Lately, it seems like there's no safe place to be on the road.
Check on any news feed in the Central Maryland area, and you will find numerous stories about recent accidents that have killed more than seven individuals in the last week and injured many others. In fact, there's a good chance that your life has been changed by at least one of these accidents.
While there has been much discussion on the forums and comment sections of each article about the individuals who are suspected of causing the accidents (the Bel Air crash that killed three siblings is just one of them), and although many driver safety programs are working hard to educate drivers on how to drive more safely, I think you can take a more proactive approach in driving defensively, just in case you find yourself in a critical situation where another driver is being careless on the road.
Here are just three of many strategies suggested by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (and other safe-driving websites) that you can do the next time you get behind the wheel (you can download the complete Maryland Driver's Manual for free here). Practicing these strategies doesn't stop others from making stupid decisions, but you might just save your life (and the lives of others) by being a strong, defensive driver.
1. Get Rid of the Distractions. As drivers, we think we know (better than anyone else) what we are capable of doing. In fact, we have been raised as masters of multi-tasking. So why should driving be any different? While you may think that you can do it all while still staying between the lines, you cannot control what others might do. As a result, your ability to react to a sudden crisis is compromised significantly, especially with oncoming traffic. Put the cell phone out of sight and out of reach. Create the driving playlist before you leave, and just let it do its thing. Save the snacking for breaks when you need a rest. Getting rid of the distractions will improve your chances in having the time you need to react to a dangerous and sudden situation.
2. Conduct Constant Visual Searches and Practice Driver Awareness. Know where you are on the road at all times, and know where everyone else is as well. Check mirrors frequently, monitor blind spots, and survey oncoming traffic to see if there are any erratic drivers that you need to be concerned about. Constantly check to see if shoulders are clear, just in case you need to swerve suddenly. Recognize the potential for wildlife (especially at dusk), and approach all intersections with caution.
3. Take Nothing Personally. They cut you off. They tailgated you and gestured wildly for you to speed up. They kept pace with you and dared you to engage in some sort of road rage. Each of these is a dangerous situation, but the truth is that none of them is about you. You cannot get emotionally involved with aggressive drivers; let them pass and do not take the road-rage bait. It will only compromise your driving decisions in both the short- and long-term. It's just not worth it.
These are just a few strategies to keep you safer on the road. Thinking like a defensive driver is the best strategy you can take to handle unpredictable situations. If you are looking for more defensive-driving strategies, Road Trip America offers 70 annotated tips to help you reach your destination safely.
Please be safe out there, and do everything you can to protect yourselves and the lives of others.