Car Safety Tips from Plymouth Rock Assurance

On the Road

Whether you’re headed on a cross-country road trip or driving just across town, new and inexperienced drivers alike can benefit from our 10 most common driving mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Speeding
Research has shown that for every mile per hour you drive over the speed limit, the likelihood of being in an accident increases by four to five percent [source: European Road Safety Observatory]. At higher speeds, the risk increases much more quickly. For the average drive across town, driving even 10 mph faster may save you only a few minutes, while increasing your crash risk by as much as 50 percent. Even on long trips, the time you'll save is insignificant compared to the risks associated with speeding. Take your time and obey posted speed limits. If you really need to get there as fast as possible, there's one fool-proof solution: Leave earlier.

2. Distractions
Distractions keep a driver from driving safely or noticing and correcting dangerous situations. When you're talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, applying makeup or even fiddling with the radio, you’re taking your eyes off the road and your attention away from your surroundings.
Did you know that sending one text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, this means you’d drive the length of a football field for the time it takes to send your text. Distractions hinder your ability to scan the road effectively, identify potential trouble and take the necessary corrective actions. Distracted driving is a leading cause of death. Stay safe and eliminate distractions by focusing on the road ahead.

3. Taking Unnecessary Risks
Driving a car has inherent risk, and when combined with poor choices such as speeding through a yellow light, you increase your chances of causing an accident. Avoid taking unnecessary risks, such as forgetting to check your blind spots, not using your turn signal, driving under the influence and distracted driving.

4. Follow the Three Second Rule
Safe driving guidelines advise drivers to keep a safe distance between their car and the car ahead. Drivers need enough time to react if the car ahead makes a sudden turn or stop. Because it is difficult to estimate the recommended distances while driving and the because of the need to adjust for speed, most experts recommend a "three-second rule."
The three-second rule is simple. Find a stationary object on the side of the road. When the car ahead of you passes it, start counting seconds. At least three seconds should pass before your car passes the same object. At night or in inclement weather, double the recommended time to six seconds.

5. Not Wearing a Seat Belt
Seat belts save lives. Worn properly, they prevent you from being thrown around the inside of a crashing vehicle or, worse, thrown through the windshield and flung completely out of the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than half of all accident fatalities involve people who don’t use their using seat belts. The numbers are much scarier for young drivers and passengers: A staggering 70 percent of fatal crash victims between the ages of 13 and 15 weren't wearing seat belts. Take five seconds before you begin your journey and buckle up.

6. Driving While Tired
Driving while drowsy delays reaction time and decreases awareness, often resulting in accidents. You may feel you're fine to drive, when you're really not. If you're driving and feel the least bit groggy, take action immediately. Don't think you'll get any kind of warning before you fall asleep or that you can fight it off. People can move from drowsy to sound asleep without warning. If you begin to feel sleepy, have a friend take over behind the wheel, find a rest area where you can catch a few hours of sleep or take a break until you're feeling more alert.

7. Driving While Drunk
More than 30 percent of all auto accident fatalities in the United States involve drivers impaired by alcohol. Most of these deaths could have been avoided if the drivers involved hadn't gotten behind the wheel. Alcohol causes a number of impairments that lead to car accidents. Even at low blood-alcohol levels, intoxication reduces reaction time and coordination and lowers inhibitions, which can cause drivers to make foolish choices. At higher levels, alcohol causes blurred or double vision and even loss of consciousness.

It's easy to avoid driving drunk. If you've been drinking, ask a sober friend for a ride or call a cab. If you're planning to drink, make sure you have a designated driver. The mild inconvenience of taking a cab home is nothing compared to the disastrous consequences of driving while intoxicated.

8. Driving “Like Normal” in Bad Weather
If you're driving through fog, heavy rain, a snow storm or on icy roads, be extra cautious. Take all of the other tips presented here and make full use of them: Drive below the speed limit if necessary, maintain extra space between you and the car ahead and be especially careful around curves. If you're driving through weather conditions you don't know well, consider delegating driving duties to someone who does, if possible. If the weather worsens, find a safe place to wait out the storm.

9. Failing to Anticipate
Sometimes, it doesn't matter how safely you drive. You could be driving the speed limit and obeying all traffic rules and someone else can crash into you. Be aware of other drivers. For instance, be prepared for unpredictable lane changes, sudden stops, swerving, tailgating and other bad driving behaviors. Chances are, you'll eventually encounter drivers like this -- and it pays to be ready.

While it’s impossible to list all the possible things another driver might do, here are a few common examples. If you're pulling out of a driveway into traffic and an oncoming car has its turn signal on, don't assume it's actually turning. You may discover that turn signal has been blinking for miles. If you're approaching an intersection where you have the right of way and another approaching car has the stop sign, don't assume it will actually stop. As you approach, take your foot off the gas and be prepared to brake.

10. Putting Off Maintenance Issues
Car maintenance isn't just an important way to extend your car's life -- it's a major safety issue. Many maintenance issues are addressed by state mandated vehicle inspections. If your car is unsafe, the inspecting mechanic will let you know what you need to do to fix it. However, there could be a year or more between inspections, so car owners need to be aware of any potential safety issues and have them repaired before they lead to an accident.

One of the most common maintenance problems that can lead to a crash is improper tire pressure. Uneven tire pressure, or pressure that is too high or low, can impact performance or lead to a blowout. Purchase an inexpensive pressure gauge and check the pressure against the recommendation in your owner's manual. You may also want to rotate your tires to promote even wear and consistent performance. Another important maintenance concern is your brakes. If you notice some "softness" in the brake pedal, or feel a vibration when the brakes are applied, get them checked by a professional mechanic. The brakes could be wearing out or you could have a problem with the car's hydraulic system.

For more information, check out the rest of our resource center, including our insurance 101 page and glossary of state auto insurance terms.

Call 855-993-4470, get your free quote online  or find a local agent. If you need additional information about car safety tips, you can visit our Contact Us page.