Driving is an essential part of everyday life, but the roads can be very dangerous. Fatal traffic accidents can occur from a variety of factors: drunk drivers, mechanical failures, bad weather and just plain human error. According to the latest U.S. census, nearly 36,000 fatalities occurred in 2009, which was the lowest number in the previous 20 years. While the number of accidents has gone down over the past two decades, driving still remains a risky activity. The best chance you have to keep yourself safe is to practice defensive driving skills.
Keep Your Distance
Rear-end collisions are caused often by drivers not practicing defensive driving. The collision usually occurs when a vehicle quickly stops and the car behind them doesn't have enough space to brake. The rear driver is almost always to blame in this scenario. Rear drivers are responsible for leaving adequate space for braking at all times. As a general rule, the faster the speed of traffic, the more space needs to be left between vehicles. This space should increase even further when the roads are slick or icy.
Be Aware of Other Drivers
Most accidents are caused by human error, so pay attention to what other drivers are doing, it can help you anticipate potential accidents. If you see a driver that is ahead of you driving recklessly, it's best to keep your distance and contact the police or highway patrol. Whether the driver is intoxicated or talking on a cell phone, you don't want to be in their path. Also look out for vehicles that are transporting items in an unsafe manner, such as a truck transporting goods that are not properly secured within the vehicle.
Be Aware of Road Conditions
Road signs are there for a reason. Things like dips, sharp curves and steep inclines are almost always marked by road signs to warn drivers of potentially hazardous conditions. Road obstructions that can show up without any warning, which is why it's important to pay close attention to the road ahead of you. Fallen trees, rocks and even dead animals can show up often on roads in rural areas. In urban environments, household objects or pieces of vehicles can show up on the road unexpectedly.
Maintain Your Vehicle
Make sure all the safety features of your vehicle are working and that you keep a regular maintenance schedule. Rear-view mirrors are essential for evaluating traffic, whether you're in reverse or on a high-speed road. Hazard lights help ensure that other cars see you when you're pulled to the side of the road after an accident or mechanical problem. Properly inflated tires can prevent blowouts, which can be catastrophic at high speeds.
The key to defensive driving is to always be aware of your surroundings so that you can anticipate potential hazards and avoid accidents. Drivers who aren't on the constant look out for hazards, or don't know what to do when a hazard appears, run the risk of getting into serious accidents. By paying close attention to the road and other drivers, you can avoid dangerous situations and stay safe. It's highly recommended to practice defensive driving skills through a training course in order to maximize your safety.
Byline: Jeffrey Gordon works for StitaTaxi.com and knows how important it is to drive safely.