Are You a SMART Driver?

If you’re like many drivers, it has probably been a few years since you first learned to drive and tested for your driver’s license. And yet cars, traffic rules, and the very roads we drive on are constantly changing. Be a S-M-A-R-T driver, and use these five tips from AARP Driver Safety to stay safe on today’s increasingly challenging roadways.

Seat Belts Save Lives

  • Each year, seat belts save thousands of lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), properly worn seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger occupants by 45 percent. Fortunately, seat belt use has been increasing steadily in the U.S., and approximately 85 percent of drivers wear their seat belts (DOT HS 811 378). As a reminder, wear your seat belt at all times, even during short trips to the grocery store or doctor’s office.

Medications & Driving

  • Many prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause impairments such as drowsiness, dizziness, and blurred vision, which can be dangerous for your driving. Even among drugs generally considered safe for driving, adverse reactions may still occur, especially when combined with other medications or alcohol. To help avoid drug-impaired driving, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your medications, and keep track of how your body feels or reacts to the drugs and supplements you’re taking.

Adverse Weather

  • It is important to always be mindful of your driving, especially in limited visibility conditions like rain, snow, and fog. Turn on your lights (not your high beams), and make sure there is plenty of distance between you and the car ahead of you. Try to keep a “space cushion” around your vehicle. A space cushion is when there are no cars directly to the sides of you, and you have a proper distance between the cars ahead of you and behind you. This provides maneuvering room in case of an emergency situation.

Right of Way

  • According to IIHS, the majority of traffic violations for drivers age 55+ are for a failure to yield the proper right-of-way. One in four traffic violations involve making an improper left turn; fifteen percent involved an improper lane change, and 10 percent are the result of ignoring a stop sign or traffic light. Be extra cautious at intersections, while merging, and around pedestrian walkways. Consider taking a driver’s education course, such as AARP Driver Safety’s classroom or online course, to refresh your knowledge of who must yield the right of way in tricky driving situations.

Three-second Following Distance

  • A three-second following distance will help you spot possible driving hazards and give you time to react. For instance, if your car is traveling at a speed of 60 mph, in three seconds your vehicle will have traveled more than 250 feet-that’s just under the length of a football field. To achieve the three-second spacing between you and the car ahead of you, when that car passes a landmark, such as a tree or an exit sign, start counting. If you pass the same spot before you count to three, you’re driving too close to the other car.

Are you a SMART driver? What’s your best driving tip? 

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