The fact that your car can sense the presence of other vehicles, pedestrians or objects and take corrective action on your behalf — such as applying the brakes or adjusting your steering — is pretty remarkable.
Cameras, radars, and lasers have all come onboard as computerized co-pilots. First, they alert you to a risk via a chime, beep or other sound. Second, they assist you in mitigating the risk by adjusting your speed (via adaptive cruise control), for example, or applying the brakes (automatic emergency braking or AEB).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been extensively researching these technologies to evaluate their benefits and assist in the development of new technologies.
But even with all of these sophisticated developments, we humans still play the biggest role in avoiding crashes. Here are our tips for staying safe, no matter the situation or the presence of technology.
Always be scanning
Constantly scanning the entire driving scene around you helps you be aware of risks. This is done by looking ahead to keep an eye on what’s going on in front of your vehicle; looking to the sides as you approach where others may cross your path (whether it’s other vehicles, pedestrians, or even animals); and looking behind you several times a minute, checking for approaching vehicles, tailgaters or someone trying to pass.
Observe a three-second following distance
Avoid rear-end collisions by keeping the right amount of stopping space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Aim for a three-second following distance, and increase that distance in difficult driving conditions, such as inclement weather or heavy traffic.
Maintain an appropriate stopping distance
This is similar to the above. Remember that even as your brain perceives a hazard, your vehicle will continue to travel forward until your brain sends the message to your foot to react by pushing the brake pedal. Then your vehicle will continue to move as you apply the brake. If you’re traveling 55 mph, it will take you about six seconds to stop, which is the equivalent of a football field. Your total stopping distance increases as your speed increases.
Don’t trust other drivers
Side-impact or head-on crashes can occur if other drivers run a red light, make an improper left turn, misjudge the space between your vehicle and theirs, or drive impaired. Stay alert and drive defensively, never assuming another driver will complete a maneuver safely.
Assume a racecar driver position
This means that you’re sitting upright and in the optimum position to react and perform any urgent maneuvers with complete control. Your seat should be close enough to the steering wheel that your wrist can rest on the top of the steering wheel with your arm outstretched and your back against the seat.
Don’t rely on mirrors
This means your mirrors or the mirrors of other drivers, including truck drivers. Adjust your mirrors and use them, but be sure to always check your blind spots as well, and be aware when you may be in others’ blind spots.
Watch for road users other than vehicles
Kids, cyclists, and pedestrians all use the roadways, including crosswalks and intersections, too. Nearly 8,000 pedestrian deaths and 846 bicyclist deaths were caused by motor vehicle collisions in 2019. Avoid what could be a serious or fatal collision by keeping a watchful eye for every type of road user.
Keep your focus on the road
Whether you’re distracted by other passengers (including kids and pets), cell phones, or something else taking your attention away from driving, your chance of causing a crash increases. Nearly eight people are killed every day in distracted driving crashes.
Don’t drive fatigued
About 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur every year. Your chances of driving drowsy increase on long trips, especially if you’re driving at night.
Take a defensive driving course
Practice your driving skills, overcome bad driving habits, and learn new defensive driving techniques when you take a course.
Learn more about our defensive driving and other driving courses, and schedule a class today.