We don’t often fully realize how dangerous being on the roadways is. Because driving is such a big part of our lives, we see it as an everyday activity, but it also happens to be one of the riskiest things most of us do, statistically.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were almost 43,000 traffic deaths in 2021, which was a big increase over the past years.
While you can’t completely eliminate the risks of being in an accident, the following are tips that can keep you safer.
1. Know What Causes Most Car Accidents
If you understand the riskiest situations on the roadways and what’s most likely to cause an accident, you can be proactive about avoiding certain situations.
Some of the reasons for traffic accidents include going over the posted speed limit, aggressive or reckless driving, driving while fatigued, distracted driving, and driving while influenced by alcohol and drugs.
There are also things that are outside of your control that contribute to crashes, like a defective car part, bad weather, or problematic roadway conditions.
2. Focus On What You’re Doing
While there are things that can lead to accidents that are out of your control, one of the things that are in your control and can make the biggest difference in whether or not you’re in an accident is avoiding distracted driving.
Every day in the United States, nine people are killed in accidents involving at least one distracted driver, and another 1000 people are hurt daily.
There are three categories of distraction when you’re driving. Manual distractions are when your hands are distracted. Visual means you’re distracted with your eyes, and cognitive is when you’re distracted by thought processes.
Anything that’s taking your attention off the road is distracted driving, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal.
Texting is one of the worst distractions, with more than a million crashes per year being attributed to the use of phones while driving.
Other ways to reduce your distractions, along with keeping your phone away, include limiting the number of passengers, not eating while you’re driving, and pulling over if you feel tired while you’re driving.
3. Watch for Intoxicated Drivers
You should know that if you drive while under the influence, it’s one of the riskiest activities you can engage in. You may already avoid drugs and alcohol when you’re going to be driving, but what about other drivers?
Always maintain a generous following distance from any vehicle, especially one that you notice is driving erratically or appears as if it could be intoxicated. If you notice a car swerving, repeatedly slowing and speeding up, or acting strangely, stay as far away as you can and contact law enforcement.
Be cautious at intersections because this is where drunk driving accidents often occur. Drunk drivers tend to fail to obey the signals or stop signs here. Take your time as you’re going through an intersection, looking both ways and yielding to any traffic that’s oncoming.
Don’t drive late at night if you can help with it, especially on weekends and holidays. Summer holidays and New Year’s Eve are especially known for times when there’s a high likelihood you could be sharing the road with someone who’s intoxicated.
4. Identify Risky Driving Situations
One situation that’s risky for drivers is intersections. It’s mentioned above in reference to drunk drivers, but even outside of the risk of people under the influence, intersections are a major danger zone.
Distracted drivers might miss a signal as it changes, or they might not notice a vehicle that pauses before it turns.
Defensive driving is best for navigating intersections. After the light turns green, take a second to ensure no one is coming through the intersection. Watch for drivers who could be speeding as they try to catch a yellow light.
Single-vehicle accidents are another risk area. To avoid these, make sure that you’re driving properly for the weather around you, always pay attention, and don’t drive too fast.
Rear-end collisions can be avoided by driving strategically, meaning that you try to avoid situations that could lead you to have to suddenly use your brakes. Don’t take your eyes off the road, and keep your distance, especially if the weather is bad.
5. Try to Anticipate
Part of driving defensively requires that you’re always trying to anticipate what other people are going to do. Not only can this help you avoid surprises, but it keeps you actively engaged as you’re driving, so you don’t zone out and put yourself or others at risk.