Safety Tip Detail

Car Safety Tips & Tools

Improper driving is a factor in 87.4% of all accidents.

1. Stay Sober
41% of accidents involve an intoxicated or alcohol-impaired driver or non-motorist.*

About two in every five Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic accident at some point in their lives.*

Drivers whose blood alcohol level is .05 are between two and seven times more likely to have an accident than drivers who have no alcohol in their blood.

The statistics speak for themselves. Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol - period! When you do drink, remember these facts:
* Depending on your size and weight, your body needs an hour or more to process the alcohol in just one drink. That means you should wait an hour or more for every drink you consume before you get behind the wheel.
* Know how much alcohol is in your drinks. One 12 oz. can of beer, one glass of wine, and one mixed drink each contain about one ounce of alcohol. Make sure that your hosts do not mix extra strong drinks.
* Take public transportation if available, or designate a driver who will stay sober. The life you save may be your own.

2. Stay Alert
Drivers who are sleepy or fatigued demonstrate the same impaired judgment and decreased reaction times as drunk drivers. When you begin to feel tired at the wheel, take a break from your driving to wake yourself up, or ask someone else to drive for a spell while you take a nap.

3. Drive Defensively
In addition to simply obeying traffic laws, responsible drivers do all that they can to avoid accidents. More often than not, this means looking out for other drivers who are less responsible.

Defensive driving includes...
Taking extra caution at intersections
Staying out of other people's blind spots (especially truck drivers)
Thinking ahead - Are there children playing in the area? What's around the bend?
Being prepared to stop or swerve suddenly to avoid collision

4. Watch Your Distance
About 10% of all accidents are caused by tailgating (following too closely).*

Remember the Two-Second Rule from your driver's test? When driving under normal road and weather conditions, your car should be at least two seconds behind the car in front of you. Here's how to check your distance:
1. Watch the vehicle ahead pass some fixed point - a mile marker, sign post, etc.
2. Count off the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot in the road ("one thousand and one, one thousand and two...")
3. If you reach the mark before you count the two seconds, you are following too closely. Slow down and check your distance again. If road or weather conditions are not good, use your best judgment to increase your following distance.

5. Adapt to Conditions
Death rates for nighttime driving are four times higher than daytime driving.*

Slow down and leave wider space cushions between you and other drivers when you encounter bad weather, glare, narrow/twisting roads and low light conditions.

Night driving: Remember that, even with headlights, it is extremely difficult to detect pedestrians, bicyclists and others. Use your headlights between the hours of sunset and sunrise. For the best visibility, use your high beams when you are over 500 feet from oncoming vehicles or 300 feet behind the vehicles ahead.

Fog or smoke: Turn on your low-beam headlights and fog lights (if your vehicle is equipped with them). Be prepared to stop suddenly. If the fog or smoke becomes so thick that you cannot see well enough to keep driving, pull completely off the pavement and stop. Turn on your emergency flashers.

Rain: Remember that roads are extra slippery at the start of a rain shower because oil, which has raised to the road surface, has not had a chance to wash away. Heavy rains will cause more problems because your tires can begin to hydroplane like water skis. In this case, the key to keeping your tires in contact with the road is to simply slow down. Also, keep your headlights on when it's raining at any time of day.

Snow and ice: An important skill to learn in snow and ice is the controlled slide. If your vehicle begins to slide, take the following steps to regain control:
1. Take your foot off the gas pedal.
2. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply them firmly. Otherwise, avoid using brakes, pumping them gently only if you are about to hit something.
3. Steer the car into the direction of the skid to straighten out the vehicle.
4. Then steer in the direction you wish to go.

6. Keep Your Vehicle Well Maintained
Some of the most hazardous vehicle conditions (worn tires, bad brakes, malfunctioning lights, etc.) are relatively simple and inexpensive to correct.

You should take the maintenance recommendations in your vehicle's manual seriously. In addition to making your auto a safer place for you and your family, regular maintenance will increase the life and value of your car.

If your car does break down while you're on the road, follow these rules:
Park your vehicle so it can be seen for a safe distance (200 feet, if possible) in each direction.
Move your car off the pavement.
Turn on your emergency flashers.
Get all passengers out on the side away from traffic.
Tie a white cloth on the door handle or antenna.
Raise the hood.

7. Use Seat Belts and Child Safety Seats
Lap/shoulder safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45% and reduce the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50% (for light trucks, the reduced risks increase to 60% & 65%).*

Child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 69% for infants less than one year old, and by 47% for children one through four years old. All states and the District of Columbia have had restraint laws in effect since 1985.*

Seat belts are life-savers, so make sure you wear them correctly. Lap and shoulder belts should be fastened snugly, with the lap belt around your hips, not your stomach.

Infant carriers or children's car seats must be used for children under three years old and younger (or under 40 pounds). Auto booster seats work well for children who are too big for a children's car seat but too short for your car's shoulder strap.

Be sure to use your safety belts even if you are just going around the block. Most accidents occur close to home and at speeds of less than 40 mph.

8. Avoid Distractions
Chances are you've been cut off by someone playing with their radio, dialing a cell phone, trying to eat some fast-food, etc. These can be dangerous practices. The following tips should help you keep your eyes on the road.
* Do not read or write while driving. Pull over to check out that road map.
* Set your phone's memory to speed-dial commonly used numbers so you don't have to press so many buttons.
* Choose a car phone that offers hands-free speaker phone operation.
* Learn how to operate your stereo without taking your eyes off the road. Selecting the wrong station on your first try is much better than drifting into the wrong lane.