20 Driving Tips Everyone Should Know
It's been raining. As you drive through a patch of puddles, your steering wheel doesn't respond. Your car is hydroplaning, a condition where your tires begin to ride up on a film of water and lose contact with the road.
TO AVOID LOSING CONTROL OF YOUR CAR:
- Ease your foot off the accelerator. This will slow your vehicle down and help you maintain steering control.
- Avoid turning sharply or sudden, hard braking, which may force your car into a skid.
BEFORE YOU DRIVE
Remember: mixing high speeds, worn (or underinflated) tires, and lots of water is the perfect recipe for hydroplaning. Check your tires today. But even with good treads, hydroplaning may occur when water is deeper than the tread depth.
2. Bad Weather Braking
You're traveling down a road that is dotted with snow and patches of ice, on a blustery winter night. Suddenly the car in front of you begins to fishtail and lose control.
DRIVERS WITH ANTI-LOCK BRAKES SHOULD:
- Apply brakes fully, maintain pressure, and attempt to steer around the car. By applying brakes fully you will activate the anti-lock braking system, which modulates the brakes for you. This will slow your vehicle down and allow you to maintain steering control. Don't pump the brakes. Pumping anti-lock brakes reduces their effectiveness.
DRIVERS WITHOUT ANTI-LOCK BRAKES SHOULD:
- Apply brakes firmly but short of wheel lockup. Try to keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the upper part of your foot to apply a firm and steady pressure on the brake pedal to avoid wheel lockup.
No matter what kind of brakes you have, always leave enough room between you and the car in front of you. And always reduce speed in adverse weather and poor road conditions.
You are traveling at freeway speed in the left lane of the highway. Traffic is heavy. There is no shoulder on the left, and the highway is separated merely by a guardrail. Suddenly the car to your right makes a lane change into your lane, striking your car and forcing you into the guardrail.
TO MINIMIZE DAMAGE TO YOUR CAR AND YOUR RISK OF SERIOUS INJURY:
- Do not slam on your brakes. Maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel, and apply brakes firmly but not to a point of lockup. Then gradually steer away from the guardrail and come to a stop once traffic behind you has reacted to your predicament.
Once you have regained control, bring the car to a stop next to the guardrail. Do not attempt to cross lanes of heavy traffic.
4. Sharing the Road with Semi-Trucks
No one wants to meet a truck by accident. But get closer than 200 feet behind a truck, and you may be saying hello their blind spot.
WHEN FOLLOWING A TRUCK:
- Make sure you are far enough behind the truck so that the driver can see you in the side mirrors. If you can't see the truck's mirrors, chances are the driver can't see you. Following too closely also impairs your own vision of the road ahead and increase your changes for an accident or injury.
TO PASS A TRUCK:
- First check for no passing zone markings or signs. Check your mirrors, and signal your intention to move when it is safe to do so.
- Complete your pass as quickly as possible. Signal your intention to move back in front of the truck only when you can see the front of the truck in your rearview mirror.
On a level highway, it takes 3 to 5 seconds longer to pass a truck than a car.
5. Drunk Drivers
You are traveling down a highway at 2:30 in the morning at the speed limit. In your rear-view mirror you see a vehicle approaching. You notice the vehicle is slightly swerving and alternately speeding up and slowing down. You assume the driver is under the influence of alcohol. What is the best method to avoid the drunk driver?
TO AVOID THE DRUNK DRIVER:
- Signal, then make a right turn onto another roadway or a driveway. If you are on a long stretch of open highway, continue on until you can turn off and let the other car pull ahead. If you merely move onto the shoulder, you could risk being hit because drunk drivers have a tendency to focus on taillights.
- As the car passes, try to get a license plate number and a description of the vehicle. Then notify the police.
Remember: If you plan to drink, make arrangements in advance for a non-drinking "designated driver" or take a taxi.
6. Child Safety Seats
Child safety seats are required by law in all 50 states for good reason. Motor vehicle accidents are the number-one killer of children under the age of 5 in the United States.
TO HELP ENSURE YOUR CHILD'S SAFETY:
- Choose-and use-the proper type of safety seat for your child. There are rear facing seats for infants, convertible seats for infants and toddlers, and booster seats for older children who aren't quite big enough to use a safety belt. A word of caution: For cars with a passenger side air bag, a rear facing safety seat must never be placed in the front seat. It should always be in the back seat. Check your owner's manual for complete details on how to secure the child safety seat in your vehicle.
BEFORE YOU DRIVE
Make sure that you follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and that you're using the child safety seat properly.
7. Emergency Vehicles
You're traveling along in the left lane of a four-lane, undivided city street in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As you slowly creep along, you hear a siren. A check of your rearview mirror reveals a quickly approaching fire engine. Traffic has completely blocked the right-hand lane.
TO HELP THE EMERGENCY VEHICLE GET TO ITS DESTINATION:
- Stay where you are if traffic is too blocked to move into the right lane. Do not move to your left and into oncoming traffic lanes. You risk a head-on collision and also could interfere with the path of the emergency vehicle.
Emergency vehicles have the right to go into oncoming lanes to circumvent traffic. Remember: Emergency vehicles have sirens and lights to warn motorists of their path; you do not!
8. Following Too Closely
You're traveling down a busy two-lane street. There is a car in front of you and traffic is heavy in the oncoming lane. As you approach an intersection, an oncoming car suddenly makes an unsignaled left-hand turn in front of the car ahead of you. The car in front of you slams on the brakes hard, but it is too late. Your car rams into the back of the vehicle you were following. What could you have done to avoid this auto accident?
TO AVOID SUCH AN AUTO ACCIDENT:
- Allow plenty of distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. Space allows you time to stop safely if the other driver suddenly brakes. A good rule of thumb: With good visibility, dry pavement, and a safe alternate path of travel, allow at least a two-second interval between your car and the one ahead of you. Better yet, allow three seconds.
You can measure your following distance in this manner:
- Pick out something up ahead, like a light post.
- When the rear of the vehicle ahead of you passes that point, begin to count "One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three..."
- If the front of your vehicle reaches the light post before "one thousand three," you're following too close.
9. Railroad Crossing
As you drive down a country road, you see a sign indicating there are railroad tracks ahead. There are no gates down or flashing red warning lights to indicate a train is coming. Do you know the rules of the road on how to proceed in order to avoid being seriously injured or killed in an auto accident?
TO PROCEED SAFELY:
- Stop, look, listen - and live. Less than one-third of all public highway rail grade crossings have flashing lights or gates to warn motorists a train is approaching. At all crossings, it's your responsibility to slow down or stop if necessary. A train always has the right-of-way since it might take a train a mile and a half to stop.
Never try to beat a train across tracks or go around lowered warning gates. It's difficult to accurately judge a train's speed.
10. Right-hand Rule
Traveling down a busy street, you notice the traffic light at a mildly busy intersection isn't working. You approach the intersection at the same time as a car on your right in the intersecting street.
TO SAFELY GET THROUGH THE INTERSECTION:
- Treat the intersection as if it were a four-way stop.
Yield the right-of-way to the car on the right in the intersecting street. At a four-way stop if two vehicles reach the intersection simultaneously, the vehicle on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. So, in the given graphic, B should yield to A. Avoid being a personal injury statistic.
When in doubt at an intersection, remember the right-hand rule, which says the car to your right has the right of way.
11. Flash Floods
Flash floods in burn areas in and around Santa Clarita are a very real hazard. You're driving in a light rain, when the skies suddenly darken and the light rain turns into a torrential downpour. You notice the water on the roadway is getting deeper by the second. In an instant, you notice there is water rising around the car. Do you know what to do?
YOUR BEST COURSE OF ACTION:
- Pull over slowly and stop. Never try to drive through pools of water on the road. They may be deeper than they appear.
If the water is rising, get out of the car and seek higher ground. Most cars will float for a short period, but they can quickly and easily be swept away by rising flood waters – with you trapped inside.
All too often motorists aren't aware of motorcycles on the roadway. In fact, failure to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the main cause of motorcycle accidents with other vehicles. the Santa Clarita Valley is no exception to this statistic and all too often these motorcycle and auto accidents result in serious personal injury. Here are some tips on sharing the road with motorcycles.
IF YOU RIDE A MOTORCYCLE:
- Make sure other drivers see you. Always keep your headlights on - even during the day. It will help make you more visible. At least twenty-two states require that motorcyclists operate with their headlights on during the day. One of the best things you can do is make sure other drivers see you. Stay out of blind spots - especially around trucks and other large vehicles. Just because you think other drivers see you doesn't mean they do. Wearing bright clothes during the day and reflective material at night also helps.
IF YOU DRIVE A CAR:
- Remember to share the road. Keep a lookout for motorcycles. A motorcycle's small size makes it more difficult to spot in traffic, so motorists must aggressively and consciously look for motorcycles in changing traffic conditions. Not tailgating or riding too closely to motorcycles will help you share the road more safely. Motorcyclists don't ride in the middle of their lane. They ride a little to the side to avoid the slick oil that can accumulate in the middle of lanes.
If you're behind a motorcycle, follow at the same interval that you would another car - at least two seconds, better yet three seconds, on dry pavement.
13. Avoiding Collisions
Bad weather, mechanical failure of a vehicle, and poorly maintained roadways - all may contribute to collisions. But do you know the number-one cause of auto accidents?
- More collisions can be attributed to driver error than any other factor. Driver error includes many factors like improper lookout, excessive speed, improper evasive action, internal distractions, and driver inattention or distraction. The tragedy is that nearly all collisions caused by driver error could have been prevented.
To keep driver error to a minimum:
- Avoid taking your eyes off the road to check your cell phone, adjust your radio or air-conditioning/heating, or to talk to passengers.
- Pull onto the shoulder if you need to check a text or read a road map.
- Remain a safe distance from the car in front of you, and allow plenty of room for changing lanes.
14. Air Bags
Air bags supplement the safety belts and are designed to inflate in moderate and severe frontal or near frontal auto accidents. When used in combination with safety belts, air bags further reduce the risk of fatality in frontal or near frontal crashes. Do you know if your car is equipped with airbags?
DOES YOUR CAR HAVE A PASSENGER SIDE AIR BAG?
Check your owners manual to make sure. Often there is a warning label on the sun visor and/or the front of the right door frame. Also, the air bag's compartment cover on the dash may be labeled SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) or SIR (Supplemental Inflation Restraint). But not all vehicles have a cover that shows in the dashboard.
AIR BAGS DO NOT DEPLOY WHEN:
- You are rear-ended by another car, or hit in the side (unless the vehicle is equipped with side-airbags).
- You misjudge your stopping distance and run into a stopped car at up to 10 to 15 mph.
When airbags do deploy, they inflate at speeds up to 200 mph. Upon deployment, they also release a white powdery substance, usually talcum powder or corn starch, which is used in packing the airbags. This powder will fill the inside of the vehicle and is often mistaken for smoke after an auto accident. It is a good idea to teach drivers, especially our younger drivers, to expect a rapid deployment and powdery substance in case of a car crash. Understanding this may help avoid adding unnecessary concern to an already scary situation. Remember, with or without airbags, the safest place for kids is in the back seat, correctly restrained.
Remember that it's critical to always wear a safety belt, even if you have a car that is equipped with an air bag. Safety belts provide the maximum protection in all types of crashes, not just head-on crashes. All states have laws requiring children to use child restraints. At least Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have laws to "Buckle Up."
15. School Bus Safety
Traveling on a four-lane undivided road, you see a school bus approaching from the opposite direction. As you get a bit closer, you notice it is stopped and its red lights are flashing. Do you know when to stop for a school bus?
TO OBEY THE LAW AND MAKE SURE THAT SCHOOL CHILDREN REMAIN SAFE:
Come to a stop and wait to move until the lights stop flashing or the bus is moving. You should expect pedestrians in the roadway.
If you are on a divided road, you still must stop if the bus is on your side of the road. It's not necessary to stop if the school bus is across the median in the opposite lanes. However, you should still be careful because there are children around. On an undivided highway this is true no matter what side of the road the bus is on. Remember: There could be children you can't see getting off the bus and walking around the blind side of the bus.
16. Center-Lane Safety
You're pulling out of a business driveway and want to make a left turn onto a busy street. The road has a special center lane designated for making turns. It is important for you to understand how to use this center turning lane.
TO ENSURE CENTER-LANE SAFETY:
- After the traffic in the lanes nearest you clears, enter the center lane - and wait for traffic to clear in the far lane. It is also important to remember that this center lane is a "two-way" lane and a driver on the other side of the roadway could be attempting a similar move into the center lane heading the opposite direction from across the far lanes. Once you are in the center lane, turn on your right-hand turn signal.
- Do not drive in the "shared left-turn lane." It's neither legal nor safe. Auto accidents occur frequently when drivers are not paying close attention to traffic in these areas.
As you merge, watch out for vehicles entering the special turning lane in front of you as well as behind you.
17. Using Your Turn Signal
Always use your turn signal when changing lanes - even if you're in the RIGHT TURN ONLY lane and you think it should be obvious that your intention is to turn. Car accidents are frequently caused by drivers failing to give proper and timely signals.
WHEN YOU USE YOUR SIGNAL EVERY TIME YOU CHANGE LANES:
- Your intentions will be clear to everyone. This includes pedestrians as well as motorists.
- You'll keep the law on your side. Failing to signal is a ticketable offense.
Most states require the driver to signal at least 100 feet prior to any change in direction.
18. Drifting Onto the Right Shoulder
As you travel down a two-lane highway in the desert, your right wheels drop off onto the unpaved shoulder of the road. Do you know how to react to avoid an auto accident?
TO CORRECT THIS SITUATION:
- If the level of the shoulder is only slightly below the pavement, recovery is fairly easy. Hold the steering wheel firmly and ease off the accelerator. If there is nothing in the way, steer so that your vehicle straddles the edge of the pavement.
- Do not turn the steering wheel sharply. You can turn the steering wheel up to one-quarter turn until the front tire is back on the pavement. Then continue straight down the road.
If your tire scrubs against the side of the pavement, do not steer more sharply. Instead, ease off the accelerator, hold the steering wheel firmly, and straddle the pavement once more. Then repeat the procedure as stated before.
19. Recognizing Risks
Children playing, pedestrians, cars pulling away from the curb, cross-street traffic, someone getting out of a parked car, animals at the side of the road - each of these everyday events can spell disaster for the driver who fails to look well beyond the immediate field of vision. Understanding "the big picture" can be the difference between being involved in a car accident, or avoiding one.
TO GET THE "BIG PICTURE" ON THE ROADWAY:
- Scan the road ahead from shoulder to shoulder. Get the big picture. Search the road - and roadside - at least 12 seconds ahead. Think of this as your "visual lead time," which will allow you time and space to make decisions and control your vehicle.
At higher speeds, it's especially important to get the big picture. As speed increases, your eyes focus more on what's directly in front of you and less on what is to your sides.
20. Head-on Collision
You're driving down a two-lane highway at 55 mph. In the distance, you see a car approaching in your lane at a high rate of speed. You frantically honk your horn, but the car continues to bear down toward you in your lane. You think the driver might be asleep or drunk. Do you know what to do to avoid an auto accident.
TO AVOID A HEAD-ON COLLISION:
- Move to the right. If you move left, the head-on you were hoping to avoid may still happen. If the oncoming driver recovers, he may instinctively swerve back into his proper lane.
- Reduce your speed and wait as long as you can to pull out of your lane. Pull as far to the right as possible; if needed, you should drive completely off the road.
Driving off the road isn't without risk: There is a possibility you may be injured. However, it's almost always better than a head-on collision. If you have to hit something, aim for something relatively soft, such as shrubbery.
At the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser we've helped hundreds of people who have been injured in auto accidents in Santa Clarita. Call us today to get started on your case.