The best safety feature of your vehicle…is you!
Over the past number of years we’ve seen a growth in safety features placed in passenger vehicles. Starting with seatbelts, we’ve also seen airbags, side impact beams, and crumple zones added as vehicle safety features. One of the best safety features seems to be forgotten when people discuss what makes their vehicle safer than other vehicles; the driver.
To some people, they expect the vehicle to protect them, regardless of what they may do while driving. That’s not always the case. There are just some crashes that injure people enough that they may not survive, despite what safety features the vehicle may have.
Drivers should always be watching for the unexpected and expect it. I guess there’s no unexpected then, is there? In order to spot risks and potential problems, you need to look at least two blocks ahead. That’s approximately 12 to 15 seconds from where you currently are. This will give you time to see problems, time to think of what to do about it and then time to respond. Make sense so far?
Since problems don’t always come from the opposite direction, you should also look to the sides; building to building really. This gives you more time to see drivers, pedestrians and cyclists coming from those areas thus, giving you more time to respond to them.
Finally, drivers need to check their mirrors more regularly. In almost 3 decades that I’ve been involved with road safety, I’ve realized drivers either fail to check their mirrors often enough or do it out of habit without actually realizing if a risk was approaching from behind.
The bottom line is, you’ll never respond to something you never noticed. And if you hadn’t noticed it, you can’t always rely upon your vehicle’s safety features to protect you and your passengers. So what can you do?
Once you’ve learned where to look and have made that into a habit while driving, sitting in the correct seating position gives you a fighting chance. Having two hands on the steering wheel is necessary, not just to steer, but in case of mechanical failure and the vehicle makes a sudden swerve to the side. It also helps you react quicker to a sudden problem.
Remove any distractions you may have in the vehicle. Social media and police have been telling you that for a long time, so why not do it? Put your attention on the driving task and not on anything else, including conversations with passengers. Since you need to use your eyes so much while driving, you need to ensure you aren’t distracted from looking where you should because of a distraction.
The final way to ensure you remain the best safety feature of your vehicle is how you position your vehicle in traffic. Many drivers trust the drivers near them won’t screw up. Sorry to tell you, but they do screw up and you know it. To give yourself room to avoid problems, avoid driving next to other vehicles. Drive beside space. In heavy traffic where that may be more difficult, leave extra space in front. You need to have an escape in case of trouble, so always think about where you could go. This would include a driveway, another lane, up the curb, front lawn, etc.
Despite how many safety features your vehicle may have, you’re the best one for the job of keeping you, your passengers and other road users safe. I hope you’re up for the job because you don’t really have much of a choice.
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