People who know and have been passengers in my car might be a bit surprised to see this coming from me. But as I believe that all meaningful learning must connect with a person’s actual life experience, I feel imminently qualified to offer these helpful tips:
1. Remember the slogan of the ’60s and ’70s: “Drive Defensively.”
When you are on the road, it is not sufficient to be aware only of yourself. Every other driver within sight is a potential element of risk.. Look around as best as you can safely – the risks are not always directly in front or behind you.
2. You will not suffer an afterlife trapped in Purgatory nor are you apt to be more than a minute or two later for any appointment or commitment if you drive at the speed limit rather than routinely exceeding it by what you think you can get away with.
3. On a 4-lane highway, the safest lane to drive in (and the one that fewest cars are stopped by law enforcement in) is the one second from the right. So, if you want to improve your chances of not accumulating those nasty ‘points’ on your insurance or DMV record, try staying in the second lane from the right.
4. If you don’t have a hands-free set, either wireless (Bluetooth) or wired, do not give in to the temptation to use you cell phone while driving. Look around. You can see people driving around one-handedly while using the other to hold a cell phone to their ear. Bad habits often lead to bad driving.
5. Any highly distracting activity is best avoided while driving. Arguing with someone else in the car (or on the phone,) trying to scribble notes on a pad on the passenger seat, eating a sandwich, etc. are, as innocent as they may sound or be in any other context, are life endangering activities while you are driving a car.
6. Plan your travel, whenever possible, to allow five-ten extra minutes beyond the time you really think you will need to get there. Being in a hurry, for fear of being late, because there has been some unanticipated delay (road work an accident, etc.) is common denominator for many moments of carelessness and impulsiveness behind the wheel.
7. Cars are heavy and powerful. Even a small car can do tremendous damage to anything it comes in contact with, especially to an unprotected pedestrian. The larger the vehicle, the more potential damage resulting from a misjudged turn or inadequate distance between vehicles. Leave more distance than you think you really need between you and the car in front of you. Remember that even a pedestrian doing a dumb thing like crossing the street in the middle of the block, should be given the right-of-way. A “Totaled” car can be replaced – a human can’t.
8. If your passengers seem nervous and are gripping tightly to the handles above the windows, this does not necessarily indicate that they are unrealistically fearful. Watch and listen to how your passengers react to your driving – They just may have something to say that you need to hear.
9. If you have anything in your body that will or even might alter your perceptions or reflexes, don’t drive. It isn’t just alcohol that creates real risk – It is also medicines, prescription or otherwise as well as street drugs. Any of them could make you quite literally unsafe behind the wheel, and finally
10. If you are passing everyone else on the road, you are going too fast. Slow down. If everyone else is passing you, you are going too slow. Either speed up or pull over to let the other drivers pass you. If your best friends make excuses so as not to accept rides with you any more, you may need to take another look at this list and think about changing a few of your driving habits.
There are undoubtedly a lot more helpful tips than these – but, hopefully, this list will serve as a trigger to get you thinking about how you might improve your driving safety and skills.