Saturday, December 1, 2012

Safe Driving Habits

[Article copyright Ewe Paik Leong]

All motorists should cultivate safe driving habits as it is better to be safe than sorry. Safe driving is more than just observing traffic signs and speed limits. Some of the guidelines below will be new material to you:

l. Always buckle up your seat belt
2. Drive defensively
3. Use safety equipment
4. Maintain your car's brake, tyres, and lights
5. Have a clear head
6. Maintain safe speeds
7. Never drive with one hand
8. Have a clear dashboard and rear deck
9. Avoid tyre spinning

Seat Belts
Everyone knows that safety belts reduce the risk of fatalities in accidents. While buckling up is observed by motorists on outstation trips, many don't bother on short trips around the neighbourhood. Yet cars involved in accidents at speeds as low as 20 km/hr have been known to cause fatalities of drivers. So make it a habit to buckle up. This applies to your back passengers as well.

Defensive Driving
There are four main principles involved in defensive driving: plan, observe, anticipate and control.

Plan which route you want to take rather than switch lanes abruptly. Always observe the rear-view and side mirrors. Most important, observe traffic signs and obey them. Anticipate that other motorists may do an illegal U-turn, speed through a red light, or that a motorcyclist may weave in from your right. Be in control of yourself at all times.

Don't bulldoze your way through just because you have right of way. Never, never show rude gestures to other drivers.

Safety Equipment
Many safety equipment are only found in cars of the latest models. They include Anti-Lock Braking System and air-bags. Install them if they are not in your car. If you're driving a small car, a kangaroo bar can help reduce the impact of head-on collision. A sway bar can improve handling. Your mechanic or accessories dealer will be able to advise you on this subject.

Maintain Your Car
Apart from human error, faulty signal lights, bald tyres, and worn-out brake pads are the three main contributors to accidents. Maintain your car in good condition at all times.

Have A Clear Head
Before you get into the driver's seat, make sure you have not consumed any liquor. This rule needn't be over-stressed. Medication which can make you drowsy should also be avoided. Check the labels of over-the-counter medication or consult your doctor if you are taking prescriptions. Also, have enough sleep before you drive. Coffee or other stimulants (such as Red Bull) are not a substitute for insufficient sleep. "Sleep debt" can cause you to blackout at the wheel without warning.

Safe Speed
The legal speed limit is not necessarily the safe speed for driving. In a heavy downpour, speeding at ll0 km/hr on the North-South Highway, though legal, is certainly risky. Use your judgment as what is the safe speed.

Never Drive With One Hand
While driving, never use a handphone, flip through a map-book, light a cigarette or worse, put an arm round the shoulder of your girlfriend (or boyfriend). Such acts are against traffic regulations.

Clear Dashboard and Rear Deck
Some people leave umbrellas, J-bars or other hard objects on the rear deck of their cars. During a collision, such objects can become flying missiles travelling at 80 km/hr that can decapitate you! Also, don't have bottles of air-fresheners or other
pointed objects on the dashboard. In a crash, you can be thrown against them and suffer facial injuries.

Avoid Spinning Tyres
If your car is stuck in mud or wet grass, the safest way to free it is to rock the car back and forth. This is accomplished either by shifting the gear from second to reverse (in a manual transmission) or from drive to reverse (in automatic transmission). If this method doesn't work, get a tow truck. Never depress the accelerator and spin the tyre(s). The centrifugal forces created by the spinning can tear a tyre apart, causing it to explode. A tyre explosion is dangerous and can cause death or injury to bystanders.


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