June is National Safety Month, and of the topics selected by the NSC, safe driving is one of them. This month-long holiday is recognized annually, but implementing safe practices into our routines is of high importance. Keep your friends and family safe under your care by employing these simple yet effective safe-driving techniques. When operating a vehicle, avoid making these dangerous driving mistakes:
Talking on the phone or using a hands-free device.
A new study has shown that, despite popular belief, hands-free devices do not negate the risk of talking on the phone while driving. One of the main reasons for this is that conversing with a person outside of one’s vehicle will allow the brain to conjure visual images of each topic. This imagery, then, competes for space in the brain against what is occurring in the driver’s eyeline. Our brains operate similarly to computers, which means that the reaction time may be delayed due to an increase in stimuli. Think of it like this; when you have multiple pages loading at once on your screen, there may be a lag in load speed. This is not to say that the pages will not eventually load. Sometimes the delay is barely noticeable, but it is still present. When travelling at high speeds, a driver’s reaction time could be the difference between stopping or crashing. All it takes is a couple of seconds of delay to contribute to this difference. Even if your hands are free to pull the wheel in a particular direction, the brain is what makes those movements possible. Avoid talking on the phone while driving, and if necessary, pull over for a brief conversation rather than making a habit of holding long conversations on the freeway.
Ignoring maintenance lights on the dashboard.
Cars are objectively complex machines; therefore, many non-descript warning lights are used to convey a host of potential maintenance issues occurring inside. Ignoring one of these lights could result in irreparable damage to the vehicle, so make sure to read up on what each light means to your particular make and model. The lights typically used range in severity from routine maintenance to urgent electrical or engine malfunctions. To get to the bottom of your specific issue, a mechanic may need to plug a device into your car to discover which piece of your vehicle is experiencing issues. This quick and often zero- to low-cost service is the first step to fixing your problem and should not be put off.
Leaving a child alone in a vehicle for any amount of time.
Unattended children left anywhere by themselves face a far higher risk than independently functioning adults. The level of risk only increases inside of a vehicle. The Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, D.C. recently found that 14% of parents are fine with leaving their toddlers unattended in a locked vehicle for more than 15 minutes, and the percentage rises to 23% for babies under three years old. Of the long list of hazards associated with this behavior, the risk of heat stroke is number one. Temperatures inside of cars on warm days can rise significantly in just minutes, even with a cracked window. This extremely avoidable and yet highly fatal mistake is made at a growing rate. One child every 10 days is affected, despite the increasing information regarding risk. Avoid leaving your child, no matter what age, alone in a vehicle for any amount of time to completely eliminate their risk of heat stroke.
Relying too heavily on your vehicle’s safety features.
Due to the rapid advancement in technology, automatic safety features are becoming commonplace in vehicle manufacturing. Because of this, an over-reliance has been placed on the corrective technology. While these systems are designed to promote safety, it is ultimately up to the user to fully understand and correctly use those features to negate any actual risk. Before operating a vehicle that comes with these safety features, consider studying the ins and outs of each feature through the vehicle’s user manual.
Following too closely behind other moving vehicles.
As mentioned previously, reaction time is key to avoiding accidents. Give yourself the added bonus of time by increasing your following distance. Leaving yourself ample room to slow down or stop in the case of emergency could save you from an accident.