There is an inherent danger in driving, but by recognizing some key factors that lead to collisions and injuries, you can help reduce your chances of experiencing them in the first place. While some of these may seem like common sense, others require a more conscious effort to avoid.
Obeying the speed limit
Following posted speed limits is one of the most obvious, but also most effective ways to reduce driving danger. While increased familiarity with a road may cause drivers to question the speed limit and feel more comfortable exceeding it, it’s important to realize that speed limits are set for a reason.
In fact, in adverse weather conditions, even driving the speed limit may be too fast to safely handle your vehicle. Slick roads and poor visibility may make driving the typical speed limit dangerous, so slowing down is one of the important ways to stay safe in winter weather. When in doubt, always drive the speed that feels the safest for the current road conditions.
Cell phone use
So much of the communication we do these days is through our cell phones. It can almost feel like second nature to check our text messages as soon as we receive them, even in a situation like driving where your focus is critical.
To help combat these urges, one of the best solutions is to remove the temptation entirely. In addition, using an app to block texting capabilities while you’re on the road may be just what it takes to break the habit.
Other distractions in the car
In addition to cell phones, a car can contain many distractions that lead to accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2021, distracted driving cost the lives of 3,522 people. Anything that can shift the driver’s focus from the road, for even a second or two, can lead to problems. The CDC defines three types of distractions, which often combine, making the distraction worse:
- Visual distractions: These consist of anything that takes your eyes off the road. Reading a text message, looking at pictures on a passenger’s phone or looking at the floor for something you’ve dropped are all examples of visual distractions.
- Manual distractions: Eating, changing radio stations, tinkering with your phone to connect to Bluetooth, and other activities that take your hands off the wheel all demonstrate manual distractions.
- Cognitive distractions: These include anything that takes your mind off of driving. Talking to passengers, experiencing mental distress, or talking on the phone could all be sources of cognitive distraction.
It’s a good idea to remain mindful of and minimize potential sources of distraction in your car as you drive, and make a conscious effort to avoid them. If you must eat, pull safely into a parking space before doing so. Avoid passenger distractions by politely telling them you’ll look at their photos when you stop.
Driving while drowsy
Driving while tired or drowsy poses a big driving risk, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017, an estimated 91,000 police-reported accidents involved drowsy drivers. Falling asleep for even a few seconds could be all it takes to cause an accident.
The CDC recommends some tips for avoiding common causes of drowsy driving:
- Commit to a healthy sleeping schedule: Remember that adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and teens should get eight. Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps make sure you always feel rested and alert.
- Recognize signs of drowsy driving: Stay aware of frequent yawning or blinking, difficulty remembering the previous few miles of driving and drifting out of your lane. These are all potential signs that you should find somewhere to pull off and rest before finishing your drive.
- Avoid taking medicine that makes you drowsy before a drive: Some medications have the side effects of drowsiness. Many of these warn the user not to operate vehicles or heavy machinery while under their effects.