You’re a good driver. You pay attention, and you obey the rules of the road. But even the best drivers may do things they don’t even realize are unsafe.
Do any of the following apply to you?
Put your car in Park at the keypad
Any time you have to reach out of the car, put the vehicle in ‘Park’, not in ‘Drive’ or ‘Neutral’. This is especially important if the keypad is far away, and you have to open the door and stretch out. Drivers have been killed when their cars rolled forward and crushed them against the post.
Don’t program your home address
Most navigation systems have a “Go Home” feature that will help get you back to familiar surroundings. However, if your car is stolen, a thief can get directions straight to your house, and can easily get in if your keys were in the car. Instead, program a nearby landmark. This will get you back into familiar territory, but won’t tip off your exact address.
Remove carpet mats before putting in rubber ones
Mats should lie flat on the floor, and not interfere with any pedals. If you use rubber mats, take out the carpeted ones first. If you pile mats too high, they can jam against the pedals, making driving unsafe.
Never put anything on the dash
In a crash, the airbag inside the dash can deploy at speeds of up to 300 km/h. Objects on the dash—air fresheners, toys, phones, GPS units, or whatever else you’ve stuck there—can suddenly become deadly projectiles.
That includes your feet
We can’t stress this enough: NEVER let anyone ride with their feet on the dash. Trauma doctors have horror stories of severed toes, leg bones pushed through heels, and serious leg and hip damage from deploying airbags, even in minor collisions. Sitting in this position also increases the chances of slipping under the seatbelt in a crash, which can be deadly.
Use your four-way flashers when you’re stopped
Turn signals are for indicating turns, while four-way flashers mean a vehicle is stopped or travelling very slowly. Pulling over and stopping with just your turn signal on can confuse other drivers, who may not be sure if they should go around you or not.
Check your spare tire
Pickup trucks, minivans, and some SUVs have their spare tires mounted under the vehicle, secured by a cable. Over time, the mounting hardware can corrode and break, causing the tire to fall out—a serious problem for drivers behind you. Lubricate the mechanism periodically, both for safety, and to ensure you’ll be able to winch the tire down should you ever need it.
Don’t tuck the seatbelt under your arm
The seatbelt is meant to go over your shoulder and across your chest. In a crash, the belt will put pressure on your collarbone, which is strong enough to take it. If you’ve slipped it under your arm, the seatbelt will break your ribs. If you’re doing this because the belt rubs against your neck, check to see if your car has a movable attachment point on the pillar. If not, ask the dealer if there are seatbelt adjusters available for that model.
Don’t pile cargo too high
If your car stops suddenly, such as in a crash, everything inside will continue to move forward. If cargo is piled above the tops of the seats, it will come flying toward you, with the potential for serious injury. Piled-up cargo restricts your rearward visibility, too.
Be smart with signs
Whether it’s a For Sale, a Baby On Board, or something advertising your favourite sports team, be smart about signs. Don’t put them in your line of vision. Far too many people put them on the right-hand side of the back window, where they interfere with rearward view when making a lane change.
Make sure your four-legged friend is safe
If you own a dog, never let them ride on your lap in the front seat. If the airbag goes off, it will kill your pet. It may also drive the animal into your abdomen, causing you internal injuries. Don’t let a dog ride in the back of a pickup truck, either, since even a minor fender-bender could be fatal. Animals should ride in a crate, or with a travel harness attached to the seatbelt.
Be careful on gravel roads
They may not look hazardous, but gravel roads can be as tricky to drive on as snowy roads. Loose gravel can pull your wheels sideways, and on any gravel surface, your stopping distance will be much longer than on asphalt. Slow down, leave more space between the car in front, and start braking for stop signs sooner than you normally would. In fall, be careful of wet leaves on the road, since they can be as slick as ice.
Pick your parking space wisely
Park in a well-travelled area in parking garages, but don’t pick a spot that’s too close to the exit. Thieves need to make fast getaways, and the best targets are cars that can be driven out as quickly as possible. Before getting into your car, check the back seat to be sure no one is hiding on the floor, waiting for you to get in.