Thanks to social media, we’ve been seeing a lot of horrid crashes and accidents on the road. It’s a harsh reality that can happen to any of us. To help minimize them, here are some basic safety tips to keep in mind when driving on the road:
1) Do a walk-around of your car first. Before getting in, walk around your car to check and see for any hidden objects, animals, or any of the sort that can damage your car. Majority of insurance claim-related accidents (about 70%) occur at or very near where your vehicle was parked last. Traffic cones, strollers, animals and low-lying metal barriers often unseen when seated made up for the vast majority of accidents. These are minor and not necessarily life-threatening, but still incur cost and can damage your vehicle. It also can help you avoid getting robbed or having your car stolen because you still have a chance to run away if you see suspicious people lurking about.
2) Adjust and set everything before moving out. Once you’ve done a thorough walk-around of your car, get in, adjust your seat and mirrors, and fasten your seatbelt. If you’ll be using an electronic navigation system, set the address or coordinates first before even moving an inch. And make sure you mount your phone securely in the designated location on your car.
3) Yield the right of way. Innately, most people think they have the right of way once they approach an intersection. The safest way to approach the intersection is to slow down, look at the flow of traffic, make sure it’s safe to cross. Then, cross as quickly as possible. Most motorists make the mistake of literally stopping with their nose sticking into the intersection, then slowly moving. This is just wrong, as stopping with the nose sticking right into the intersection can cause over-zealous motorcycle riders to slam into your vehicle’s nose. Crossing the intersection as quickly as possible minimizes your risk to cross-flow traffic accidents.
4) On undulating roads, slow down before reaching the crest. We see it and oftentimes do the exact opposite: Speed up as we approach the crest for that mini roller-coaster feel. But that’s dangerous, especially if we cannot see what’s at the bottom of the crest. In the same vein, do not overtake right before the crest on the road, or make a U-turn, as other people might be going fast and won’t have time to stop and avoid you.
5) Turn on your headlights when entering a covered parking area. The headlights and taillights should always be turned on when entering a covered parking area. It’s not for you to see ahead, but for other motorists to see you.
6) Turn on your headlights in bad weather. Again, the headlights aren’t just meant for you to see ahead, but it’s also for other motorists to see you on the road. Turn them on when it’s raining hard and when it’s foggy. And please, do not turn on your emergency hazard lights. If the road and weather conditions are so bad that you feel you need to turn on your emergency hazard lights, you shouldn't be driving at all.
The safe thing to do is to pull over on the side of the road, and turn on all of your lights so that other motorists can see you. Visibility can be subjective and is dependent on your eyesight and the vehicle’s lighting system. To recap, if you can’t see while others continue to drive, pull over, turn on your lights (all of them) and stay put.
7) When on a narrow road or ramp, cars going up always have the right of way. Most people don’t realize who has or should have the right of way in these situations. Physics plays the key part here. It is infinitely safer for a car going down, with minimal to no power applied, to stop midway or right at the start of the descent, than for a vehicle with full power and load going uphill to suddenly stop. Oftentimes, without the necessary run-up, many of the cars will have a hard time restarting their ascent on a steep incline midway through the climb. These cars can roll backwards, causing them to lose control and damage the cars behind them. So when you’re going down, flash your lights, honk your horn and slow down, and be prepared to move back to give way to vehicles going up.
8) Never hog the innermost lane. The innermost lane is not the fast lane: It is exclusively for overtaking. If you plan to stay on the innermost lane, in theory, you should be constantly overtaking all the cars in the other lanes, even if it means going past the speed limit. If you’re driving steadily at the speed limit, you shouldn’t linger in the innermost lane, but on the middle or outer lanes. If you want to overtake the cars in your lane, then speed up, at the risk of going over the speed limit, for short periods of time.
9) Always overtake at full speed. Many people make the mistake of overtaking other cars at a very small speed differential. In truth, you should overtake cars as quickly as possible because it reduces the risk of collision. Driving side by side at the same speed, or very minimal speed difference is dangerous, as other drivers can sometimes fail to notice cars beside them. When overtaking cars, signal, give a gentle beep of your horn or a quick flash of your high beams to alert cars ahead of you that you are overtaking them.
10) On the highway, give leeway by staying in your lane before exiting. I often see motorists dive all the way from the innermost lane to their exits, which is obviously very dangerous. Ideally, you should give ample leeway and allowance by staying on your outermost lane at least 500 meters prior to your exit so you can slow down gradually and safely with ample distance ahead.
These are small, simple safety tips which can in all honesty save your life, the lives of others, and make your journeys safer and more enjoyable.