The pandemic has tested us in ways we never imagined, and it will doubtlessly continue to change the way we think about daily life. Freeways and streets have been remarkably empty for weeks; however, last week, statistics showed that an estimated 33% of all Americans have received at least one dose of the three available COVID vaccines. When considering this volume of vaccinated Americans combined with states’ continued loosening of capacity restrictions and face-covering mandates—not to mention the summer months quickly approaching—it doesn’t take a traffic analyst to predict that we’re about to start seeing many more drivers back on the road.
Assuming many of these drivers haven’t spent much time behind the wheel since March of 2020, their reaction times may be a little rusty, creating an increased risk of poor driving behaviors. This means an increased risk of vehicle accidents for everyone on the road, making safe driving techniques more important than ever. Whether you’re traveling for work or hitting the highway for a much-needed family vacation, be sure to keep these driving tips top of mind.
1. Avoid distractions.
While driving, a distraction includes anything that causes you to lose focus on driving. This can include eating, talking to another passenger, adjusting the radio or navigation system, and using a cell phone. Avoiding distractions means keeping your eyes and mind on the road ahead, being vigilant about everything going on around you, and keeping both hands on the steering wheel.
Your driving focus should encompass everything going on around you, or your “360,” especially when sitting still in traffic. Remember, danger can come from any direction at any time.
3. Obey posted speed limits.
Keep in mind that the posted speed limit is the highest recommended speed given optimal road conditions, and don’t be afraid to slow down if necessary.
4. Practice safe following distances.
When traveling in steadily moving traffic, give the vehicle in front of you at least a four-second lead time to offset the dangers of heavy traffic, construction zones, and drivers unfamiliar with the area. Also practice safe following distances in slow moving or congested traffic. These lead times should provide enough time for you to recognize a hazard, develop a plan, and take appropriate action if necessary. When stopped in traffic, leave at least one full vehicle length between you and the vehicle in front of you to help avoid involving other vehicles in the event of a chain reaction collision that comes from behind.
5. Avoid traveling in packs.
Driving within a large cluster of vehicles on the highway may not provide much time to react to a hazard. Whenever possible, drive the posted speed limit in the right lane; this allows those who want to drive faster to utilize the center or left lanes, and it will also provide an out on the shoulder if needed.
6. Remember to look ahead.
Whenever possible, give yourself the ability to note the potential hazards 10-15 seconds ahead of your intended path. This includes traffic jams and lights that may be turning from green to yellow as you approach the intersection.
7. Check your mirrors every 5-8 seconds.
It’s important to remember that hazards may arise not just on the road ahead, but in any direction. Nontraditional vehicles like motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles can be especially easy to lose in your blind spot if you’re not aware of their presence.
8. Use your turn signals.
Always let others know of your intention to turn or switch lanes and remember to remain courteous and aware of those who may not do the same.
9. Plan ahead.
Weekends and holidays are often associated with an increase of drinking and driving. If possible, plan to avoid these timeframes when on the road, and always be aware of increased potential hazards if travel is unavoidable.
10. Look for parked vehicles.
When traveling on crowded streets or driving within a parking lot, always look for persons behind the wheel inside parked vehicles. Drive slowly and proceed with caution, anticipating that anyone behind the wheel may pull into your path without warning.
The increased opportunity to travel is an exciting time for everyone who has scarcely left their homes since the pandemic began, but it’s also a high-risk time for vehicular accidents. Regardless of where or why you’re driving, whether work-related or personal, remember to drive safely and stay vigilant on the roads.
To learn more about our safety culture at Franklin Energy, schedule a meeting.