Let’s face it, the road is a dangerous place and we voluntarily put ourselves in that environment.
Despite the very real threats we face on the road, there are few people who mitigate these risks through strict awareness, preparedness and readiness practices. The following are suggestions to create daily habits and keep you safe whether driving alone or as a group.
Every trip you start should always begin with a checklist. Whenever possible, minimize the need to stop for gas by topping off beforehand. Check your vehicle’s oil to make sure it has been changed regularly and that the level is appropriate for your vehicle. If you don’t know how to do this, ask your local automotive mechanic to show you. Also, vehicle performance will vary with the amount of air your tires have in them. Less air is better to create a larger tire patch for travel over sand, but highway conditions require properly inflated tires. Over-inflation is not proper inflation by the way. Read what is on the inside of the car door for the optimal pressure.
In Connecticut a few years back, a runaway truck with no breaks barreled down a hill, through an intersection, collided with stopped cars and ultimately killed multiple people. These cars were bumper to bumper waiting for a light and literally had nowhere to go. Make it a habit to always leave room to maneuver your vehicle when stopped. If you can’t see the bottom of the wheels of the car in front of you, you do not have enough room. Also, when you are stopped at a light or sign, this is not the time to take your eyes off the road. If anything, check your six. Backing up may be the best option. Danger loves complacency, and just because you feel safe doesn’t mean you are. Get in the habit of scanning for open space to drive into, like shoulders medians and even driveways.
Stay In Touch
Letting someone responsible know where you are going and how you are getting there is a key to driving safely. How many stories can you recall of people driving off the road and surviving in or near their vehicle? Generally, when these people are interviewed, they say they took a detour or went off their intended route. Communication is central to safety and survival. Whether you are driving on your own and are relaying information to loved ones at home or you are in a group and get separated by traffic, always have a means to communicate. Two-way radios work best between vehicles as there is no lag time waiting for one party to pick up. If you must resort to a cell phone, stay hands-free and keep the phone line open. If possible, conference call among all the phones if you are in an area where you need instant feedback from all vehicles. Ever wondered, “What is this driver doing?” when you are in a group? Keep communication open and don’t wonder again.
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Get There Safely
I try to avoid taking the same route to work each day. I do this for a variety of reasons. I don’t like patterning myself and want to avoid becoming an easy target for anyone who may want to try to victimize me. The other reason is, we become comfortable when we fall into habits. We know the distance from point A to point B is five minutes at 45 mph and there is Mr. Doe on the corner again like clockwork. This familiarity may help us because we can pick out any anomalies, but then again we may not recognize a threat because we have countless experiences driving the same route without incident and don’t expect it. Remember, just because something has never happened doesn’t mean it never will. I like to vary my routes to keep my senses keen. I try to switch up taking different roads to get to the same destination, and I also leave at different times as the traffic changes throughout the morning.
Look inside my truck and you’ll find cans of tire sealant, a small air compressor, a tire patch kit, a battery power pack and vehicle recovery items. Most of my driving is on road, but I still carry plenty of off-road provisions like a come-a-long cable, a jack platform, a shovel, snatch straps and an axe. Snow and icy conditions can also mean danger to the driver and changing your tires if you need to sooner rather than later. Also, in cold conditions, your engine will run less efficiently. Look for gasoline additives to help keep your fuel line clear of ice. Without fuel going to your engine, your vehicle won’t start. It’s obvious, but taking care of the liquid resource your engine consumes is vitally important year round. One final addition to your vehicle kit should be hand warmers. If your vehicle doesn’t have a winter kit and battery warmer, these disposable hand warmers may bring up your battery’s temperature enough to start your engine.
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Vehicular accidents kill more people than firearms every year, yet most people will put more emphasis in firearms use/tactics than they will in their driving ability and preparation. Seek to address life’s realistic threats and be safe wherever and however you travel. You are responsible for your safety even if others are unsafe around you. Be aware, be prepared and be willing to do what it takes to survive on the dangerous roads on which we travel.
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