According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 32,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roadways in 2014. In the same year, 2.3 million people were injured in crashes. A large percentage of these crashes were caused by alcohol impairment, speeding, distracted driving, and drowsy drivers. There’s a lot we can do to prevent crashes and reduce the number of deaths and injuries on roads. Here are a few ideas to consider before you start the engine.
Take a moment to consider whether driving is a good idea – you may not be fit to operate a vehicle. If you have been drinking or if you are taking any medication that can impair your judgment, coordination, attention, vision, or reaction time, do not drive the vehicle. Ask a friend for a ride, catch a cab, or take a bus.
Consider your state of mind. Make sure you are well-rested. If you start to feel drowsy once you’ve started driving, park your vehicle somewhere safe (not on the shoulder of the road) and take a break until you feel more alert. If you are angry or upset, don’t get behind the wheel of any vehicle. Your emotions can distract you and lead to an accident.
Plan the trip and make sure your vehicle is ready. Try to avoid driving at night and in severe weather whenever possible. If your arrival time is critical, check online for road closures and heavy traffic. Leave a little bit early, just in case. Clean the lights and windows, and make sure your windshield wipers are working properly. Make sure you have enough fuel. Check your tires. Adjust the steering wheel, seat, control and mirrors before you take off.
Once you’re on the road drive safely:
- Avoid distractions like drinking, eating, talking on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio or other controls, and talking to a passenger. Driving requires your full attention.
- Make sure you and your passengers wear a seat belt at all times.
- Stay alert. Changing situations on the road require immediate reaction.
- Always travel at a safe speed. Consider factors like the weather, road conditions, traffic, construction work, and whether kids, cyclists, or pedestrians are, or might be, nearly.
- If you’re driving long distances, stop at least every two hours for a break. Get out of the vehicle, stretch, and walk around a little.
- Watch out for pedestrians, bikes, and motorcycles.
- Ignore horns and rude gestures directed at you. Don’t make hand or facial gestures at other drivers. Give angry drivers plenty of room.
It’s not just drivers and their passengers who are at risk. Each year, thousands of pedestrians and hundreds of cyclists are killed in motor vehicle accidents.