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Ten Tips To Reduce Car Accidents

Please Try To Avoid Car Accidents

Ten tips to reduce car accidents in Las Vegas – or any city in the world –

First the list, then I will break it down. If you have suggestions or experiences to share, please comment at the very bottom!

Most of us know this stuff. Putting it into practice is another matter. I’m convinced these positive habits will reduce car accidents, which means reducing loss of life, injury and car damage, plus saving your time, hassle, expense, driving record and Carfax report.

  1. Break the Habit of Distracted Driving. This includes talking on the phone, texting, checking emails, eating a blueberry muffin while drinking a latte, etc. Distracted Driving is the #1 killer.
  2. Use Turn Signals. They’re easy and share information with other drivers, cyclist, & pedestrians.
  3. Drive Defensively. There are lots of strange conditions out there, and lots of people under strange conditions.
  4. Watch closely for pedestrians and bicyclists while negotiating a left or right turn. This is a super easy way to kill someone if you’re negligent.
  5. Generally keep both hands on the wheel. When’s the last time you did this? Lol.
  6. When backing up, keep looking back until you’ve stopped and switched gears. It’s a horrible habit to turn your head forward while still backing up – and the cause of many a fender bender.
  7. Get in the habit of doing head checks for blind spots when switching lanes. This has saved me at least 5 major freeway accidents in the last 26 years of driving.
  8. DON’T TAILGATE, especially on freeways. YOU are responsible for slowing down if there is a sudden break or accident ahead.
  9. Break the habit of rushing and speeding; instead allow for ample time, or allow yourself to be late. One accident or one lost life isn’t worth the 2 minutes 20 seconds you will save.
  10. You don’t have to ram and jam every yellow light. Nor do you have to ram and jam every left turn through a turning signal.

Number 1:  Break the Habit of Distracted Driving. Society is getting better at reducing distracted driving. Unfortunately it took a lot of loss of life to kickstart this awareness. A few years ago, while driving around Las Vegas, and while stopped at a red light, any time I looked to the side of me or behind me, other drivers had their head down. I knew exactly what they were doing – they were buried in their phones. It was sort of scary. I started checking people out more and more, and this was the case 95% of the time. Of course, I was guilty of this for a long time. I mean it’s so easy, just a quick peak at a work email, a quick text to tell a friend you’re almost there. Sometimes you look down the road and traffic is light, why not check your phone? Driving is often easy, and driving is often boring. It’s simple to knock off these other little things on your phone. Or even professionally, it makes you look more on top of things if you respond quickly.

Yet, it is a horrible habit that has caused thousands of accidents and deaths. In fact, there have been approx four times when I almost had an accident because I was fiddling with my phone. It’s been a hard habit to break, but I’ve done it. I just put the phone away now.

A month ago a woman was updating her Facebook status while driving, writing that the “Happy song” made her feel happy, when she got into an accident and was killed. Or you hear the NPR stories, some teen is texting and runs a red light, killing another teenager. In a large act of forgiveness and wisdom, the mother of the killed teen did not press homicide charges against the negligent teen, just asked her to do community service and tell her story to others publicly. She said something like, “One life was already ruined. I don’t want another life ruined. Maybe our story can save others.” When I heard that story on NPR, I was in tears.

Another NPR story of distracted driving:  a girl in her late teens was doing something with her navigator, head down, typing in a new address, when she clipped and killed a guy on the side of the road, changing a tire. Later, in the ER room being treated, she found out from a nurse that the other person died from the injuries. She started screaming. When her mother and father got there, and rushed to console and hug her, she didn’t want to be touched. She didn’t want to be hugged. She felt terrible and felt she didn’t deserve any mercy or love. It wasn’t an intellectual thing, but rather some emotional or impulsive thing she felt at the moment. And on NPR, while telling her story, she said it took several months for her to even accept a hug or love from her family. It took a very long time for her to forgive herself. She said, she would be somewhere, nearly forgetting, and might laugh at something, a joke, a movie, whatever, then immediately feel guilty. Like she couldn’t be having a good time or laughing, not when this other individual was dead because of her. And that individual’s family was in mourning. She would leave whatever movie or social gathering or activity she was at, go home, and look at the individual’s picture, the newspaper clippings, etc., reminding herself of what she had done and the life she had snuffed out. The man was in his fifties, a father, and a grandfather. Eventually she wrote a letter to the family of the deceased, a letter that took many drafts, with tears falling on every one. The family never replied. Now she does all kinds of announcements and interviews, telling her story, and she says only by knowing she might save another life, can she finally forgive herself and move on with hers.

Am I going to take another life because of some casual text, email, or distracted activity? Not on my watch.

There have also been numerous studies showing that talking on the phone while driving is as bad as driving drunk. I’m not joking. It consumes a part of your brain that normally would be used for extra road management and vehicle awareness.

When I used to talk on the phone a lot while driving (I mean it is tempting and convenient), I would notice that time seemed to fly by, and I literally didn’t recall parts of it, as I was somewhat zoned out. That’s kind of what people want, right? Because driving is often boring. However, when it comes down to a split-second reaction in a road mishap, talking on the phone will slow you down considerably. Or you may make a blatant error. When you’re doing 75 on the freeway, the increased speed amplifies all the potential for accidents and the severity of accidents.

Number 2:  Use Turn Signals. Out of the four years living and driving in Las Vegas, I estimate about 30% of all drivers I’ve encountered use turn signals. 70% DO NOT.  Turn signals share with other drives what your intentions are, and lets them act or prepare accordingly. The same information goes to cyclists and pedestrians, which we often don’t see. Or other people trying to turn onto a road, and we may not see them, but they see us, AND our turn signal. Even if people are racing through traffic – which they shouldn’t do, but often do – at least if they used turn signals it can better alert other drivers to their swerving and maneuvering. Lots of things distract drivers, even weather conditions, lack of lighting, or direct sunlight that obscures a view. Turn signals are one more tool that better communicates a driver’s intentions and increases the odds of this communication getting through.

There’s also a kind of flow that happens on the road, and a kind of energy. When you wave someone in, who’s stuck making a tricky turn, you increase the positive vibe. Often times when you don’t use turn signals, especially if you’re weaving through traffic, you create a negative vibe. Some drivers get pissed off. That distracts them and makes it more likely they will make a mistake, or tailgate you, or focus on cutting you off. We’ve all done it. I’ve seen so much careless, unintelligent driving in Las Vegas, and I’ve seen tons of accidents here; I can’t help wonder if they’re not connected.

Anyway, turn signals are easy and fast to use. Once they become a habit, they’re just that, and you don’t have to think about it.

Number 3:  Drive Defensively. I was fortunate to have knowledgeable, thoughtful driving instructors during my Driver’s Ed summer classes when I was sixteen years old. The course was rigorous, lots of study and lots of driving. Their “driver’s test” was ten times harder than the actual one required to get my license. I remember finishing my legal test, thinking, what? That’s it? A chimpanzee might have passed that test. Literally we drove around a few blocks in a quiet neighborhood then parallel parked. I encourage every parent to put their teens through a solid driver’s education course. It will set them up for a lifetime of responsible driving.

My instructor’s always stressed driving defensively throughout the course. Learn to be watchful, anticipate, and realize that other drivers WILL make mistakes. Stuff happens. Conditions become adverse. People become sleepy. People zone out. Mechanical failures happen. Some streets or signals are confusing. Had cell phones existed during my training, I’m sure another two weeks would have been added to the course!

Number 4: Watch closely when turning right or left, especially if the crosswalk has a green light.  Many people start walking when it’s giving the WALK signal, then halfway through it switches to DON’T WALK, and then you only see this while making your quick turn. Don’t do the NASCAR right turn; slow down and look. Some cyclists may come in fast from the sidewalk, while it’s a WALK signal, and you may not see them initially. Now, this is an area for debate, but do you really want to be debating this in court, spending your time and money, and arguing with the other party who is now in a wheelchair?

Also remember, all this stuff goes on your record these days! And people find that via Carfax, background checks, police reports, credit reports, etc. It’s in your best interest all the way around to be careful.

I remember once I was living at the Venicia Apartments, on the corner of Twain and Fort Apache. This crosswalk on Twain gave you a WALK signal for literally one second, then turned to DON’T WALK. No joke. You start walking and it turns DON’T WALK, then halfway across the people in cars turning are annoyed with you because they think you’re walking when you shouldn’t walk. One guy even revved his engine, then zoomed past me, turning the corner just as I reached the sidewalk. He rolled down his window and yelled in passing:  “It says don’t walk asshole!” Oh I wish I could have caught up to him.

Number 5:  Both Hands on the Wheel.  When’s the last time you did this? I know, it seems funny. So many of us are used to driving with one hand, resting the other, or doing something with the other like changing the radio station. When I started doing this, it felt funny, but it also felt good. It was like, okay, now I’m ready to drive. I’m not saying never let one hand off the wheel. I’m saying try both hands on the wheel for a while, or for the majority of your driving time. It’s actually comfortable, and you feel prepared.

Number 6: When backing up, keep looking back until you’ve stopped and switched gears. Just another great habit I learned from Driver’s Ed. And it’s saved me several times from bumping into other cars backing up or even some children who were walking but not paying close attention.

The price of bumping into another car in a Costco or Albertson’s parking lot? Probably $350 or more. Plus it goes on your car insurance record and may raise your rates. Plus it goes on your car’s Carfax and accident reports.

The price of backing up into a child in a parking lot? Hard to say, but it’s not going to be good, financially and emotionally.

Number 7:  Do Head Checks for Blind Spots When Switching Lanes.  Another brilliant habit I learned in Driver’s Education. As afore-mentioned, it has saved me at least 5 freeway accidents.

Number 8:  Don’t Tailgate, Especially on Freeways. Dear Reader, if this author is ever going to lose it someday and give in to road rage, it’s going to be from someone tailgating me while doing 75-80mph on the freeway. Actually, I’ve been so upset at this I’ve turned on my hazard lights, slowed down on purpose, and even followed cars a little, even off of exits, planning to somehow give them a piece of my mind. Then I pull up alongside them…and…it’s not the driver I was expecting…some big redneck…some stressed out businessman…some teenage punk with blaring music…no. It’s a mother with three children in a soccer van. It’s a 20s something guy with 20s something friends riding along, laughing and singing to music. It’s a normal nerdy-looking fellow with a skinny tie on his way to work. In other words, just regular people with little malice and with what I consider to be a horrible freaking habit. Seriously, what is up with this? And have you seen some of these freeway pileups with multiple deaths and injuries? And do you realize the force, velocity, and physics of a two-ton vehicle traveling at 75mph?

I also wonder, are you saving that much time by following so close behind?  Maybe I’m just a conservative nerd on this one.

In addition to the freeways, I see it all the time driving down roads in Las Vegas. People tailgate constantly without really knowing it; they just think it’s normal and safe to drive extremely close behind another vehicle. Again, I don’t think it saves much time, and sets one up for disaster. I’m not a big fan of bumper stickers but here’s one I like, found on many Las Vegas taxis:  If you can see my rear tires, thank you, you are a safe driver.

Number 9:  Break the Habit of Rushing and Speeding.  I finally arrived at the philosophy of taking it easy and not rushing down the road. Obviously I still go the speed limit or even above if that’s the flow of traffic, which it often is. But I don’t rush anymore. I got sick of it. I either leave with plenty of time to drive comfortably, or I accept being late. I don’t try to make up 5-10 minutes of lateness by driving like a maniac. So many times I found myself barreling down a road, swerving, getting pissed at slow drivers in front of me…and then I started asking myself, why? Even if I don’t get in an accident, is it worth all the stress?  I kept answering NO to myself, so I finally changed.

Do yourself a favor, and do others a favor. Take it easy. I think you’ll find driving and life more pleasant.

Number 10: Similar to #9, you don’t have to jam every orange light and jam every left turn signal. Trust me, I’ve played this game while in a rush. Every blue moon, you may catch a string of green lights, and it WILL save you four or five minutes. Now, was that time worth the risk of an accident or ticket? HOWEVER, most often, you will end up stopped at the next light, with the traffic that was way behind you—who didn’t make that light you barreled through—creeping up right behind you. Most often, IT DOESN’T MATTER. And so how could it be worth the risk?

As I write all this, fellow drivers, these tips are meaningful reminders for me as much as they are strong suggestions for you.

I would love to hear any comments or stories! See bottom of page.

In today’s society, where nearly everything is videotaped, recorded, Carfaxed, online-searched, credit-reported, police-reported, insurance-rated, and more, it behooves you to practice these tips. I exhort you to drive better. And then there’s that old-fashioned idea of not killing someone else.


P.S. If you made it this far, you deserve a humorous quote:  “Everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac; everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot.”

P.S.S. And a humorous picture —

Car Accident Humor

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