With innovations in today’s cars that make driving easier and safer, we can tend to get complacent on the road. Among other things, we have cars that notify us when someone is in our blind spot or when we’re getting too close to the car in front of us. We even have cruise control that adjusts the speed of the car to keep us in an even flow with traffic in front of us. But new safety features and overconfidence in our knowledge of how to handle many driving situations can actually put us at added risk. Here are 3 of 10 questions to ask yourself to see if you are driving correctly on today’s roads—or doing it wrong.
Are you the reason for those blind spots?
A car with a system to warn you if someone is in your blind spot is not a guarantee against an accident. Drivers can become used to warning lights and forget to heed them, and beeps may be overshadowed by car radios or other extraneous noise (more on that in a minute). As a driver, you need to check over your shoulder before changing lanes to be sure you aren’t missing something that could spell disaster. And whether you have a blind spot warning system or not, you can take a step toward eliminating blind spots in the first place by adjusting your mirrors properly. If you’re seeing your car in your side mirrors, they are not positioned correctly. To fix the problem, first lean all the way left to the driver’s side window and adjust the mirror so you can barely see your car. Then lean to the right moving your head to the center console and adjust the passenger side mirror so you can barely see your car. In addition, adjust your rearview mirror so you have a direct view behind you. If your mirrors are positioned correctly, someone walking around the car behind you should transition seamlessly in your mirrors.
And don’t put yourself in someone else’s blind spot. If you’re in the lane next to another car and lined up with its rear tire, you are in the other driver’s blind spot. If you’re next to a truck and can’t see the driver’s reflection in his or her side mirror, you’re also in a blind spot. If possible, adjust your speed to change your location.
Are your hands still at 10 and 2?
Do you remember driver’s ed class? Some of us need to think back a long time. And since those eons past, some of the safety rules we were taught have changed. Since the advent of airbags—which give us extra protection if we are in an accident—10 and 2 are out and 9 and 3 are in. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with airbags mounted in the steering wheel, if your hands are positioned at the top of it (in the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions) and your vehicle is in an accident, the explosive force of the airbag deploying can tear the skin from your hands, fracture bones, and even amputate fingers and hands. According to AAA, the force can also slam your hands directly into your head causing things like a broken nose or concussion. With today’s cars, placing your hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock with your thumbs along the rim of the steering wheel rather than looping around it is the safer recommendation. Additionally, don’t rest your hand on the hub of the steering wheel or use an underhand grip while turning—unless you don’t mind risking a broken arm.
Are you blasting your radio?
Our cars now come with navigation systems, high quality sound systems, and blue tooth that allows us to talk on the phone without using our hands. Obviously, driving is safer when our hands are free to steer the car. But, again, it’s easy to become complacent and think that talking on our phones while driving is now completely safe. But, the fact is, any distracted driving is dangerous. That can include a conversation with passengers, scarfing a Popeye’s chicken sandwich—if you can get your hands on one—and something every one of us is guilty of doing: listening to the radio. Now, I’m not foolish enough to think that any of us are going to shut off our radios because they can be a distraction. I personally can’t imagine driving in D/FW traffic without listening to my favorite radio stations. But it is wise to keep the volume at a manageable level—you should at least be able to hear that motorcycle roaring up beside you even if you don’t always see it. And don’t listen to War and Peace (or its modern-day equivalent) or anything that requires concentration that takes your focus away from driving safely.
Here at Accident & Injury Chiropractic, we want you to be safe on the roads, and we will continue to blog about ways to help you be just that. But if you do everything right and still get in a wreck, we’re here to help you get back out there ASAP.