Absolutely no one wants to be in a car accident, but the reality is at some point in your life you will be. The automobile insurance industry estimates the average driver will submit an insurance claim about once every 18 years. Not all crashes are deadly, but in Alabama the likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash is twice as high as the average American’s. In light of this fact, being prepared to handle the worst is your best chance of survival.
Here’s a few tips on how you might save a life while behind the wheel:
Always Use Your Headlights. Naturally we know to use headlights at night and in inclement weather, but using headlights even on clear sunny days can reduce your chances of being involved in an auto accident by 32%.
Be Extra Cautious. Much of the reason for Alabama’s high automotive fatality rate is due to lack of hospital access in rural communities. The Alabama Rural Health Association reported that the mortality rate for residents living in rural areas is almost 56% higher than for those living in the cities. When traveling along rural routes, obey the speed limit and drive assertively.
Focus on the Current Traffic Conditions. Paying attention to the road seems like a no-brainer, but we often drive on automatic pilot. There’s a theory that the very same traffic signs meant to keep drivers safe actually endanger them by lulling drivers into complacency. A few cities in Europe have embraced this theory and started a movement called “Naked Streets,” where the removal of traffic lights and signs has improved both traffic flow and safety. While it doesn’t look like this initiative will pass in the U.S. any time soon, being mindful of what surrounding drivers are doing in the flow of traffic – not just trusting in traffic signs and signals - increases reaction time in the event of an accident.
Beware of Blind Spots. Those rearview mirrors weren’t made so you can see the rear sides of your car, they are designed to show oncoming vehicles hidden by a blind spot. Most drivers have their mirrors placed incorrectly, or rely on the rear-end alert technology in newer vehicles to help them maneuver around other vehicles. Your eyes and a properly positioned mirror are really the only tools you need to avoid a side-swipe or lane-change disaster.
Don’t Be a Distracted Driver. Technology: it’s supposed to make your life easier but sometimes it just complicates matters. This is especially true when it comes to using your cellphone. Distracted driving is the leading cause of death among drivers ages 18-24, but they’re not the only age group who thinks they absolutely have to answer a text when behind the wheel. The CDC reported in 2012, that 387,000 people were injured by distracted drivers. Unless you’re calling to report an accident, it’s best to text and phone when you’re not in the car.
Don’t Break for Blowouts. Tire blowouts are the least fun you can have in a car. Most people’s natural reaction to the sound and force of a tire blowout is to slam the brakes. This can actually cause your car to skid and roll over so please, please do not slam the breaks. In the event of a blowout, stay calm, grip the steering wheel, ease off the accelerator and move to the side of the road when possible. Only apply breaks when the vehicle is under control. Do this and you won’t look like you’ve suddenly decided to become a stunt car driver, with the injuries to prove it.
Take It Slow When It Snows (or Rains). Wet and snowy weather is another collision causing culprit, especially in the fall and winter. During El Nino (which is happening this year), Alabama receives colder than average temperatures. To better handle hazardous weather conditions, drive the speed limit and definitely don’t tailgate. Plan extra travel time on bad weather days. Vehicles with all-wheel drive are the best at handling slippery roads; something to consider for your next car purchase.
Always Use Your Emergency Brake. The parking (emergency) break prevents your car from rolling backwards or forwards when parked on an incline. The emergency break is like a muscle, if you don’t use it, it will atrophy and die. Literally. The parking break overrides the hydraulic mechanism that controls your breaks. If you don’t use it, the cables corrode and fall apart. You don’t want your car to keep rolling after you’ve parked, or fail you in an emergency. Pull the break up and you’ll have good drivers luck.
Buckle Up. This is another tip that seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many drivers disregard the law by disregarding their seatbelt. October of this year saw one of the worst traffic fatality streaks in years, with 340 fatal incidents. According to the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety, 65% of the vehicle’s occupants were not using their seatbelts.
Pittman, Dutton, Hellums, Bradley & Mann is a Birmingham personal injury law firm with a solid record of success in handling Alabama motor vehicle accident cases. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, we’d like to help you on the road to recovery. You can contact us today at (205) 322-8880 for a free case evaluation. Consultation is always free and at no obligation to you.
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