More than 38,000 people die every year in crashes on U.S. roadways. Whether you’re driving alone or with a car full of passengers, road safety should always be your top priority. Follow our car safety guide to avoid accidents and create a safer environment on the roadways for you, your passengers, other drivers and pedestrians.
Increasing Car Safety
Car safety remains a top concern for car-shoppers and car manufacturers today. In fact, a recent Consumer Reports survey indicated that car shoppers are more enthusiastic about advanced safety features that keep them from getting into accidents than technology that drives for them.
While seat belts are your best source of protection against impaired, aggressive and distracted drivers, improved driver assistance technology can also serve as a great form of defense when you’re in a vehicle. Some examples of improved car safety technology include backup cameras, forward collision warning systems, lane departure warning systems and automatic emergency braking.
Teenage Driver Safety
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. Teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers aged 20 and older. Many road accidents are caused by young drivers, largely because they lack driving experience.
A study conducted by the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teenagers new to driving were eight times more likely to crash in the first three months of getting a license than they were during the last three months when they only had a learner’s permit. They are also four times more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors like sudden braking and turning and rapid acceleration.
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs, enacted in all states, help young drivers gain driving experience safely in phases before obtaining full driving privileges. During the learning stage, New York requires 50 hours of supervised driving, of which 15 are night hours, before drivers are able to take their driving text. Once drivers pass their test, New York restricts nighttime driving (between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.) and the number of passengers to one under age 21 at a time during the intermediate stage. Drivers can get full driving privileges at the age of 17 with driver’s education or 18 without driver’s education.
While research has shown that significant reductions in car accident deaths have been associated with GDL laws, parents still play an important role in helping their teens become safe drivers. Parents should reinforce driver safety laws and set a good example for their teenagers by practicing safe driving habits themselves.
How to Stay Safe on the Road
No matter how prepared you are, accidents can still happen unexpectedly. Follow these critical steps while you’re in the car to ensure maximum road safety.
1. Wear a seatbelt.
Seatbelts save thousands of lives each year. Drivers that refuse to wear a seatbelt are 8.3 times more likely to sustain fatal injury and 5.2 times more likely to sustain serious injury compared to those that use seatbelts. Make buckling up first priority when you get inside of a vehicle!
2. Obey posted speed limits.
Speed limits are put in place to protect all road users. By not following the speed limit, whether you’re going too fast or too slow, you’re endangering your life and the lives of others. Remain at the speed limit to ensure maximum road traffic safety.
3. Avoid distractions.
According to the CDC, distracted driving is the cause of nine deaths and more than 1,000 injuries every day in the U.S. It’s crucial that your eyes are fixated on the road at all times. Your vehicle is not the place for multi-tasking. Stay off of your phone, avoid eating, and refrain from searching for music while you’re driving. If you’re feeling drowsy or you need to make an emergency call or text, pull over immediately.
4. Do not drive intoxicated.
Almost 30 people die each day from alcohol-impaired driving in the U.S. Alcohol reduces brain function, impairing thinking, reaction time and muscle coordination, all of which are essential to operating a vehicle safely. Driving intoxicated is a serious and dangerous crime. Be a responsible driver, and plan a safe ride home if you are drinking. If you know someone has been drinking, do not let them get behind a wheel!
5. Ensure passenger safety.
Your age determines where you’ll be most safe in a car. Children aged 12 and under should be buckled in the backseat of a vehicle.The middle backseat is the safest place for a car seat. Adult passengers are safest in the front of a vehicle where there is improved airbag technology, as chest injuries are much more significant in older passengers.
Children are the most vulnerable passengers and require careful attention in the vehicle.If you are driving with a child, make sure he or she is secured safely in a car seat before going anywhere. Safety officials recommend that parents always perform a pinch test to ensure their child is securely strapped into the car seat. After putting the child in the car seat and securing the straps, pinch the safety strap to see if the strap is up against the child’s body. The safety strap needs to be directly next to the child’s body for it to be effective.
If your child is wearing a large, puffy winter coat, he or she will not be adequately restrained in the event of an accident. These kinds of coats can add up to an entire inch of space between the child and the straps. If there is too much space between your child’s body and the straps, consider putting them in a lighter-weight coat for car travel or remove the coat and bundle your child in blankets that rest over the car seat.