passes some fixed mark on the pavement , count, “One thousand one, one thousand two”, etc., until the front of your vehicle passes the same mark. If the front of your vehicle crosses the line first, you’re going too fast.
6) Obey Speed Limits. Excessive speed is a big factor in many traffic accidents.
7) Do not talk or text on your cell phone while driving. Please. I can’t remember where I read this, but the chances of your being in a traffic accident increase by over 400% if you’re talking on your cell phones.
8) Slow down in bad weather. Here’s a saying I like a lot: “If the roads are wet, then drive like it’s snowing. If the roads have snow, then drive like they’re icy. If the roads are icy, then don’t drive.”
9) Drive with your headlights on, even in good weather. Other cars will see you much sooner and more clearly.
10) Stop signs are not suggestions. They really mean STOP.
11) Don’t assume that you have a clear path when a traffic light turns green. Someone who didn’t leave for their destination 5-10 minutes early might blow their red light, and it would be a pity if you were in the middle of the intersection at the time. When a light turns green, look left, then right, straight ahead, then left again before proceeding through the light.
12) Keep your eyes moving. Notice what is happening on the sides of the road and check your mirrors every 6-8 seconds.
13) If you’re driving on a road that allows parking, stay near the center and be prepared for someone in a parked car to suddenly swing open their door. That’s only funny in the movies.
14) You should always have contact numbers and personal information (insurance info, medical needs, etc.) in an easy-to-find location in the car.
15) When an emergency vehicle approaches, pull to the right shoulder of the road and STOP.
This probably doesn’t begin to cover all safe driving tips, but it’s a start. I wish you safe travels today and always. I know I’ll be a little more attentive.
[photo by marktrash via Flickr]