Driving Tips Everyone Should Know - Part 1

We drive so often that we tend to take our safety for granted, yet driving is one of the most dangerous things we do regularly. For a refresher on practical driving tips that can save your life from our Santa Clarita car accident lawyer, read on.

1. Avoid Hydroplaning

It's been raining. As you drive through a patch of puddles, your steering wheel doesn't respond. Your car is hydroplaning, a situation in which your tires begin to ride up onto 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 wet road surfaces is the perfect recipe for hydroplaning. Check your tires today. Even with good treads, however, hydroplaning may occur when water is deeper than the tread depth. Always reduce your driving speed when it is raining. Just after it starts to rain is when roads are most slippery, but as long as water is on the road, hydroplaning is a risk.

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 the brakes fully, maintain pressure, and attempt to steer around the car. Don't pump the brakes—pumping anti-lock brakes reduces their effectiveness.

By applying your 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.

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 firm and steady pressure on the brake pedal to avoid wheel lockup.

Highway Hint

No matter what kind of brakes you have, always leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you. And always reduce your speed in adverse weather and poor road conditions.

3. Guardrails

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.

Highway Hint

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 to 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 increases your chances 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.

Highway Hint

On a level highway, it takes three to five 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 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.

Highway Hint

Remember: If you plan to drink, make arrangements in advance for a non-drinking "designated driver" or take a taxi or rideshare home.

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 five 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 airbag, 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 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 look in 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 could interfere with the path of the emergency vehicle.

Highway Hint

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 un-signaled 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.

Highway Hint

You can measure your following distance in this manner:

  • Pick out something fixed up ahead in or near the road, 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. Increase your following distance.

9. Railroad Crossings

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 with a train?

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.

Highway Hint

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.

Highway Hint

When in doubt at an intersection, remember the right-hand rule, which says the car to your right has the right of way.

Stay tuned for part two of this post coming out next month! In the meantime, if you have been injured and need an attorney, contact our Santa Clarita car accident lawyer for a free case evaluation.

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