When you think about safety behind the wheel, you’re probably thinking about you behind the wheel. This is what the majority of articles tend to focus on, too: how can you be a better driver? How can you ensure that you’re safe on the road?
That’s all well and good — taking steps to keep yourself as safe as possible while driving is never going to be a negative thing — but the truth is, it’s not just you that matters on the road. You can be a completely brilliant driver who would never dream of dropping the “quarter to three” hands position we’re all meant to adopt; but the other drivers might be absolute menaces.
There’s nothing you can do to improve the safety of the way other, less conscientious, drivers operate. Once again, the work to accommodate them has to come from you. However, given that it can keep you safer on the road, it’s definitely worth considering these strategies that can help you deal with the problems bad drivers might create for you.
1. If They’re Being Pushy, Just Get Out Of Their Way
Tailgating. It’s a thing. Ideally, it wouldn’t be a thing, but it is. Apparently, some drivers seem to believe that anyone not breaking the speed limit is an annoyance in their life. Rather than keeping a respectful distance, they instead choose to sit on your rear bumper, so close behind you that you can’t see their license plate in your mirrors.
If someone is going to do this, then it’s tempting to speed up, potentially even to break the limit. It’s an intimidating behavior — it’s designed to be an intimidating behavior — and sometimes, you can’t help but fall for it. However, speeding up won’t necessarily placate them. They might continue to tailgate even as you pick up the pace, you get continually frustrated and angered by what their doing, and the whole situation devolves until you’re nearing the point of an accident.
So don’t play along. Just signal, pull over, and let them overtake. It’s easier on your blood pressure and it prevents further disaster spiraling from their lack of patience. Don’t see doing this as ‘giving in’ either — it’s just you doing what you have to do to stay safe.
2. Carefully Selecting Your Parking Spaces
You park in a customer parking area of a store. You go into the store and buy what you need. You come back out and see that your car is now complete with a set of scratches. Another driver has clearly opened their door too far and, as a result, you’re going to be in need of a new paint job. Ideally, they will have left a note, but frequently this won’t be the case. It’s infuriating.
There’s nothing you can do to encourage other drivers to be more careful, but you can minimize your own risk. Always try and park at the end of a row of bays, so that there’s only one side of your car that’s close to other vehicles. This might inconvenience you a little — ends of rows tend to be further from the store — but that’s easier than coping with scratched-up paintwork.
3. Don’t “Double Flash” To Thank Someone
If someone gives way to you or lets you pull onto a busy road, then it’s pretty standard procedure to flash your lights at them twice. This is the universally-accepted sign for “thanks, I appreciate that”.
However, when you do this, you do run the risk of temporarily blinding someone. If that someone isn’t a particularly good driver or is sensitive to light due a health condition, then you could be doing more harm than good. While it’s nice that you want to say thank you, stick to a hand gesture or nod of the head where possible. At night — when such a gesture might not be seen — it’s better to appear rude and ungrateful than cause an accident.
4. Watch Their Lane Discipline
So much of the existing information about drinking and driving is focused on individual drivers, encouraging them to make the right choice. That’s necessary, but there should be a little more focus on how drivers can identify the signs that another driver is intoxicated.
There are a few signs to watch out for. If you see a vehicle that is struggling to stay within their designated lane, then be extremely cautious when you’re around that car. It might only be slight slips, grazes over the central line, but it’s often enough to tell you all is not well.
Another sign to be aware of is someone driving incredibly slowly. If someone is inebriated, it’s almost impossible they don’t know that they shouldn’t be driving. Rather than take a taxi, then elect to drive… but they’ll be really careful. That careful tends to translate to driving slowly, often right down to a crawl. If you see a car in front of you doing this, then make a turn or overtake as soon as possible to avoid them. You don’t want to get into an accident because of their poor judgment.
5. Keep Your Music (Relatively) Quiet
Distraction is a contributor to a huge number of car accidents, but it’s not just your own potential for distraction that you need to be aware of. If you like to blast your music loud, then there’s every chance it won’t just distract you, but other drivers as well.
The music itself might not even be the problem. Other drivers could be distracted by the fact they’re irritated at having to hear your music, leading to them to make bad decisions and not fully have their eye on the road. If you’re in a rural location and there’s no people or houses for miles around, sure, turn up the stereo. The moment you get back into town, however, keep the volume low to ensure there’s no potential to sway others from where their focus really should be — the road.
6. Always Check (Even When It’s Your Right Of Way)
When it’s your right of way on the road, your brain disengages to an extent. It’s your turn, your chance, and everyone else is meant to be giving way to you. So you pull out into an intersection or do something you have every right to do… only to discover another driver isn’t playing by the same rules. You get into an accident and have no choice but to contact an attorney to see if you can recoup some of the financial damage your injuries cost you — and it’s all because someone else ignored the rules of the road.
While you have the moral high ground in this case, the simple fact is that you can’t pretend every other driver is going to do as you would. Some drivers will just outright ignore instructions and a right of way; or they may not be focusing enough on the road to yield to those long-established norms. So even if it’s your right of way and every rule would agree with you, always check and make sure it’s safe to maneuver. It’s a bitter one to swallow at times, but it’s better you feel mildly irritated than have to live with an accident.
7. Don’t Hassle Other Drivers
You probably don’t need to be told this, but it’s worth saying anyway. Sometimes, if you’ve had a bad day, your usual politeness might be tougher than usual to uphold. You might find yourself getting frustrated by someone taking too long at a stop sign, finding yourself annoyed by someone else’s music, or just generally not driving with the peace and serenity you’d usually hope.
When this happens, try and remember the need for safety. Don’t flip off other drivers, no matter how egregious their sins against you. Don’t shout to yourself, even — it’s a distraction. Don’t tailgate if someone is going slowly. If you’re feeling so angry you’re struggling to control the urge to do these things, then pull over; there’s a solid chance you’re too angry to be driving safely. Even if you’re in a rush, it’s better to be a little late than let your irritation get the better of you and cause a potentially serious car accident.
The chances are you don’t need to be told this, but even the best drivers have moments where their patience wears thin and they find themselves frustrated. Recognizing where your line is is imperative to keeping you safe on the road, so take action if you find yourself struggling.
Keeping safe while driving is a pretty fundamental thing. While you can’t control how other people behave — yet, come on humanity let’s invest that already! — you can be aware of the problems that others might cause you. Most importantly, by following the above, you can take evasive action when required. Is it fair you have to do this? No, but it’ll keep you safer, which at the end of the day is the most important thing.