UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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When we sit down and really think about the odds involved, driving is probably the most dangerous thing each of us does on a daily basis. An average day sees about 110 people dying on roadways in the United States. That may seem like a small number in a nation of more than 300 million, not to mention the geographical spread of the country, so we’re somewhat isolated from the inherent dangers of the road.
At CarInsurance.org, we’d like every driver and passenger to be safe. So we’re offering our tips for staying safe, no matter what time of day you’re driving. We’ll have tips throughout the day, with a special emphasis on morning commutes, rush hour and driving at night.
While we’re all usually in our rush to get to work in the morning, from a statistical standpoint, morning hours are the safest time to be driving. The numbers of fatalities from car crashes are the lowest during the time period from 6:00 am until 11:59 am. However, this doesn’t mean the dangers of driving aren’t present during these times.
Our tips for safety during your morning commute include:
- Give yourself plenty of time to make the trip. This not only allows you to adapt to the weather situations, but also ensures that you do not have to rush.
- Utilize 511 or other services so you know if there are traffic incidents or delays on your route.
- Be courteous, especially in traffic jams or when movement comes to a standstill. Honking your horn and other such activities are usually counterproductive.
- Keep your speed to a correct level. Simple math demonstrates that the few seconds you may save by speeding are outweighed by the decrease in fuel economy and the extra risk you’re introducing to yourself and other drivers.
- Consider carpooling or other forms of public transportation if possible.
- Ensure you don’t tailgate by keeping a space cushion between yourself and the car in front of you. Give yourself time to react.
The sheer volume of traffic during rush hour in many cities in the United States makes for difficult commutes home for many drivers. Congestion and traffic jams can quickly lead to short fuses and in extreme cases, full-on road rage.
To make it through rush hour drives, we suggest:
- Always allow for extra travel time. No matter if you have to go across town for an important business meeting or if you’re simply trying to get home, remember that budgeting extra time can help you ensure you get where you are going on time, safely.
- Because there are more cars on the road, be especially vigilant when merging or changing lanes. Be aware of your car’s blind spots. Look to the side and behind, and signal before you change lanes. Under no circumstances should you simply attempt to weave in and out of traffic.
- Go with the flow. Maintain a speed similar to other cars, but leave yourself room to react by not following others too closely.
- Stay calm and be a courteous driver. Take deep breaths and do not allow yourself to be angered, no matter the traffic situation. Don’t separate yourself from other drivers; remember that they are humans just like you.
- Use 511 or GPS devices that can inform you of congestion or traffic incidents that will delay your commute. Knowing the conditions ahead of time will allow you to plan an alternate route.
Nighttime is not the right time when it comes to driving safety. There are fewer cars on the road, but according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost one-half of all fatal accidents occur at night. The rate of fatal accidents per miles driven is three times as high at night as during the daylight hours.
Part of the increase in dangers at night can be directly attributed to human factors such as impaired driving. From 9:00 pm until 6:00 am, 55 percent of all fatal accidents in the United States involve alcohol-impaired drivers. 32 percent of all fatal accidents involve drivers under the influence, so there is a significant spike in impaired driving once the sun goes down.
Another issue is just the lack of visibility at night. As good as modern headlight designs are, they’re still no replacement for a sunny day. Night driving has significant differences and challenges compared to driving during the day. Your vision will suffer, as you lose the color and contrast of daylight, and your depth perception and peripheral vision also become diminished.
But despite the challenges of night driving, you can still be safe. Here are our tips for driving after sunset:
- Adjust the lighting inside your car by keeping your instrument panel illumination at a level that does not affect your vision. You shouldn’t have any other light inside your car, as it can cause glare on your windshield and reduce your night vision.
- Avoid glare by looking towards the right side of the road, watching the traffic lines rather than oncoming headlights. Adjust your rearview mirror to the nighttime setting.
- Be courteous with your headlights. Don’t flash high beams at other vehicles as you reduce their driver’s ability to see. Only use fog lamps in combination with your low beams, and only in inclement weather.
- Don’t fall victim to fatigue. Allow fresh air to circulate in the car, and make sure you take breaks when appropriate.
- Ensure your car’s windows are clean, inside and out. Haze or fogged windows will diminish your vision even further.
- Increase following distances between cars ahead of you. Unlike daytime, where a two second cushion may be appropriate, you should have a cushion of five seconds at a minimum to ensure you have time to react to other drivers.
- Keep your eyes moving, looking for the signs of oncoming traffic around curves or over hills.
- Regularly clean your car’s headlights, taillights and signal lights. This helps ensure others can see you, as well as providing you with the best headlight performance.
- Regulate your own speed. Because of the decreases in visibility, traveling at excess speeds is more dangerous at night than during the day. You may not have enough time to stop or react to a situation.