And just like that, we’re leaving 2019 behind and moving full speed into 2020. As far as New Year’s resolutions go, cleaning up your driving habits is decidedly easier than committing to a rigid new gym regimen. Since we’re all about road safety here at Stratford, we’ve compiled these 10 helpful, and realistic, tips for being a better driver in 2020.
- Banish distractions
Giving your full attention to the road is one of the most important steps to being a responsible driver. British Columbians cannot be charged with distracted driving for having their cell phones within sight, but to use them, you must be legally parked off the road or using the “hands-free” function when the device is mounted.
To avoid a distracted driving ticket, it’s best to secure your cell phone out of sight. Queue up your playlist and look up your route beforehand to avoid the temptation to fiddle with your devices en route.
- (Don’t) hold the phone
While the safest way to drive is without any distractions at all, if you must take a call while driving, have your device hooked up to Bluetooth so the interaction is completely hands-free. Drivers are legally allowed to use one earbud while driving, however, the device must be affixed to the vehicle or person and not on the seat, in their lap or console.
- Merge like a pro
A 2017 study by CAA found that bottlenecks are the single biggest contributor to road delays. Using the zipper technique of merging has shown to reduce congestion by up to 40% versus merging as soon as the opportunity comes up. The method is simple, drivers exhaust both lanes at a bottleneck and then alternate into the open lane.
- Don’t tailgate
Just don’t do it. A rear-end collision is almost always the fault of the driver who rear-ended the other vehicle, so it’s just not worth the risk. When you follow the driver in front too closely, you compromise your vision of the road ahead, accelerate and decelerate more, and cause those driving behind you to break unnecessarily.
When following delivery trucks and semis on roads with traffic lights, leave extra room to reduce the risk of running a red light.
- Drive smoothly
This is a skill taught in Driver’s Ed but it’s always good to be reminded. Driving smoothly not only makes the trip more pleasant for your passengers and fellow drivers on the road, it also saves on fuel. Accelerating and decelerating smoothly, looking into the turn and anticipating the road ahead all make for a fluid driving experience.
- Turn left the right way
When turning left at an intersection, our instincts tell us to move into the intersection with our wheels pointed to the left in preparation for the turn, but this can be a critical error. If a car hits you from behind in this position, your vehicle will be shot forward into oncoming traffic. Instead, enter the intersection and move to the left about 9-12 inches, then straighten your wheels to point straight ahead while you wait for a break in traffic.
- Secure loose items in the car
Never drive with items wedged between you and your seat, placed on the console or on the floor by your feet. If an object was to roll underneath the brake pedal it would prevent you from being able to brake.
- Adjust your mirrors properly
Most drivers adjust their side mirrors so they can just see the side of the car, but you can actually reduce your blind spots further by adjusting them the same way but with your head leaning slightly to each side.
For your left mirror, rest your head against the driver-side window and then adjust the mirror so the side of your car is just slightly visible. To set the passenger-side mirror, lean your head slightly over the middle console and adjust it in the same way.
- Rise above the road rage
You can’t control other drivers, but you can control how you react to them. Instead of flying into a fury when someone cuts you off or blares their horn unnecessarily, take a breath and remember that you don’t have to let their bad day ruin your day.
- Don’t drive tired
According to a study by the AAA foundation, 16.5% of fatal crashes involve a sleepy driver. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re tired. Symptoms of fatigue include daydreaming, difficulty focusing and frequent blinking, restlessness and irritability, yawning and difficulty keeping your head up.
Always pull off to the side of the road if you think you might be tired and give yourself the opportunity to take a 20-minute nap. Your destination can wait for you to arrive safely.