Driving is dangerous. There are no two ways about it. And yet you get in your car every single day and don’t think twice about how safe a driver you are, or how safe those around you are.
Like crossing the street or hopping in a cab with a complete stranger, driving becomes so embedded in the human subconscious you simply put it to the back of your mind. But you should always seek to improve your awareness, for your own sake and for those sharing the road with you.
Here’s everything you need to know about becoming a safer driver:
Keep your eyes on the road
Okay, this is an easy one, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t heed this advice.
It’s easy to see why.
There are more distractions in daily life than ever. From buzzing smartphones to in-car infotainment systems and irritatingly out-of-tune radios, there is always something that is fighting for your attention when you get behind the wheel.
Because driving often feels like second nature, it’s tempting to only give it a fraction of your attention. However, distracted driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind a wheel. Click here to find out more.
Confidence beats hesitancy
This might sound counter-productive, but being a decisive and confident driver is crucial to remaining safe on the road.
Don’t mistake confidence for arrogance. This isn’t about speeding or cutting people up. It’s simply that being confident will make you alert to any pressing dangers and ready you for evasive action.
Think of it this way. Imagine you’re trying to control a willful dog. You can either hide your hands in your pockets and let the mad canine run riot, or you can grab it by the collar, show it who is in charge and calmly clip a collar on. It is less about the dog (or other motorists in this case), but about staying calm and relaxed behind the wheel. If you’re constantly in fear of impending doom then you’ll often find it.
Another way of looking at it is this. Other drivers need you to stay consistent. If you’re constantly changing your speeds, swerving and slamming on the brakes whenever the speed limit is lowered on the highway, you’re likely to spook them or even cause an accident. Instead, make your actions as smooth and assured as possible. You’ll become a safer driver overnight.
It’s true: There are very few active pursuits you’d want to do when you’re tired. Your judgement is skewed, your eyelids are heavy and your alertness is badly compromised. You may be tempted to push yourself on long journeys, and the temptation is obvious. You want to get back to see your family or catch some TV.
This is when accidents happen.
Remember to take regular breaks on long journeys where tiredness is most likely to kick in. Caffeine won’t help, and nor will opening the window or turning the radio up loud. In fact, this will only distract you further. There’s no shame in pulling over and catching forty winks, so find a safe place to park up (where it is safe and legal to do so), turn off the engine so that you can turn yours off too.
Emotions cloud your judgement
Do your best to stay calm while driving.
Think back to all the times you’ve lost arguments or competitive games when your emotions got the better of you. Strong emotions like anger or shock can blind your judgement and hinder your faculties. Not ideal when you’re driving.
Road rage may be a common plague on the highway, but don’t let yourself become one of the many affected by it. It’s easy to become more aggressive behind the wheel because you’re encased in a solid box of metal and glass. You wouldn’t dream of insulting someone in person the way you do if they’d just cut you up at a junction. Remember to keep calm and you’ll be a safer driver as a result.
Give your speed some thought
Exceeding the speed limit is not only illegal, it is dangerous. There are limits for a reason. You might think you can safely travel along a lot faster, but it’s not worth risking your life and license over it.
Equally, driving excessively slowly has the potential to put you and other motorists at risk too. Backing people up only causes cars to slam on their brakes and risk bumping into the back of you, or swerving to overtake. You need to use your common sense with speed limits. Don’t be tempted to think that as long as you’re well below the speed limit you are automatically safe. The opposite is sometimes true.
Drive like you walk
You can often tell how a person drives from the way they walk. This may sound strange, but there’s a logic to it. Imagine you’re in a shopping mall. There are people all around you, all walking at different speeds, darting in and out of shops, constantly battling to avoid each other. Some people stop, turn and grab products with little consideration for anybody else. Others are in a constant rush, continually apologizing to passers-by when they bump into them or trip over themselves. Then there are those who walk ridiculously slowly, giving no thought to the poor souls stuck behind them.
You see a pattern here? Good. You wouldn’t act like any of these people in a shopping mall, so don’t do it on the road either.
Check the basics before you set off
Make sure you check your tire pressures, oil level and the underside of your car before setting off on your journey. Keeping your car in working condition removes unnecessary risk and enables you to remain in control of the car at all times.
Look two cars ahead
When you’re driving along with cars in front of you, always keep an eye on the vehicle two cars ahead. If they brake or swerve suddenly, the car in front of you is likely to do the same. This gives you more time to anticipate an accident and take appropriate action.
It also helps the flow of traffic. When you notice a group of cars driving onto the highway, you have more time to indicate and change lanes, allowing them more breathing space to get up to speed.