More than 41,000 people lose their lives in motor
vehicle crashes each year and two million more suffer disabling
injuries, according to the National Safety Council.* The triple threat
of high speeds, impaired or careless driving and not using occupant
restraints threatens every driver -- regardless of how careful or how
Driving defensively means not only taking
responsibility for yourself and your actions but also keeping an eye on
"the other guy." The National Safety Council suggests the
following guidelines to help reduce your risks on the road:
Don't start the engine without securing each passenger
in the car, including children and pets. Safety belts save thousands of
lives each year!
Remember that driving too fast or too slow can
increase the likelihood of collisions.
Don't kid yourself. If you plan to drink, designate a
driver who won't drink. Alcohol is a factor in almost half of all fatal
motor vehicle crashes.
Be alert! If you notice that a car is straddling the
center line, weaving, making wide turns, stopping abruptly or responding
slowly to traffic signals, the driver may be impaired.
Avoid an impaired driver by turning right at the
nearest corner or exiting at the nearest exit. If it appears that an
oncoming car is crossing into your lane, pull over to the roadside,
sound the horn and flash your lights.
Notify the police immediately after seeing a motorist
who is driving suspiciously.
Follow the rules of the road. Don't contest the
"right of way" or try to race another car during a merge. Be
respectful of other motorists.
While driving, be cautious, aware and responsible.
DRIVING IN RAINY CONDITIONS
Losing control of your car on wet pavement is a
frightening experience. Unfortunately, it can happen unless you take
You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully,
especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. When you need
to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid.
Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.
If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease
your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the
front of the car to go. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using
your brakes. This procedure, known as "steering into the
skid," will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.
If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you "steer into the
While skids on wet pavement may be frightening,
hydroplaning is completely nerve-wracking. Hydroplaning happens when the
water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car's weight can
push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up
and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires and the road. At
this point, your car can be completely out of contact with the road, and
you are in danger of skidding or drifting out of your lane.
To avoid hydroplaning, keep your tires properly
inflated, maintain good tread on your tires and replace them when
necessary, slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try
to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.
If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or
turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off
the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need
to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has
anti-lock brakes, then brake normally; the car's computer will mimic a
pumping action, when necessary.
A defensive driver adjusts his or her speed to the wet
road conditions in time to avoid having to use any of these measures!
Remember the windshield wiper law! When
you must use your windshield wipers, you must turn on your headlights!
Last modified: Thursday, April 07, 2005
What To Do
If Your Car Breaks
You are driving when suddenly
you have car trouble.
At the first sign of car trouble, gently and
smoothly take your foot off the accelerator. Do not brake hard
or suddenly. Carefully work your vehicle toward the breakdown
lane or the side of the road. If you are on an interstate, try
to reach an exit. Signal your intentions to drivers behind you.
If it is necessary to change lanes, watch your mirrors and the
traffic around you closely.
Once off the road, make your car visible. Put
flares, warning flags or reflectorized triangles behind your
vehicle to alert other drivers; use your emergency flashers. If
it is dark, turn on the interior dome light.
When you have a flat tire, be certain that you
can change it safely without being close to traffic. If that is
possible, change the tire as you normally would. Remember,
safety must take precedence over your schedule or whatever other
concerns you may have.
However, when the car is beyond repair, it is
best to get professional help. Do not try to flag down other
vehicles. Raise your hood and tie something white to the radio
antenna or hang it out a window so police officers or tow truck
operators will know help is needed. Don't stand behind or next
to your vehicle. If the car is in the roadway, stand away from
the vehicle and wait for help to arrive.
If your car is safely out of traffic, wait
inside the vehicle with the doors locked. If someone stops and
offers to help, open the window slightly and ask them to call
Watch for a uniformed police officer or other
emergency personnel. Interstate highways and major roads are
patrolled regularly. Also, some highways have special
It is inadvisable to walk on an interstate,
especially during inclement weather. However, if you can reach a
source of help on foot, without jeopardizing your physical or
personal safety, try the direct approach by walking. Keep as far
from traffic as possible and walk on the right side of the
roadway. Never attempt to cross a multi-lane, high speed