By Erin Thompson
Stating the obvious: Nobody (who likes nice things) wants to get into a wreck. Stating a better, hopefully more helpful obvious: There are things people can do to avoid wrecks. Check 'em out below.
Keep your ride intact
When you factor all of the little intricate parts that make up a car into the reality that sometimes things just break, it's no wonder accidents happen. Lucky for you and everyone else on the road, there are things we can do to prevent maintenance disasters. Here are some of the basics:
- There's a sweet spot when it comes to tire pressure, and you can find it in your owner's manual or inside the door edge, glovebox or gas cover. Be sure to check and maintain that pressure, especially when the seasons change. Hot summers can fill the tires too much and pop your tire, while cold winters can lower the pressure causing your tires to wear down faster.
- Treading on your tire is what helps your tire grip the road. Without it, a car can easily lose control. To check your treads, you can rely on good ole George Washington. Take a quarter, turn it upside down and stick it between the treading on your tire. If you can see the top of Washington's head, your tread is too low. Bonus: Check between all the treads on the tire to see if they are evenly worn. If not, your tires may need to be realigned.
- Wiper Blades
- It's easy to forget about wiper blades until you need them. Regularly check to see if they still make full contact with your windshield and replace them every six to twelve months. Also, be sure to keep your windshield wiper fluid full. Your wipers can only do so much on their own when it comes to mud, snow melt or bug swarms.
- Brakes System
- As advanced as braking systems are becoming these days, you still need to regularly check them. And by "them" we mean the pads, shoes, rotors, wheel cylinders, brake lines, brake fluid and sensors. Most places check this stuff for you during an oil change, but if you change your own oil, it's definitely worth getting an annual inspection.
- Seems like a "duh" one, but we figure it's worth the reminder. You've got to keep your oil fresh so it can reduce friction, cut down heat and help your car run like it should. Old or dirty oil can cause blockages and lead to engine failure with little to no warning. Stay on top of your regular oil changes and make sure your oil is filled to the correct amount. Too much oil can be just as damaging as too little.
Keep yourself intact
It goes without saying, but we're going to say it anyways: Drinking and driving is a terrible mix, even if it's just a slight buzz. The same goes for recreational or prescription drugs that influence your ability to drive. If they make you silly, woozy or sleepy, don't get in the driver's seat. And speaking of sleep, if you don't have enough of it, stay off the road. It can be just as bad as the booze or drugs.
Keep the distractions in check
We all know the beloved handheld device playing the lead role in driving distractions, right? Let's all agree to not text, call or PokéGo with it while driving. And while it's easy to blame cell phones for distracted driving incidents, there are a lot of other little diversions people tend to forget. For instance:
- Set your GPS before you start driving, and if for some reason, Siri, the British lady or whatever other GPS voice can't recalculate after a wrong turn, pull over to readjust.
- If you feel like jamming out on your drive, have your Bluetooth set or phone/iPod plugged in with a playlist ready to go before you hit the road.
- Eating in the car might save time, but it isn't the best in terms of safety. Fight the urge.
Resist any temptation to do your makeup or hair in the car, even at stoplights.
Keep the awareness on point
Assuming that we are all following road signs and the rules of the road, there are certain times a driver needs to be more cautious or defensive in their driving. Such as:
- Rush Hour: More cars equal less room for error, which is why most accidents occur during heavy traffic times.
- 12 to 4 am: While rush hour wins the award for most accidents, these early hours have the most serious accidents.
- When you're in a hurry: We've all been there, but when you're in a rush try not to speed, tailgate or let anxiety trump reaction timing.
- At night: You can only see as far as your headlights, which means you've got to factor in brake timing and know whether or not it's within your limited sight or not. Be on guard and keep your speed within reason.
- In parking lots: We've got carts, children, adults who act like children and other adults to consider. There are a lot of blind spots that can cause a lot of accidents when zoning in on finding that perfect spot. Be alert.
That's it. That's our advice. Even if you have a self-parking, self-braking, blind spot-alerting vehicle, you can still help yourself and others avoid mishaps.
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Posted July 27, 2016 in Street Smarts.