Cars, trucks, motorcycles and sport vehicles like snow machines and ATV’s play a big part in our everyday lives. From business and personal use to recreational activities, we just couldn’t get along without them. There is a downside though, and that is the disproportionately high number of accidents that occur every year.
There are millions of motor vehicle accidents reported annually, resulting in tens of thousands of fatalities, and an even greater number of serious injuries. In fact, automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of death for people up to the age of 34. Mechanical failure does account for a small percentage of incidents, but it’s human error that plays the biggest role.
Luckily, with the advances being made in vehicle design and safety technology, the numbers of accidents and injuries have been declining steadily over the last decade. Additionally, we’ve also been exposed more broadly to advertisements and public information campaigns designed to help keep us safe on the roads. This is an encouraging trend, however the most important factor still seems to be the practice of safe driving behaviours.
Before you get behind the wheel (or whatever the steering mechanism may be), there are a few things that you should address first.
- Make sure that you are fully familiar with your vehicle, especially if you haven’t driven it (or something like it) before. Don’t make any assumptions, and be sure to get a handle on the general operation, any safety features, your visibility when driving, and the power and control that you’ll be dealing with.
- If your gut tells you that driving a certain vehicle may be beyond your capability or experience, it’s probably a good idea to listen. Don’t ever take chances on the road or on the trail.
- Keeping your vehicles in peak condition is a good way to avoid any sudden breakdowns or the risk of a serious accident while driving. Always properly maintain your vehicles, ensuring that all elements (brakes, tires, steering, lights, belts, fluids etc.) are up to speed.
- Be sure that your spare tire is in good condition and that you have any tools for a roadside change. Also be sure to check the pressure on all your tires regularly.
- Always adjust headrests, mirrors, seats and steering for optimum driver fit
- It’s always a good idea to keep an emergency road kit on board just in case you run into trouble. This could include flares, hazard triangles, jumper cables, tools, first aid gear and weather related items such as tire chains, a shovel or extra clothing.
- Be sure to always buckle up for safety. You’ll also need to educate yourself about seat belt adjustments when it comes to pregnant women and kids of various sizes.
- Practice good car seat safety for babies and children. Become familiar with installation standards, facing requirements and the heights/weights that apply to seat types.
Rules Of The Road
We couldn’t possibly review all of the things that go into being a good driver, but there are a few standards that should be mentioned that help to maintain overall safety.
- Always obey speed limits and all posted road signs. Never drive aggressively, and be especially careful in residential areas, school zones and anywhere with pedestrian traffic.
- Pay full attention to your surroundings and never engage in any activity that could be a distraction. This would include mobile phone calls, texting, eating, applying make up, fumbling with music etc.
- Never get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or taking drugs. This would also apply to prescription or over-the-counter medications that could make you drowsy.
- Always drive appropriately based on weather conditions and visibility. Cut your speed accordingly or simply don’t drive if it isn’t absolutely necessary.
- Added precaution must be taken with teen, new or elderly drivers. Overall inexperience or slower reaction time can be factor when it comes to driving defensively.
- Avoid driving if you are sleepy or overly fatigued
Motorcycles, Sport & Utility Vehicles
They seem like a lot of fun to drive, but that doesn’t mean that the expectations for safety have to drop. Drivers have to apply even more caution when on these types of vehicles based on the fact that they’re so exposed.
- Ensure that all riders have the proper licensing in-place before getting started. Also exercise particular caution with young or inexperienced riders.
- It’s always a good idea to enroll in an instructional course for the types of vehicles that you or your family will be riding. Don’t make any assumptions as to safety or how the vehicle will perform, especially if you’re going off road.
- Always wear approved protective equipment and clothing to help avoid a more serious injury in the event of a fall or collision. This could include a helmet, eye or full face protection, footwear, elbow and knee guards and a protective vest.
Here are a few more pointers that can help to maintain all around safety.
- Never leave small children alone in a vehicle with the keys in the ignition or if the engine is running. There is always the risk of the car being put into gear accidentally, or power windows being lowered.
- To build on the above point, don’t ever leave children or pets in vehicles when the weather is either too hot or too cold. Better yet, don’t ever leave small children or pets unattended in a vehicle in any case. Takes the guesswork out of it.
- Always keep a fully charged cell phone with you when driving. You never know what might happen, and it’s best to be prepared.
- If you can, subscribe to a roadside service like CAA for any emergencies that might occur on your travels
- As a general rule, don’t leave valuables visible inside your vehicle, and always park in safe, well-lit areas. You don’t want to make you or your vehicle a target for unwanted criminal attention.