What could go wrong?
When you hear the words car safety, most likely you think of what it takes to be safe while driving a car. While this is definitely important, but what about before you even get in your car? How do you make sure that you’re prepared for any situation? What happens if you become stranded and its cold outside? What about when it is extremely hot and you have your children and/or pets with you?
As much as car safety applies to driving, it applies just as much before you ever sit behind the wheel. The first thing is to make sure that your car is in good working order and that you have regular maintenance done on schedule to limit the possibility of a break down. The next thing is to be aware of your car and the surroundings when you approach it from a store, mall, etc. By paying attention and not being distracted, you been able to notice things that you probably wouldn’t have. As you approach the car, look underneath and in the back seat prior to getting in. This is especially important at night, but by doing it during the day, you get in the habit of doing it. If you notice that you have flat tire, go back to where you can from and call for assistance. If you notice that there is a van parked next to the driver side of your car, get in on the passenger side. Remember to park in well-lit, non-secluded, high traffic areas. If you are leaving somewhere, it is dark and they have security available, go to the Kiosk and ask one to walk you to your car.
Once you are finally in your car, there are several things you should do prior to moving it. First, make a driving plan that has a realistic time frame to allow for traffic, stops, and so on. This is vital if you are going on a long trip to plan for breaks for the bathroom, food and phone calls. Make sure that all cargo is secure prior to leaving so that nothing will shift while your driving causing you to be distracted. Ensure that all children and pets are properly restrained to prevent them from moving around while the car is in motion. Adjust the seat, mirror, climate control, radio and anything else prior to putting the car in gear. Have any items that you are going to need, such as toll fees, toll cards, garage pass, easily accessible and within reach.
You are now ready to move the car. There are two main things to do focus on driving and drive defensively. When you are focusing solely on driving, you aren’t multitasking by doing things on your phones or other devices. If you must make a phone call, you a hands-free device so you can focus on the road. By driving defensively, you are anticipating that basically anything could happen due to other drivers. The key to doing this is paying attention, don’t drive as fast and keeping at least two second travel distance between you and the car in front of you. If the weather is bad or you are on the highway, make it at least four seconds. This is enough time for you to be to see a situation and react to it, hopefully without becoming involved it. If you are holding something and drop it on the floor, don’t try to pick up while moving. Don’t eat or drink while driving because this takes your attention away from the road. Use caution when changing lanes—sometimes the pavement can be uneven. Use your turn signals and avoid cutting people off because other drivers can become angry, tailgate you and end up hitting you if you need to stop suddenly. Keep an eye out for animals, especially when driving through wooded areas and it is nighttime. If you are tired or taking medication that can make you drowsy, then don’t drive.
Cold weather presents its own considerations in relation to car safety. The first step is to “winterize” your car. The biggest concern with this is making sure that your heater works well before winter starts. You also want to make sure your front and rear defrosters are working. Using the appropriate cold weather windshield washer fluid and making sure the tank is full is key. In order to clear ice and snow off of your windows, turn on your defrosters first. Next, use a plastic ice scraper to remove the ice and snow (less likely to scratch your windows than a metal one). Only use your windshield wipers once the stuck-on snow and ice have been cleared. When driving the car, if you encounter ice on the road, remember not to fight the skid. Take your foot off the gas, do NOT apply the brake and steer in the direction that you want to go. If you end up stranded, it is important to remember a few things. It is important to keep an emergency cold weather supply kit in the car. This kit should be prepared before winter starts and includes blankets, candles/matches, clean cup to melt snow into drinking water, first aid kit, dry/canned food, can opener, tow rope, booster cables, compass, flash light/extra batteries, whistle, moist towelettes, garbage bags, twist ties, extra pair of gloves, small shovel, and a bag of sand/kitty litter for traction. If you are stranded, put all of your supplies in the car with you, so you don’t have to get out of the car every time you need something. Run the car for 10 minutes every hour to warm up (just remember to open window slightly and that exhaust pipe is clear of snow in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning).
Hot Weather Tips
The biggest concern when the weather is warm in regards to car safety is leaving children and pets in the car. This is due to several factors. The first is that the interior temperature of a car can rise 20°F in just 10 minutes. For children, their bodies heat at a rate of 3-5 times quicker than adults and they possess fewer sweat glands, so they can’t cool down as easily. A body temperature of ≥107°F is lethal. For pets, their sweat glands are located in pads of their feet and nose. They try to cool themselves by panting, but if they are breathing hot air, it isn’t effective. In order to not accidently leaving a child or pet in the car, there are several things that you can do. You can put something (wallet, purse, phone) that you are going to need when you get out of the car in the backseat with them or put something (toy, stuffed animal, leash) of the of theirs in the front seat with you as a reminder. Another option is to get into the habit, even if you are by yourself, is opening the back door every time you park the car to ensure that all passengers are out. By doing it all of the time, you won’t forget when you have a child or pet in the back. Keep the air conditioning running by using stores that have a drive-thru service or have another adult stay in the car with children and pets. Never leave them in the car unattended! Always keep car keys out of reach of small children and keep car doors locked in order to prevent them from getting into the car without you.
Car safety is vitally important on numerous fronts. It starts before you ever get in the car and continues until you get yourself and everyone else out of it. By being prepared, you’ll be able to avoid a significant amount of inconvenience and possible tragedy by preventing the need to deal with a situation that can easily be prevented.