Safe Driving Articles
are you a safe driver?These driving articles are packed with useful information that can help keep you and your loved ones safe. To be better prepared, read on.
- What is a Safe Driver?
- Underage Drinking Always Has Consequences
- Staying Safe on Prom Night
- What Makes a Car Safe?
- Whatís Giving Holidays a Bad Name?
What is a Safe Driver?The most important safety feature in your car is you Ė the sober driver. But there are also other factors to safe driving that can help make the streets safer for everyone.
AttentivenessMost of us multi-task. We do it in the car by talking on a cell phone, drinking coffee or simply changing the radio station. Inattentive driving can also be caused by a number of internal factors, such as being tired from the dayís work or simply daydreaming about the weekend to come. A long road trip can often cause whatís known as ďhighway hypnosisĒ. And sometimes, inattentive driving is related to taking medication that causes drowsiness.
No matter what your circumstances, driving requires that you stay focused by keeping your eyes and your mind on the road. Virtually all collisions involve at least one of the drivers having fallen victim to inattention. So, as drivers, it is our job to recognize these pitfalls and situations, and make adjustments accordingly.
Be an Attentive DriverIt doesnít require a lot of effort to be an attentive driver. These simple actions can keep you focused and alert:
- Check directions and maps before starting out.
- Allow plenty of time to arrive safely.
- Make sure the windshield is clean.
- Adjust mirrors, radio and other controls before driving.
- Buckle up.
- Be aware of other roadway users.
- Avoid demanding or emotionally charged conversations with other passengers.
- Donít shave, apply make up, eat or talk on a cell phone when behind the wheel.
- Look, listen and anticipate roadway hazards and react safely.
- Concentrate on driving, keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road.
EducationEducated drivers know the rules of the road and abide by them. They also understand that not all drivers are as up to speed. To keep you and your fellow motorists safe, remember the responsibilities of the educated driver:
- Different states may have different laws. Know the traffic laws and regulations of the state where you are driving.
- Know how to perform basic emergency repairs and make sure you have your AARP Roadside Assistance membership information with you.
- Know how to get to the side of the road safely, for this can avoid a dangerous traffic situation for yourself and others.
DefensivenessEven the safest drivers have to watch out for motorists who may not be in the same safe driving mindset. Being a defensive driver is the best way to protect yourself and others. Always follow these safe driving precautions:
- Slow down, especially during inclement weather.
- Do not follow the vehicle in front of you too closely.
- Check your mirrors frequently.
- Watch for pedestrians.
- Expect the unexpected.
By maintaining good judgment and by protecting yourself on the road, youíll also protect others.
Underage Drinking Always Has Consequences
Tips for Talking to Your Teens About Underage Drinking
High school is filled with celebratory times--homecoming, athletic victories, prom, and graduation. But too often these celebrations can turn deadly. No matter what the season or time of year, mixing drinking and driving is a dangerous idea.
AARP Roadside Assistance encourages teens to think before they drink, and offers grandparents and guardians advice for tackling the topic of drinking and driving.
Here are some sobering facts about underage drinking to share with the teens in your life.
Fact #1Drinking is against the law if you are under 21 years of age. The consequences for underage drinking include:
- Mandatory loss of driving privilege for six months (even if no car is involved)
- Minimum fine of $500
- Disorderly conduct record
- Court-directed participation in alcohol treatment or rehabilitation program
- Possible imprisonment, if a false ID was used
- Additional charges and fines
Fact #2Drinking has consequences even for those who are NOT caught. The unpleasant side effects of drinking include:
- diminished judgment
- sleep disturbances
Whatís more, drinking too much too rapidly can cause alcohol toxicity that could lead to loss of consciousness and even death.
Fact #3Drinking and driving has legal consequences. These include the revocation or suspension of a driverís license. Some states impound, immobilize (with a boot), forfeit or sell the drinker's vehicle. Other states remove and impound the license plates. Some states use specially marked license plates or install an alcohol ignition-interlock device that keeps a car from starting if a teen has been caught drinking.
Fact #4Drinking encourages people to take risks. Teens who drink put themselves in dangerous situations they would not ordinarily find themselves in. Underage drinking is a causal factor in a host of serious problems, including homicide, suicide, traumatic injury, drowning, burns, violent and property crime, high-risk sex, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning, and need for treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence. (udetc.org, 2006).
Fact #5Nearly half (46 %) of all fatal car crashes on prom weekends in 2004 involved alcohol. (NHTSA, 2005)
Discuss these facts with your teenager and join the fight against underage drinking.
Staying Safe on Prom Night
What Grandparents, Parents and Teens Can DoDuring prom season, students enjoy the excitement of dressing up, dancing and dining. Unfortunately, some choose to add drinking and driving to the mixture, and what should be a memorable night for good reasons turns into a tragic, life-altering moment for some.
To address the issues of safety and sobriety on prom night, AARP Roadside Assistance encourages you to take extra steps to ensure a safe night for the prom goers, and a not-so-anxious night for the grandparents and parents.
- Make sure youíre familiar with the kids in your studentís prom group. If youíre uneasy about any of these prom goers, voice your concerns BEFORE prom night. If your student still insists on going with a group you disapprove of, consider more stringent rules as far as mode of transportation and curfew times. Stick with your gut feelings.
- Know where your student will be before and after the prom event itself. Call parents to verify the information you are given. Make sure these parents donít think itís OK to serve alcohol to minors. Parents have different parenting styles. Donít assume that your styles agree.
- Hire a taxi or limo to drive the kids to the pre-party, the dinner, the dance and any after-parties. Split the cost between families. Itís worth it this one night for the peace of mind.
- Some high schools offer ďsafeĒ after-prom parties where students participate in a ďlock-in.Ē The event usually takes place in a different location than the prom. Dance music, karaoke, games, prizes, snacks, etc., are provided in a relaxed atmosphere until breakfast. Encourage your student to attend any school-sponsored after-prom parties.
- Reassure your student that prom night is NOT a rite of passage that involves alcohol. Remind him/her that he/she are merely dancing in an expensive outfit and eating a nice dinner. She or he is not yet 21.
- Give your student an ďalibiĒ to use just in case he/she feels pressured to drink. ďI already had my car privileges taken away this month. If I get caught drinking, Iíll lose my car forever!Ē might be one.
- Make it perfectly clear that your student should NEVER get into a car with someone who has been drinking. Make sure your student can get in touch with you at any time that evening to call for a rideÖ with no questions asked. If you will not be available on prom night, make sure to give your student the name and phone number of an adult who can supply a ride in such a circumstance.
- Make sure your student has enough money to take a cab if necessary.
The night before prom, sit down with your student and read the above facts aloud. Itís best if both parents are present. Disgruntled faces will be made and objections will be voiced, but if youíre lucky, one of these sobering facts may make a difference in your studentís choices on prom night.
What Makes a Car Safe?Weíre all looking for a ďsafeĒ car. But what does that really mean? What should I be looking for when I shop for a car that is safe? Itís reassuring that each new car must meet the most recent federal safety standards, but that doesnít mean that two visibly comparable cars are equally safe. Some manufacturers offer safety features beyond the required federal minimums.
Then thereís the issue of safe used cars, which, of course, are less likely to have all the latest safety features. In addition, any used car carries with it a maintenance history, an accident history and a mileage history, all of which need to be checked out to ensure there are no compromised safety issues. And, while most new cars have warranties and offer emergency roadside service plans, most used cars donít have the same coverage.
So whatís a shopper to do?
Buying a Safe CarLetís say youíve decided to buy a new car, instead of a used car this time around. With that one decision, youíve assured yourself of the following safety features:
- Safety belts
- Air bags
- Head restraints
- Energy-absorbent steering column
- Shatterproof laminated glass
- Dual braking systems
- High mounted brake lights
A new car will also have several improvements over the older models, such as tougher bumpers, improved roof and door strength, more interior padding, safer fuel systems and gas tanks, as well as better instruments, controls, warning devices, lighting, windshield wipers, defoggers and rear view mirrors.
In addition, manufacturers of new cars must certify that the occupants of every new model can survive a front-end crash into a fixed barrier at 30 miles per hour.
Thatís not a bad start for safety features. Yet, there are other steps you can take to ensure the purchase of a safe car. One of those is to check on the carís crash test rating by visiting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Just click on ďVehicle RatingsĒ.
In addition to the crash test rating, consider the carís size and weight. The laws of physics dictate that larger and heavier cars are safer than lighter and smaller ones, as proven in the statistic that small cars have twice as many occupant deaths each year as large cars.
Another important safety issue is to remember that lap/shoulder belts, airbags and head restraints all work together within a vehicleís structure to protect people in serious crashes. Make sure your passengers wear their seatbelts and that all belts, airbags and head restraints are working properly.
Safety Features Useful in Avoiding an AccidentYou should also consider features that may help avoid a crash in the first place. These include features such as the carís ability to get up to speed quickly and its ability to turn without losing control.
Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brake systems, night vision, traction control, stability control, precise steering, fully independent self-leveling suspension, high performance tires, and wider set wheels are safety features that go hand-in-hand with crash avoidance. These are useful in avoiding crashes when snow, sleet, rain or ice becomes a factor.
What You Can Do Each Day to Ensure a Safe CarAfter youíve considered all your safety options and you purchase your new safe car, itís up to you to reap the benefits of your informed decision. Remember, these wonderful new safety features will be useless unless you understand how to use them, maintain them, and insist that all passengers comply with your safety regulations, such as buckling seat belts. AARP Roadside Assistance asks you to remember that you, the driver, are the biggest safety factor of all. Drive safely!
Visit the following Web sites for more information on vehicle safety.
Whatís Giving Holidays a Bad Name?Itís a holiday! Itís family time. Time to get together with friends or drive to grandmaís house and celebrate. Time to relax, eat, and most likely drink a beer or two. Thatís the basic description of most any holiday. But combine the beer or two with the extra driving time thatís normally involved during a holiday visit and, well, you may just be giving the holidays a bad name.
Take Thanksgiving, for instance. You normally think of Thanksgiving as the holiday with pilgrims, a stuffed turkey and a stuffed Uncle Joe snoring on the sofa after his big meal. But in stark reality, Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the most dangerous time of year on U.S. highways. There are more alcohol-related traffic fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend than any other weekend during the year, including New Year's Eve and New Year's Day combined. Itís no wonder 88% of Americans surveyed said they feared the presence of drunk drivers when on the road, particularly on weekend nights and holidays.
The spring and summer months bring us Memorial Day (marking the beginning of summer), the traditions of the 4th of July celebration and Labor Day (marking the last hurrah of summer). These are three traditionally big party holiday weekends, when hordes of motorists hit the highways. During these holidays people normally choose to spend their time outdoors visiting with friends and participating in outdoor sports. Again, drinking and driving are often part of these holiday scenarios, which results in some tragic statistics.
Even Halloween is getting a bad name. What should be a day for little ones to romp from door to door seeking tricks and treats has now become a dangerous drinking holiday. In 2004, more than half of all Halloween traffic deaths were alcohol-related, killing 129 people from October 30th to November 1st.
So the sad fact remains: You ARE more likely to be in a drinking and driving accident during the holidays. But, there are some steps you can take to ensure your safety and the safety of your loved ones:
- Plan ahead to get a sober, designated driver.
- Take a cab or bus after drinking.
- Spend the night instead of heading home.
- Always wear a seatbelt.
- Report drunk drivers by calling 911.
- Make non-alcoholic beverages available at parties and events.
- Encourage those with substance abuse problems to avoid situations where they might be tempted to drink.
- Be a defensive driver, especially during the peak accident time between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
- Encourage those with substance abuse problems to seek treatment.
- Avoid the roads during major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and the 4th of July.
- Plan to give the host your car keys.
- Check with your state department of transportation, city transit system, or local church or university about alternative transportation provided to the public free of charge during the holiday season.