Tips on how you can be a safer driver

From Cleveland Journal archives

For most teens, getting a drivers license is a rite of passage into adulthood. But some people believe that having that piece of plastic validates their driving skills. They are mistaken. Accidents can happen at any time and it’s important to be ready and knowledgeable about what to do in any emergency situation.

Some tips for new drivers:

  • Have a valid drivers license.
  • Make sure your car is fully insured.
  • Stay focused on the road but be aware of your surroundings.
  • Loud music can interfere with your driving, so keep the volume at a level where you can hear emergency vehicle sirens.
  • Give pedestrians and cyclists the opportunity to cross the road

Basic safety kit

  • Extra clothes
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlights and flares
  • Nonperishable food and water

There is nothing like the panic that sets in when your car starts to die while you’re driving on a busy street or on the freeway. The National Safety Council and AAA offer these tips on how to handle a stalled vehicle.

What do I do if my car stalls in the middle of the road?

  • Immediately turn on your hazard lights. If it is dark, turn on the interior dome light.
  • Stay in the car. Never try to cross a freeway on foot.
  • If you have a cellphone, call 911 or the highway department for assistance. Be sure to tell them your exact location.
  • Do not try to flag down other vehicles.
  • Raise the hood of the car and tie something white to the antenna or hang it out of a window so police officers or tow truck operators will know help is needed.
  • If you’re in the car, keep your seat belt on with the doors locked.
  • Don’t attempt to fix your car. It is dangerous to work under the hood, under your car or next to your car in or near fast-moving traffic.

What do I do if my brakes go out?

  • At the first sign of trouble, try not to panic. Instead, work your vehicle into the right lane and then toward the shoulder or, if possible, toward an exit. If it is necessary to change lanes, do so smoothly and carefully, watching your mirrors and using your turning signals.
  • Once in the right lane, turn on your emergency hazard lights.
  • Let the car slow down by gradually taking your foot off the gas pedal.
  • Once off the road, shift the car into a lower gear or neutral.
  • Gradually apply the hand brake until the vehicle stops. If that brake has also failed, rub the wheel against a curb, which will help you slow down.

What are the important things to do after an accident?

  • Make sure no one is hurt. Call 911 for medical assistance.
  • Contact the police. They will let you know if an officer needs to be present at the scene.
  • Move your car to a safer location, but do not leave the scene.
  • Call your insurance agent.
  • Remain calm and polite. Getting into an argument will only make things worse.
  • Exchange information. Collect contact information for anyone who was there including other drivers, witnesses and the tow company if your car is towed.
  • Make sure to write down the year, make, model and license plate number of the other vehicle(s) involved.
  • Get the other driver’s insurance carrier and policy number, if possible.