We go to amazing lengths to keep ourselves and our families safe from harm. As a nation we spend countless billions annually on health and safety products, eating healthy foods, exercising, installing security systems in our homes, and more.
Not long ago, we locked down the entire planet to keep people safe from a microscopic virus!
But sometimes we pay surprisingly little attention to the biggest, most clear and present danger: traveling in a car.
In 2021 alone, 42,915 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
That works out to nearly five Americans dying from car accidents every hour—around the clock!
Alarming as that is, we still need to go places. So it makes sense to do everything possible to decrease the risks while driving. There are actions all of us can take to reduce driving risks that are quick, easy and inexpensive. You can significantly improve your safety on the road by knowing these 11 simple things:
- Reduce road-glare risk: one major nationwide study found that bright sunlight is associated with a 16% increased risk of a life-threatening motor vehicle crash. (And sun glare is seldom an admissible excuse if you’re at fault in an accident.) The danger is real, and it’s one you can manage. Pack sunglasses, and use your car’s sun visor. Or really take control by blocking glare from the front and the side simultaneously with The ADDVISOR, a one-of-a-kind sun visor extender that mounts to any vehicle's windshield, leaving the built-in visor to be freely positioned. (It's called Two-Direction Sun Protection.)
- Bald tires cause slipping and loss of control, causing you to crash or letting you down when you need to get out of the path of another driver’s error. You can check your tire life by putting a penny into the tread with the Lincoln image head-down. If his forehead is covered you are OK, but if you can see his whole head your tires need replacing—and soon!
- Ineffective windshield wipers cause streaky glass and make sun glare blinding. To clean your windshield wipers to make them last longer and improve how they work, soak a clean white rag in glass cleaner and wipe it up and down the length of the wiper blade. Replace the blades as recommended, which is every six to 12 months—sooner if they don’t work well even after cleaning.
- Squeaky wiper blades? Fix that by spraying silicone lubricant on the blades if they aren’t in need of replacement.
- Slip-sliding away? During the winter, carry a bag of water softener salt or cat litter in the trunk. If you get stuck, the salt can help melt ice or snow, and sprinkling gritty litter on ice will give you better traction. And if it gets cold where you live, remember that all-season tires quickly become terrifyingly ineffective below 45°F. Snow tires are unquestionably MUCH safer in winter driving conditions. It’s an investment that can easily save you from a life injury or catastrophe.
- Stuck in a rut: use a car’s floor mat to improve traction. NEVER stand behind the wheel that has a floor mat under it, because the mat can be thrown out at you. You may need to repeat the process several times to get unstuck (and you might even ruin the mat), but it beats being stranded and in danger at the roadside.
- Prevent overnight ice build-up on your windshield and windows by filling a spray bottle with 3 parts regular vinegar and 1 part warm water. Right before dark, spray it evenly on your windows and windshield. The acetic acid in the vinegar stops water from freezing without damage to the vehicle.
- Prevent premature tire wear by checking the air pressure monthly—more frequently in spring and fall when outdoor temperature varies a lot. Check first thing in the morning, not after driving or when the vehicle has been sitting in the heat. Inflate to the pressure recommended on the decal on the driver's door jamb or in your owner's manual.
- Cracked windshield? Covering a crack with nail polish can make small chips and cracks disappear and prevent larger cracks from spreading until you can get them professionally repaired. Don’t drive with windshield cracks that obscure your vision of the road.
- If your headlights seem dim, use a lint-free paper towel to spread toothpaste on the light cover and then wash it off with a sponge and warm water. The mild abrasives in the toothpaste will remove road film without scratching.
- Lastly, if ever you are trapped inside a car, remember most vehicle headrests are removable. You can use the headrest's metal support rods to break a side window if you are unable to open the door or window, which can be impossible if a vehicle is submerged in water. Tempered glass is intentionally hard to break, so you’ll need to give it all you’ve got!
Road safety—including the choice to drive or not—is every driver’s direct responsibility. Trust your very best judgment and never shrug off a potentially dangerous situation as an unavoidable risk.
Use these tips, practice defensive driving and never drive when you're tired, distracted, or even mildly intoxicated. When you minimize each individual danger, it adds up to a substantial reduction in your overall risk in venturing out into our roadways. Enjoy safer driving!