Road rage is an event well known to every driver, and accidents due to distractions such as text messaging are common. How can you protect yourself during your Sunday drive or morning commute? Consider these suggestions to help you stay safe and drive defensively.
1. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road
Defensive drivers avoid distractions that remove their hands from the steering wheel, such as eating, applying makeup, using a cell phone, or adjusting the radio. Authorities recommend keeping both hands on the wheel at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions, or the upper left and right sides of the wheel.
Focus on what is going on outside your vehicle rather than inside it. Don’t look down at your phone or at passengers in the back seat. Keep your eyes moving, scanning the road in front of you, the sides of the road, upcoming intersections, and checking your mirrors. Remember that most accidents occur at intersections, and some intersections are worse than others. Sometimes you can look up accident data and plan routes around the more dangerous intersections. For example, check out this map of the most dangerous intersections in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
2. Expect other drivers to make mistakes
Even if you’re avoiding distractions, some of the drivers around you are not. Be prepared to stop quickly, slow down, or speed up to avoid a collision. When coming to an intersection, on ramp, or exit, don’t assume that the other drivers will follow traffic laws such as yielding when appropriate or stopping at red lights and stop signs. Instead, watch carefully for indications of whether they are stopping, turning, running the red light, etc. Also, don’t assume that a person will turn when he has a turn signal on or that he won’t if he doesn’t; watch and wait to see what the other driver is actually going to do. See also this Art of Manliness article on increasing situational awareness.
3. Keep your cool
If you drive long enough, you will be a recipient of road rage. Someone will cut you off, shake their fist, or yell obscenities. Don’t stress or retaliate – just keep your cool and continue driving safely. Being upset about an unrelated problem can serve as a distraction and increase your chances of experiencing road rage yourself. If necessary, pull over for a few moments to allow yourself to calm down. Never pursue or threaten another driver – even if he did make a dangerous mistake.
4. Keep up with the flow of traffic
Speeding is the cause of many traffic accidents. However, driving below the speed limit may also put you at risk. Without breaking speeding laws, try to match the flow of traffic. Leave plenty of space between yourself and other drivers, and begin stopping well before you get to an intersection.
By following these simple suggestions, you will help keep yourself, your family, and other drivers safe.