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Safe driving tips for new and veteran drivers

woman driving safely with her seatbelt on

No matter how new or seasoned you are to the road and rules of traffic, accidents can always happen. Being a careful driver is critical for your safety on neighborhood streets and highways alike.

Distracted driving, severe weather and uncorrected poor vision can add to the dangers that come with road travel. Before getting behind the wheel, make sure you’ve prepared yourself properly for what may lie ahead.

Important safety tips for all drivers

The basic rules of the road are fundamental to your safety as a driver and the safety of your passengers and everyone else around you. You should:

  • Keep your car’s safety equipment in good running condition.

  • Never drive under the influence.

  • Pull over and rest if you’re sleepy.

  • Avoid distracted driving — this includes keeping your eyes and mind on the road and your hands on the wheel at all times.

  • Pay attention to cyclists, pedestrians and other drivers.

  • Follow road signs and traffic flow.

  • Always wear a seatbelt.

These tips are not the only ones you should follow, and there are many other road hazards you should be aware of. 

Highway traffic tips

Driving on the highway can be intimidating for anyone, as traffic can be unpredictable. These tips can help mentally and physically prepare you for highway travel.

  • Give 18-wheelers and other big trucks room on the road.

  • Don’t tailgate.

  • Slow down when driving through construction zones.

  • Switch lanes if you see a car pulled over on the shoulder.

  • Pay attention to where your exits are.

  • Review directions to your destination before you begin driving. Looking at your phone for any reason, including for navigation, takes your attention away from the road and increases your risk of colliding with another car.

  • If you are driving in a rural area, be alert for wildlife.

  • Do not continue to drive if you are tired, no matter how close or far your destination is.

  • If you need to call 911 to report an incident, make sure you are in a safe place before doing so.

Safety tips for new drivers

Car crashes are the second-leading cause of death among teens. Additionally, over 2,000 people died in accidents involving a teen driver (between 15 and 18 years old) in 2019. These numbers alone make the rules of the road incredibly important to follow for new drivers. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top eight causes of car crashes for teen drivers are:

  • Inexperience

  • Driving at night

  • Driving without seatbelts

  • Drowsy driving

  • Distracted driving

  • Reckless driving

  • Driving with other teen passengers

  • Driving while impaired

While your teen is getting used to life behind the wheel, encourage them to practice these safety measures:

  • Always obey road signs and traffic laws.

  • Do not tailgate. If the car in front of you brakes quickly for any reason, it can cause you to rear-end them, and even a car in front of them, depending on your speed. If someone is tailgating you, don’t hesitate to switch lanes to avoid a collision.

  • Don’t speed. 

  • Don’t play games on the road. This includes playing “chicken,” drag racing and attempting other dangerous maneuvers.

  • Avoid distractions, such as using your cell phone, listening to music, and shifting focus from the road to talking with passengers in your car.

  • Buckle up. Failing to wear a seatbelt can threaten your life if you get in a car crash. Not only that, it can cost you a traffic ticket — so make sure you and your passengers are always buckled up for the ride. 

Safety tips for seniors

Older drivers may have different concerns when it comes to driving, from seeing clearly to driving safely while taking certain medications. These tips can assist senior drivers:

  • Try to drive during daytime hours as much as possible. Driving at night can be difficult for anyone, especially those with aging eyes.

  • Avoid highways and routes that are more dangerous for seniors.

  • Keep your cell phone on silent as you drive to avoid reaching for it if it rings.

  • Avoid other distractions such as talking with other passengers, adjusting the radio or focusing too closely on audiobooks.

  • Don’t drive in dangerous weather conditions such as rain, ice, sleet or snow.

  • Avoid driving in heavy traffic.

  • Review the side effects of your medications. If they make you drowsy or affect your ability to drive in any other way, it might be a good idea to avoid driving.

  • Have your vision checked and always wear your glasses if you need them to see clearly while driving.

SEE RELATED: How to drive safely after you turn 60

Driving safely at night

Driving at night is a different ballgame than driving during the day for several reasons. Visibility is reduced in darker environments, glare can be heightened from headlights and street lights and reading signs can be more difficult — just to name a few obstacles.

When driving at night, you should:

  • Use your headlights. Avoid using your high beams (brights) in the presence of other drivers, but take advantage of them if you are the only driver on the road.

  • Get your vision checked to see if you could benefit from wearing glasses as you drive at night.

  • Don’t drive if you are tired.

  • Drive more slowly so that you can brake more effectively if an obstacle appears in the road. Stopping and reaction times are slower at faster speeds.

  • Consider anti-reflective coating for your glasses, as it can help you see more clearly while driving at night.

  • Keep your windshield clean to reduce glare and visual obstructions.

  • Never drink and drive.

These tips may seem simple, but they are critical for driving safely at night and preventing accidents. Statistically, driving at night is much more dangerous than driving during the day. According to the National Safety Council, 50% of traffic deaths occur at night. 

SEE RELATED: Night Driving Glasses: Help or Hoax? 

Driving safely in poor weather conditions

Rain, fog, wind, snow, ice and sleet can all be challenging and dangerous to drive in, but doing so is sometimes unavoidable. Here are some important reminders for driving in dangerous weather conditions:

  • Drive slowly to accommodate for limited vision and delayed reaction times on slick roads.

  • Make sure your windshield wipers are functioning properly. Inspect other safety features of your car including tires and seatbelts.

  • Defrost your windshield completely before driving.

  • Use your regular headlights for your visibility and visibility for other drivers. Never use your high beams in foggy weather.

  • Don’t use cruise control in wet weather, as it can cause you to accelerate when unsafe and increase your risk for hydroplaning.

  • Avoid hard braking.

  • Maintain a safe distance between your car and the car ahead of you.

  • Always wear a seatbelt.

SEE RELATED: Driving in fog

Vision and road safety

Though some road hazards prove to be difficult for any driver to navigate, there are certain steps you can take to improve your safety on the road. 

One of the most important factors in driver safety is your own vision. When you’re not seeing sharply, it can be challenging to see road signs and others on the road, whether it’s cars, cyclists or pedestrians. 

Getting a comprehensive eye exam every year is the best way to ensure your vision is as sharp as it can be for all activities, including driving. Clear vision can help you prevent accidents on the road, both minor and severe.

READ NEXT: The importance of healthy vision for road safety

Teen drivers: get the facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 2021.

Teen driving. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Accessed August 2021.

Tip sheet: safety tips for older drivers. Health in Aging Foundation. February 2019.

The most dangerous time to drive. National Safety Council. Accessed August 2021.

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