Accident prevention involves many factors. The key is to drive defensively. Below are some ways to avoid getting into a traffic crash.
A. Scanning the Road - Always scan the road and keep your eyes moving, never focusing on just one point. Scanning the road ahead, particularly on the expressway and in dangerous driving locations and situations such as intersections, bottlenecks, and broken traffic signals, will keep you aware and prepared for oncoming road hazards. When approaching a hill or curve, scanning ahead will allow you to see posted speed limits or observe the speed of any vehicles you are following so you can make the necessary adjustments. Use the SIPDE technique to help you scan for danger effectively; the following explains each of the steps involved:
Scan (or Search) - First, scan the road for possible hazards and traffic conditions. To scan effectively, you need to check as much of the road as possible by looking ahead at least 15 seconds, not just in front of you. In the city, this means looking at least one to two blocks (about ¼ mile) ahead; when driving on the expressway, you should be checking at least one-third to half a mile in front of you. You should also scan left to right and check your mirror to see behind your vehicle. Keep your eyes moving so you can see a dangerous situation before it has a chance to affect you. This technique is also very helpful on rural roads and at intersections where unexpected hazards often occur.
Identify - The next step in this process is to identify what those hazards are. Is it a deer about to cross the road in front of you? Is it a large branch breaking off a nearby tree and falling onto the roadway? Is it a crash scene blocking a lane on your side of the road? If you know what the hazard is, you can respond to it appropriately.
Predict - Now that you have identified the hazard, you need to predict the possible outcomes that affect your safety. If it is a deer crossing the road, it may either linger on the pavement or be followed by other deer and block your path. If it is a falling tree branch, you may have to move to another lane, pull over to the shoulder, or stop altogether. If it is a crash scene, you will have to slow down or move over to a safer lane. If you can identify the hazard, you need to be able to predict all possible consequences.
Decide - Next, you must decide on a sensible course of action to avoid the hazard with time to spare. Look for escape routes if you think you may have to change your position on the road. If that is not possible, you must be prepared to slow down or stop. If it involves another person or vehicle, you may have to signal or use the horn.
Execute - Choose from among your options a course of action and execute or act on it. This should be the one that is the safest. For example, you decided that changing lanes would be the best course of action to avoid a particular hazard. Your next step is to simply do what you decided on so you can actually prevent an incident.
Note that to utilize SIPDE effectively, you must be an active defensive driver who can anticipate outcomes and make quick decisions. This means you must be attentive to your surroundings in order to see any hazards before you reach them. If you allow yourself to be distracted, you are at risk because you will not be able to scan the road effectively.
The animation that follows will show you how to properly utilize SIPDE, using a rock slide as an example.
B. Avoid Collisions - If an accident is imminent, avoid head-on and multiple vehicle accidents, which are extremely dangerous. You can still lessen the severity of inevitable collisions with certain actions. Holding onto the steering wheel can help prevent injury resulting from being thrown around within the vehicle and hitting objects such as the side windows. In a crash of any type, try to keep your body loose to minimize injuries. Following are some specific ways to deal with collisions:
1. Avoiding A Rear-End Collision
Even though you might practice good driving skills, others may not. These tips will aid you in avoiding a rear-end collision.
- Three-second rule - Allow more space between you and the car ahead.
- Give notice - Let other drivers know what your plan is by signaling before a turn or tapping your brake lights before a stop (tap your brakes only when nearing an intersection or in heavy traffic).
- Brakes - Use your brakes smoothly by applying gradual pressure. If you ride your brakes, other drivers behind you will also slow down. Eventually they may ignore your actual intent. It is similar to the concept of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." When you really do stop, you may be rear-ended.
- Keep pace - Keep up with the flow of traffic around you.
- Check your rear-view mirror - Constantly check behind you so you can see where other vehicles are. Be aware of the proximity of the one behind you.
- Changing lanes - Before changing lanes, make sure the lane you are moving into is clear. Also, make sure your speed is sufficient so that pulling in front of another car does not force its driver to brake to avoid hitting you.
- Keep foot on brake pedal - After stopping, continue to keep your foot pressed on the brake pedal to alert others that you are stopped.
- Keep rear lights clean and in working order - Maintain the working order of your brake lights and keep them clean.
- Always adjust headrests prior to driving to reduce the chance of whiplash in a rear-end collision.
If you cannot avoid a rear-end collision, things you can do to minimize its impact include:
- Attempt to warn the driver behind you by tapping your brakes (this is not recommended on the Expressway).
- If you have sufficient space in front of you, try moving forward to minimize the impact. If that is not an option because it will put you in the path of cross traffic, press your brake pedal and allow your vehicle to absorb the impact (this should only be done in low-speed environments). Be sure to keep the steering wheel turned straight ahead. You don't want to be pushed into oncoming traffic.
- Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. Chances are you may be pushed forward or even sideways and will still need to maintain control. When holding onto the steering wheel, don't stiffen or straighten your arms. Bend them slightly so that they do not snap from the impact.
- Your seat belt will keep your face and upper torso from hitting the steering wheel or windshield. Rest your head against the head restraint. This will help minimize whiplash, thereby protecting your neck and back.
2. Avoiding a Head-on Collision - A head-on collision occurs suddenly and with little warning. Although there is not much you can do to cushion the impact, you can still minimize any injuries by doing the following:
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel so you can maintain control of your vehicle. A collision will likely be more serious if you cannot control the direction in which you are going.
- You should already be prepared by properly wearing your seatbelt and shoulder belt. Your belt will keep you in your seat and away from the steering wheel and dashboard. However, if you are not wearing your belt and your car is not equipped with an airbag, you can try to throw yourself across the seat to avoid hitting the steering wheel or windshield. Otherwise you need to stay upright in your seat.
3. Avoiding a Side Collision - Also known as a “T-bone,” a side collision occurs most often at intersections where one driver fails to yield the right-of-way. In this type of collision, the front end of one vehicle crashes into the side of the other. It is usually more dangerous for the occupants of the vehicle hit on the side because the sides lack the structural reinforcement of the front end. Like a head-on, a side collision occurs suddenly. Again, the proper use of your seatbelt is your best protection during a crash. However, if you have adequate warning, you should try holding onto the steering wheel to keep from being thrown against the side of your car's interior. This will also allow you to maintain control of your vehicle. Do not brace yourself against the steering wheel because a stiff arm may break due to the enormous forces generated by the crash.
C. Using Your Turn Signal - If you plan a maneuver that may affect other road users, such as a turn or lane change, you need to use your turn signal. It should be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled before a turn or action.
D. Backing Up - The law states that you may not back a vehicle unless it can be done with reasonable safety. It is unwise and unsafe to back up around corners or curves in the road. When backing up, it is important to remember the following:
E. Covering the Brake - You should be able to determine situations when the brake needs to be covered in preparation for use. Covering the brake means placing your foot over the brake for quicker response time. Situations where covering the brake may be necessary include:
Riding the brake (keeping your foot pressed down on the brake slightly) not only adds much wear and tear on your vehicle, but it also gives other drivers the false impression that a stop is imminent. In contrast, covering the brake is often prudent and a safe driving practice.
More Damage Reduction Ideas...
Special attention must be paid to potential trouble spots on the road. This can be the difference between an accident and a close call. These situations include:
Detours are common due to construction or maintenance work on the roads. At any time, there are more than 500 highway construction and maintenance projects being worked on in the State of Georgia. Follow signs as indicated and observe reduced speed limit signs. Be aware that traffic fines can be up to $250 in these areas and delays often occur. Be patient!
Tips for driving in work zones:
Additionally, when driving on an open highway, more potential hazards include:
Unmarked farm and field driveways - Unmarked farm and field driveways are a hazard because rural drivers are notorious for entering the roadway suddenly at slow speeds. The best way to avoid this problem is to scan a wider area ahead so you can identify other potential road users before they reach the highway. When your line of sight is limited or obstructed, reduce your speed in keeping with how far ahead you can see.
Livestock crossing areas - Advance crossing signs should warn or alert you as a driver to the possibility of unexpected entries by cattle and other livestock onto the roadway. You should scan for these hazards and warning signs and be prepared to stop.
Unmarked shoulders - Unmarked shoulders, soft shoulders, and places where there is no shoulder whatsoever alter the availability to use them as an "escape" or "out." Be sure to reduce your speed in these potentially dangerous areas.
Rough or unpaved roads - It is vital to always scan the road surface conditions ahead of you. It may be covered in sand, gravel or dry earth, or crisscrossed with cracks and potholes. These conditions lower the traction availability, so a reduction in speed would be advised.
Slow-moving vehicles - Bicycles, tractors, large trucks, or animal-drawn vehicles may slow or block you path. In these cases, be prepared to reduce your speed to match the slower flow. You may need to follow at a slower speed until you may safely and legally pass them.
Roadside stands or gas stations - Drivers often make last-minute decisions, sudden stops, or turns into roadside stands or gas stations, which often cause collisions. Those leaving their high beams on or re-entering the highway without looking make these high-risk areas. Check carefully, be aware, and adjust to the potential risks.
Unexpected animal crossings - Small animals may dart into your path while you are driving. Try to swerve or brake sharply, but only if it is safe. You never want to risk a collision or put a life in danger to avoid a small animal. Large animals should be avoided at all costs; many large animals (cows, deer, elk, etc.) can cause as much damage to you and your vehicle as another car.
More potential hazards include: