Everybody thinks they are a much better driver than everybody else on the road ... but most of us make our share of mistakes, from glancing at texts to changing lanes without signaling. But, as summer travel season kicks into gear, it's all the more important to be the best driver you can be to keep you, your kids, and everybody else's kids safe on the road.
1) Don't drive distracted. You'd never dream of driving drunk or high, putting your kids in the car without a safe car seat, or even speeding. But most of us make the ultimate dangerous mistake: letting our attention wander from the task of piloting two tons of glass and steel carrying our most precious loved ones.
Yes, the biggest distraction is our kids, and I would love to know why someone hasn't invented a family car with glass to separate the front seat from the back like in a limo or taxicab (automotive designers: MILLION-DOLLAR IDEA). But they're not the ones making phone calls, switching CDs in the player, eating dinner, or even glancing at texts while driving.
Do everything you can to minimize distractions. Many newer cars have systems that let you pair your phone to the car's sound system so you can listen to directions, play voicemails, and even take calls hands-free. If you don't have one of those, you can still have your phone give you turn-by-turn directions verbally so you don't need to read them. And if you absolutely cannot stop yourself from making calls, looking at texts, etc., put your phone somewhere inaccessible the minute you get in the car (in my purse, under the seat is my favorite spot).
2) Drive defensively. That means staying attentive to everything around you, observing a safe following distance from the cars in front of you, and generally being prepared for other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists to do stupid things. Always be aware of an escape path if you need to move away from a road hazard quickly.
3) Be courteous. Don't wait until the last minute to merge into a lane when the road narrows, don't crowd other drivers, and let people into your lane. And always use turn signals, etc., to let other drivers know what you are doing. You know that guy that makes you yell words your kids shouldn't hear? Don't be that guy.
4) Watch your speed. Any crash is going to be worse if you are going too fast. The posted speed limits are there for a reason. And as a cop who pulled me over once told me: "They would rather you get there late than not show up at all because you've been in an accident." That goes double when you have your kids in the car.
5) Buckle your seat belt, and make sure your kids do too. This is far and away the most important thing you can do to keep yourself and your kids safe. Position their seat belts in the right place (across the chest) and make sure that they are always in the highest possible level of restraint for their age and size. Don't be too eager to ditch the car seat for a booster, etc.
What do you do to drive safely?
Image via Sean MacEntee/Flickr