Safe driving is no accident

Don't get distracted when you're driving
Don’t get distracted when you’re driving

School is out and summer is here. For many that means vacation time. Hurray! Where do you plan to go this summer to get away from it all? Camping? Taking a cross country trip to see distant family members? Going to Europe and then renting a car to see the countryside? Doesn’t it all sound great?

If you are going to be doing any driving, pay attention to the tips below. Enjoy your road trip and return safe and sound. By the way, these ideas are also effective for your everyday driving.

  1. Ditch the phone when driving. That means not only don’t be talking on it, but also do not text and drive! I don’t know about other states, but for those of us in California, there are stiff fines for talking and texting while driving. What’s the fuss about? The Institute of Highway Safety reports that a person who is chatting on the phone, even hands free, is 4 times more likely to have an accident than those who don’t use their phones. Cell phones cause your brain to be distracted whether you are using a headset or not. And the problem is not caused as much from holding the phone as it does from removing your attention from the important task of driving. Besides, you are on vacation. Ditch the electronics and talk to your passengers instead. Isn’t that a distraction, too? Not really. There is a big difference and here’s why: a passenger knows to pause the conversation when the road demands your attention. The person on the other end of your phone line has no clue. Why not talk to your passengers? Live conversation is better anyway. (In addition, I would like to ask people to stop putting on make-up or reading the newspaper while driving. Yep, I’ve seen it. Talk about distracting!)
  2. Watch the road and not all the dials in the car. Of course, pay attention to the speed limit, but don’t be distracted by the CD player, the satellite radio, your GPS, etc. Cars today have dashboards that almost make you feel you have a computer at your fingertips. All those extras are nice, but if you are keeping your eyes on the dials and not on the road, it is easy to get into an accident. That would spoil one’s vacation for sure! There is no harm in listening to music, but set your music before you start driving. Know your route before you get cruising. Experts suggest looking down the road at least 15 seconds ahead of your car. My father had to take a couple of safe driving classes as part of his employment with Ma Bell. Of course, my dad would enlighten all of his children on driving safety after his classes. What sticks with me, and my father was faithful in doing this while driving, was to stay far enough away from the car in front of you when stopping so that the back tires of the other car could be seen clearly. I still do that. (Unfortunately, either not every driver knows this tip, or worse, doesn’t care to follow it, because you, as well as I, have experienced some one hitting the brakes a half inch from your behind.)
  3. The other tip is to look at the big picture. Don’t hunker down over the steering wheel and stare straight ahead. You need your peripheral vision to detect motion from the side. (My father was pretty near perfect, except for one thing: he loved looking around while driving. We took a driving/camping trip across the country when I was in 9th grade. America is really beautiful and has a lot of scenery at which to look. The bad thing is that I was always in the back of our truck turned camper with my siblings. No window to talk through. I hated it when we were on twisty mountain roads and my dad was enjoying the scenery while behind the wheel. There were so many times when I was sure my father would drive us off the edge off the cliff because he was spending too much time, in my opinion, looking at the scenery and not the road. Those were tense miles for me and he couldn’t hear me shout warnings, or scream in panic, either. I guess my frantic prayers to God worked because we did not end up over the cliff. Phew!
  4. Be a defensive driver. A defensive driver doesn’t cut people off, speed in a busy area, or use the car as a weapon, nor think he/she is the only person of importance on the road and the only one with a destination to get to. A defensive driver not only anticipates the actions of other drivers or knows the road conditions, but also prepares for vehicle malfunctions. For example, warmer temps are hard on a car’s tires so keep them properly inflated and balanced. To avoid overheating, change your oil and filter at least every 3 months and reduce the use of the air conditioner if your are driving on and on uphill.

Arrive alive and by all means, enjoy your vacation! Don’t forget to take lots of pictures.

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