During the holidays, or any day, distractions and other issues can create unsafe driving conditions.
When a two-ton automobile is zipping along at highway speeds with a drunk driver behind the wheel, chances are someone will get hurt. Statistics show that 70 percent of impaired drivers in fatal accidents have blood alcohol levels of .15 or more — almost double the legal limit in most jurisdictions. And, every one of those drunk drivers was a repeat offender.
While drunk driving is a major hazard, other distractions can create accidents. Use of cell phones and other electronic devices can take attention off the road. Weather and man-made conditions can create dangerous situations.
‘Drive Hammered — Get Nailed’ and Other Tips for Arriving Safely
While it seems that tips for safe driving are everywhere, none has been so blatant as the overhead signs in Arizona that proclaim the warning, “Drive Hammered – Get Nailed.” Clever as the statement is, it is distracting!
Other distractions to avoid and tips to make safe arrival more likely include:
One for the road should be water, coffee, or a non-alcoholic beverage. Better yet, be the designated driver and don’t drink. A driver who has been drinking may not think they’re impaired, but they may be. The amount of blood alcohol can be affected by the weight of the person and how long since the drinking occurred. Beer, wine, and liquor all contain alcohol in varying amounts. No matter how much you think you can “hold your liquor,” don’t tempt the fate of others in the car and on the road.
Alternatives to driving include a taxi or a driving service. Choosing to stay put is also an option. A caring host would keep track of guests and confiscate their keys if they’re drunk.
Focus on Your Driving
Remember to check rear view mirrors that can show when other cars may be about to change lanes — without seeing you. If there is a need to take a cell phone call, the best way to do that is to pull off on a road shoulder. Hands-free phones exist, but calls are still distracting.
A tired driver is another possible hazard. Better to get off the road and nap in a sheltered location.
Keep Your Hands on the Wheel and Your Eyes on the Road
Applying makeup, turning around to converse with passengers, eating, turning around to referee bickering children in the back seat, and other distracting activities should not be part of driving. Reading a newspaper draped over the steering wheel while driving is another outrageous, distracting behavior.
By paying attention to the road and other drivers, you will be aware of other drivers’ hazardous behavior and can take precautions. In driver’s education classes, this is called “Defensive Driving.”
Until self-driving cars are a reality in your neighborhood, rely on yourself and your judgment in a rested, sober condition.
Be Legally Prepared
Have your paperwork available in case you are stopped by law enforcement officials, in an accident, or injured. Know who to call if you are injured. If something does happen, do not admit culpability. If you are in an accident, have paperwork ready to exchange by having your car registration, car insurance, and license available.
Be alert, not drowsy. Know where you’re going. Use GPS or figure out your route ahead of time. Use your seatbelt. Drive with control by having both hands on the steering wheel.
Weather conditions can create unpredictable situations. A wintry patch of “glare” or black ice on a road that was going uphill suddenly placed the driver in the oncoming lane. As the car spun in a circle, the driver was helpless to control the vehicle. The driver was lucky when the car continued spinning and landed safely in her own lane just before an oncoming vehicle hit the car! By driving slowly, she ensured a better result.
Road conditions can be less than desirable, but allowing for the variables, a safe driver can avoid accidents, injuries, and litigation.
And, if despite your best efforts, your arrival is delayed, be glad you did arrive safely!