Safe Summer Driving - Part 1

Review a safe-start checklist before putting the car in gear. Safe drivers buckle up, adjust mirrors, fine-tine seat and sound settings, program the GPS device, and commit to obeying traffic laws every time they slide behind the steering wheel. They also secure children in car seats, crate pets, and secure loose cargo before driving off. Accident-free trips have sensible beginnings.

Scan the roadway constantly. Safe drivers know their surroundings, including what's ahead, beside, and behind them. They keep a buffer between themselves and other vehicles. Visual alertness is essential to avoiding a crash.

Adjust to changing road conditions. Safe drivers know they cannot always travel at the posted speed limit. Fog, rain, darkness, blinding sun, and heavy traffic create hazardous driving situations. Know when to slow down.

Maintain adequate following distances and obey posted speed limits. Safe drivers realize it takes longer to stop or turn a fast-moving vehicle. High-speed crashes often cause serious injury and property damage. Following too close and driving too fast give you less time to react to unexpected situations.

Check thoroughly before pulling around another vehicle. Safe drivers evaluate their surroundings before passing. Speed, visibility, and space may prevent overtaking a slower car, even in an approved passing zone.

Maintain focus. Safe drivers know that using cell phones (even with hands-free technology), mapping devices, eating, talking to passengers, daydreaming, and more shifts hands, eyes, and thoughts away from the task at hand. Minimize or eliminate distractions whenever possible.

Avoid drowsy driving. Safe drivers know the importance of taking breaks or switching operators when weariness sets in. Fatigue compromises judgment, reduces visual awareness, slows response time, and contributes to thousands of crashes yearly. Be well-rested behind the steering wheel.

Use turn signals, headlights, brakes, and horns appropriately. Safe drivers understand the importance of being seen and giving other vehicles ample warning about directional changes. In addition, they stop rather than race through yellow lights. Defensive driving averts crashes.

Keep emotion out of the driver's seat. Safe drivers do not personalize other motorists' mistakes. Yielding to an aggressive driver can avoid a crash with an erratic, possibly unstable individual.

Pay attention to vehicle maintenance. Safe drivers replace threadbare tires, service engine belts, and hoses, check brake performance, replace bulbs, and replenish fluids. Operating a poorly maintained vehicle increases the possibility of an accident. In addition, they're familiar with safety features (anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, lane guards, cruise control, etc.) built into the vehicle.