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Tips For Safer Driving

Each year over 40,000 people die and millions more are hurt in car accidents. There are easy ways, however, to help avoid accidents and reduce your injuries if you are in one. Here are tips.

Always wear your seat belt
Seat belts save thousands of lives each year and are your best protection in a crash. They are designed so that the strongest areas of your body — your hip, shoulder and chest bones — absorb more of the forces in a crash. They also keep you in place so you are less likely to hit the steering wheel, windshield and dashboard, and they help prevent you from being ejected from the vehicle.

Make it a practice to never leave your driveway until everyone in the car is wearing a seat belt. And be sure the seat belt is worn correctly. Adjust the lap belt or lap portion of the lap/shoulder belt combination so it is snug and low across your hips and pelvis. The shoulder belt should cross your chest and collarbone and be snug. Don’t wear the belt under your arm, since this puts it over your lower rib cage, which can break your ribs and cause internal injuries in the event of a crash.

Be alert and drive defensively
Over 40% of traffic deaths are caused by not yielding the right of way, running a stop sign, or ignoring a traffic light. Driving defensively and following rules of the road will reduce accidents, including driving within the speed limit and signaling when turning.

Never drink and drive
If you plan to drink, designate a driver who won’t. Alcohol is a factor in almost 50% of all fatal accidents. Choosing the designated driver before you reach your destination will help make sure everyone involved follows their roles.

Don’t tailgate
Following a vehicle in front of you too closely is dangerous and won’t help you reach your destination faster. So be sure to leave plenty of room between your car and the car in front of you. Some safety experts recommend a minimum distance of 1.5 car lengths for every 10 miles per hour — which means three car lengths for a car going 20 mph and nine car lengths for a car traveling 60 mph.

Adjust head restraints properly
These help keep your head from snapping back in crashes. Studies show that nearly 90% of drivers have headrests adjusted too low. According to the government, restraints are most effective when the top of the restraint is between the top of your ears and the top of your head. They should be no more than two inches from the back of your head.

Use anti-lock brakes properly
Anti-lock brakes work best on wet roads. Apply firm, continuous pressure to anti-lock brakes. Do not “pump” them, as anti-lock brakes automatically pump several times per second to prevent wheels from locking.

Be extra careful when driving near trucks
Give them plenty of room, and be aware of a truck driver’s blind spots and wide turns. If you can’t see the truck driver’s mirror, he or she can’t see you. When passing, be sure you can see the truck’s headlights in your rearview mirror before you pull back into the same traffic lane.

Make sure your mirrors are adjusted properly
This will reduce your blind spots.

Check your tire pressure regularly
Riding on underinflated tires is dangerous. Along with regularly checking the air pressure in your tires, make sure the tread is not too low and the tires don’t have bulges, cuts or other damage.

Limit cell phone use
The safest thing is to not use a cell phone while driving. Studies show that drivers are about four times more likely to be in a crash when using a cell phone. If you must use a phone while driving, try to use a hands free phone (in some areas, it’s against the law to use a hand-held cell phone when driving). Also, dial only when stopped, and take advantage of your phone’s automatic redial and other features. But remember that even with all these safety features, phone conversations take your mind off driving so try to limit time on the phone.

Make adjustments when driving at night
Traffic deaths are three times higher at night. To improve safety, increase following distances and make sure your car is prepared for night driving — that headlights, taillights, and windows are clean. Also, pull off the road and get rest if you feel tired. Drowsy driving causes about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths every year.

Keep your car in good working order
Although driver error is the cause of most accidents, mechanical failure does play a part in some. To reduce the risk of this, have your car regularly checked by a qualified mechanic.

These are just a few ways to improve driving safety. They will reduce your chances of being in an accident and help minimize your injuries if you are in one.

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