There are some car accidents that are totally unpreventable. They occur because of some nature-related event or some freak accident, and simply cannot be avoided by the drivers involved. However, the vast majority of car accidents are entirely preventable, with responsibility for the accident falling on the shoulders of one or more of the drivers.
If you’re interested in making the roads safer for you, other drivers, and pedestrians as well, there are several basic steps you can take—and none of them require much effort.
Obey the Law at All Times
This should go without saying, but it’s important for you to obey the law at all times. Posted signs, posted speed limits, and standing laws should all dictate how you drive. Most people, however, get comfortable with their understanding of the roads, and willfully deviate from these laws. The majority of drivers feel it’s completely okay to go over the speed limit, and most of us have (at least on occasion) performed a rolling stop through a stop sign because we feel like there’s no harm in it. However, breaking the law can put you in unsafe scenarios when you least expect it, and greatly increase your risk of an accident.
Drive Slower and Increase Your Following Distance
In general, driving slower and increasing your following distance behind cars can only be a good thing. Reducing your speed by 5 or 10 miles per hour won’t have a significant impact on the time it takes you to travel (especially if you’re going short distances), but can give you an extra second of reaction time when you need it most. Similarly, there’s no danger in increasing the following distance between you and the car in front of you, but the more distance you have, the more time you’ll have to react to unusual circumstances or changes in your environment, like sudden braking.
Always Drive in a Clear State of Mind
Most people understand the risks inherent in drinking and driving, but any state of impairment can be fatal. The biggest problem here is that people underestimate their level of impairment; they believe that because they only had two drinks, or because they feel alert, that they’re in suitable condition to drive. This is extremely dangerous; if you’re even slightly impaired, the best choice is to find an alternate means of travel. This also goes for unconventionally considered “impairments,” like driving when tired or upset.
Be Mindful of Bad Weather
Weather can make even the best drivers more likely to be in an accident. Rain, snow, and heavy fog can all get in the way of your vision, making it hard to avoid obstacles or detect environmental changes. And of course, snow and ice can interfere with your ability to control your vehicle. Avoid these bad weather conditions when you can, and if you can’t, drive with extra caution.
Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon
If you want to avoid an accident, your situational awareness needs to be extremely high. Accordingly, you should keep your eyes on the horizon at all times—and keep looking around you in case something enters your peripheral vision. The sooner you catch something in your vision, the faster you can respond to it.
One of the modern blights of vehicular travel is distracted driving. Many drivers falsely believe they’re exempt from the risks of distracted driving, so they take the time to send a text message, check social media, or even watch a video on a mobile device while driving. They may also attempt to eat or prepare for work while driving. Anything that takes your attention from the road is dangerous, no matter how good at multitasking you think you are, so avoid it at all costs.
Driving defensively is a set of habits that can keep you and the other drivers on the road much safer. The basic principle is to take actions that assume that other drivers are inherently dangerous, avoiding them, and reducing your own risky behaviors. It is a conservative approach, forcing you to give more space to other drivers—especially if they seem to be driving aggressively.
Keep Your Car in Good Condition
Finally, keep your car in good condition. Mechanical failures are common culprits in car accidents, rendering vehicles unable to respond in a safe or timely manner. Taking your vehicle in for repairs and inspections regularly can help you avoid such a fate.
These steps don’t take much time or effort, and shouldn’t cost much money, but they can have a dramatic effect in reducing the rate of accidents on the road. If every driver followed these steps to the best of their ability, only a tiny fraction of vehicular accidents would remain.