Safe driving is a matter of life and death. Taking even the smallest initiative to follow the laws and rules of the road can mean the difference between making it to your destination in one piece, or coping with tragedy in the wreckage of an accident. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, California suffers an average of 3,000 traffic fatalities annually. Whereas some of these accidents may have been beyond anyone’s control, the majority of them happen under completely preventable circumstances. Practicing a few basic principles of awareness and precaution benefits every traveler and pedestrian on the road. At the end of the day, every driver has one job to do the moment they get behind the wheel – get to where they’re going. Here are a few tips to help improve your road safety.
Use your Seatbelt.
California law stipulates that no driver may operate a vehicle on public roads, and on private property, unless a driver and all passengers 8 years or older are wearing seatbelts. Properly wearing a seatbelt is the first, and most effective, precaution anyone can take to drive safely. What’s more, buckling up only involves a few seconds of minimal effort. Before operating a vehicle, take a few moments to adjust your chair, adjust your rear-view mirrors, and once you have a comfortable seated stance, buckle-up before driving off. Wearing a fastened seatbelt protects your body from the effects of inertia. In the event of a sudden stop, your body will be thrown at the speed of travel until it hits the dashboard unless a fastened belt restricts this momentum.
Use the proper Child Restraints
Children who are under the age of 8, or who are shorter than 4 feet 9 inches, must be seated in a federally-approved child passenger restraint system by law. It is extremely important to make sure that children who are too small to use conventional seatbelts use safety chairs and systems that fit their bodies appropriately. Failing to accommodate the needs of smaller passengers can result in serious injury even during minor accidents.
The state of California has a Basic Speed Law. Under this law, drivers are required never to drive faster than is safe for prevailing road conditions. Always pay attention to posted speed limits and always pay added attention to driving conditions as well. Being a responsible driver demands being aware of:
- How many pedestrians and cyclists are around.
- What the weather conditions are like.
- The number and speed of vehicles on the road.
- Whether a road surface is narrow or wide, smooth or rough, and wet or dry.
Failure to contemplate these factors while traveling makes drivers more vulnerable to collisions. Don’t just hit the pedal to the metal. Moderating your speed ensures that you and everyone around you aren’t put at risk of injury or worse.
Beware of Distracted Driving
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, approximately 80% of collisions and 65% of near-collisions happen as a result of distracted driving. Distracted driving may sound like a problem that only affects people other than you, but the truth is that everyone is guilty of this mistake. At some point or another, drivers end up doing things like using handheld devices as they drive, reaching for objects in their vehicles, looking at incidents outside their windows, eating, or applying makeup. Taking on such activities while driving, however trivial they may seem, significantly reduces how much focus a person has on important driving conditions. There are an endless number of places where multitasking is advantageous – the road will never be one of them. Instead of burdening yourself with the pressure of trying to get things done as you drive, plan ahead of time and prepare enough to let driving be the only thing that happens behind the wheel.
Never Drive Intoxicated.
Using any drug that impairs a person’s ability to drive safely is both illegal and hazardous. Most people assume that driving under the influence is a criminal charge that applies to those who drive drunk on alcohol. However, the state of California applies this law to drugs and any substance that is known to impair sobriety. Prescription drugs as well can diminish people’s concentration on the road. This makes it important as a driver to be fully aware of whether one’s state of mind is clear enough to operate a vehicle. Never force yourself to drive if you have the slightest doubt of your ability to concentrate for the entirety of your journey.
Driving is a privilege; a privilege in which you bear responsibility for not only your own life but the lives of those immediately around you. Always take this responsibility seriously because accidents on the highway always ripple problems into the lives of others who are involved. Obey the law, be cautious, and make same basic preparations before hitting the road. All these small gestures will eventually add up to a lifetime of incident-free driving.