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Five Tips For Avoiding An Accident

Posted in driving, How To, Promoted, Safety by Kurt Ernst | May 26th, 2011 | 11 Responses |

To a lawyer, there's no such thing as a minor accident. Image: David Shankbone

Let’s face it – no one ever plans on getting into an accident, and most of us are over-confident in our driving ability. If you spend enough time behind the wheel, sooner or later the odds just don’t play in your favor. It’s like the opposite of a trip to Vegas, with the jackpot replaced by a roadside call to the police that none of us ever want to make. Accidents are stressful enough, but these days it’s rarely over after the police report is written. If you’re at fault, plan on being sued, which will cost your insurance company (and, potentially, you) serious money to fight in court. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff (the guy suing you), expect to lose a substantial part of your income, possibly for a long, long time.

If you get the feeling that accidents are best avoided entirely, you’re correct. There’s no way to guarantee that you’ll never be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the five tips below should help raise the odds in your favor.

Don’t Drive Distracted

I know that we’ve flogged this particular horse to death, but people still aren’t getting the message. If you text, surf the web, eat, shave, read, apply makeup or even talk on a hand-held cell phone, sooner or later you will have an accident. If you’re lucky, it will be a minor one with no serious repercussions. If you’re not lucky, you’ll be looking at garnished wages or jail time, so ask yourself this: is replying to a “whassup” text worth three years of jailhouse marriage to a guy named Bubba?

Make Sure Your Car Is Mechanically Sound

Many states have done away with vehicle inspection programs, which seems to give drivers free reign to ignore car repair and upkeep. In Florida, it rains almost every single afternoon in the summer, yet 60 percent of the cars I see in parking lots are riding on worn-out tires. Their owners have money for dinner out, cruise vacations, new clothes or the latest electronic gadgets, but they can’t buy new tires or brakes because they’re too expensive. You know what can be exponentially more expensive than new tires? Causing an accident on worn-out tires.

Look Far Enough Ahead

Most drivers fixate on the car in front of them in traffic. If he has to stop short, guess what? Chances are good that you’re driving right into his rear bumper. In traffic, always try to look 2 or 3 car lengths ahead of you, which buys you more time to take evasive action if necessary. If you can’t see around the car or truck in front of you, change lanes until you have a clear view of traffic.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When traffic is coming to a stop on the highway, I immediate activate my hazard lights and lightly tap my brakes a few times to flash the brake lights. Why? Because I want to let the ADD-addled driver behind me know that traffic isn’t moving at 75 miles per hour any more. I always watch my rearview mirror at a traffic light for the same reason, and I often flash my brake lights if another driver is closing on me too quickly. The more you can advise cars around you that there’s stopped traffic ahead, the less likely you are to be the guy that gets hit from behind.

Always Have An Escape Route

Few things freak me out as much as being “boxed in” in traffic, and I’ll do nearly anything I can to avoid it. Why is it so bad? Because suddenly, your safety is dependent upon the driving skill of the motorists around you, and those aren’t odds I’m willing to take. Always look for a way out of traffic situations, either on the shoulder or an adjacent lane. Never let someone drive in your blind spot for this very reason; speed up or slow down to get away from the inattentive lemming in the car alongside you, and never be the idiot who drives in someone else’s blind spot.

A lot of safe driving comes down to common sense, but that’s in short supply these days. Never trust another driver (unless you know them) and always anticipate the most bone-headed move possible from drivers around you; sooner or later, you won’t be disappointed.

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11 Responses

  1. Those are good tips. Another good one is to avoid speeding; I heard somewhere that the faster you drive the more likely you are to have a serious accident if you hit someone or get hit. The next tip may sound extreme and crazy but avoid driving on Saturday and Friday night; this is very doable if you’re not real social. I think those are the nights with lots of drunk drivers around; same for NYE and 4th of July.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      I’d dispute the “avoid speeding” one, despite what insurance companies tell you. Maybe we can agree on “avoid driving beyond your ability, regardless of speed.”

      • Set says:

        Jeremy Clarkson said it best “Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you”.

    • turbosrt says:

      I agree with Kurt on that. Going faster in most cases is safer I think. The driver is more aware and thus prepared. Of course im excluding the drivers that drive faster out of ignorance and driving faster in school zones/work zones etc is unsafe as well. How many times have you seen someone on the highway tho half asleep because they have been going 70 for the last 30 miles.

  2. turbosrt says:

    Any Ideas as to how I can get someone who is hopeless stubborn to drive a little better? Story goes my best friends wife is the absolute WORST/dangerous driver I have ever seen. Ruins every car my friend buys her within 2 years(fender benders everywhere), stopped for reckless driving/excessive speeding/driving on wrong side of road/no signaling, and even destroyed an ol womans Kia by plowing thru her in my friends new RAM 2500. She now drives a new Chevy Traverse and my concern is her driving when she has their 3 kids in the car. A horrific crash is in her future and I dont want to see those kids involved. My friend (her husband) wont speak up because she feels very very strongly about the subject and will/has totally loose her temper. Any ideas? Maybe scare her into driving better or just wait until she rolls the thing and hope everyone in the car survives?

    • TurboSRT, Sorry but your friend sounds very reckless dangerous; what is she thinking driving like that? Maybe you can try and show her graphic pictures of what accidents really look like, like those “Red Ashpalt” type vids they used to show in drivers Ed? They might not make a difference though. I have a friend who is a reckless driver and I showed her gruesome pics of what can happen if you get in a car accident (blood and all) and it scared her for around 10 minutes. There’s nothing you can do with people like that; they probably shouldn’t be on the road to begin with. Driving should be a privilege.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Sorry, turbosrt, but your options are “slim” and “none”. If her husband is afraid to broach the subject, you won’t have any luck getting through to her, either. Graphic pictures or graphic videos won’t help, because every driver thinks “it won’t happen to me.” If you’re going to try anything, find some stories about the aftermath of car accidents from a financial perspective. Even a minor accident with no apparent injuries can cost a driver hundreds of thousands of dollars if the “victim” gets the right lawyer. Are your friends willing to risk their income, their house and their lifestyle because his wife can’t drive competently?

  3. PFULMTL says:

    I’ve only been in one collision ever since I started driving a little over a decade ago. Was the other year and it was in the morning while I was going to work. I was at a green stop light waiting to take a left turn, but there was some elderly people jaywalking. After they got on the sidewalk, I went without looking further down the opposite road and a car clipped my rear right door. Thankfully it didn’t cause any axle/frame damage as we both were going pretty slow. The messed up part was the elderly people that just jaywalked came by to have look…

    Being tired sure does slow down your reaction time. I’m usually a pretty alert person, but the first two hours after I wake up, I’m pretty much a zombie. I haven’t had a speeding ticket and the only ticket I’ve ever had was for expired stickers (twice) thoughout the entire decade of driving!

  4. […] most important tips when on the road! Share any driving tip you have to avoid accidents. from ride lust […]

  5. Anthony says:

    Don’t rush, like speeding up to catch the yellow, or driving thru the end tip of a red light just b/c you don’t want to wait.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Anthony, that’s especially good advice if you live in a state that uses traffic cameras. Run a light that’s changing from yellow to red, get a ticket in the mail a few weeks later…