In this day and age, too many vehicle makes and models exist to name them all. However, some tips exist to help you stay safe on the road no matter the kind of car you drive. I am not talking about the lessons you learn in Driver’s Education classes. I am referring to the kinds of things drivers learn as they go. Lucky for you, I am about to offer those words of wisdom for no charge.
1. Make sure you have a spare key
Whether you are in a rush to get into your cozy home or you are clumsy and drop your keys somewhere in the store, a spare key is always helpful to have. I recommend keeping it in one of the following places for your convenience: with a contact close to you (like a significant other or roommate) or in a secret place on your vehicle.Then, if you ever lock yourself out of your car, you will always have a way back in.
2. Know and Practice How to Jump Start a Battery
Become familiar with your vehicle and how to jump it. A vehicle from 2000 is going to vastly differ from a 2022 electric vehicle. In case of an accidental mishap, such as leaving a dome light or radio on, knowing how to jump start your vehicle and being able to do it yourself is an extremely helpful skill. If you do not have someone in your life who is knowledgeable enough to teach you, stop by your local auto parts or repair shop and ask for a demonstration or some tips.
3. Keep Up with the Latest Road Rules and Safety Precautions
From time to time, road rules change. When I first got my driver’s license, I was told to merge as soon as possible, especially in construction zones; this is known as the early merge. However, Minnesota now has a zipper merge recommendation in construction zones which requires drivers to merge when the lane ends in a zipper-like fashion. Vehicle safety precautions change over time as well. Some vehicles or vehicle parts may be recalled, in which case you can usually receive a refund or replacement either through the dealership you bought your vehicle, your insurance company, or the maker of the part.
4. Purchase Roadside Assistance
I highly recommend purchasing AAA Roadside Assistance. It is a yearly subscription purchase, and you receive a number of benefits. Package costs differ based on your location, but the benefits outweigh the cost. For example, the “AAA Plus” membership costs approximately $100 per year, but you receive 100 miles worth of towing (which would cost you up to $600 out-of-pocket), a battery jump start, flat tire changes, travel benefits, and much more. The cost of the benefits without the roadside assistance is drastically more than the yearly membership cost.
5. Be Patient and Kind to Your Fixer-Upper Personnel
Whether it is your local repair shop or an out-of-area tow truck driver, always be as kind and patient as possible. Vehicles have thousands of parts and even more ways to fix them. These people fix your vehicle for a living. Even though you may think you know everything there is to know about your vehicle, they most likely know more. My dad has been a tow truck driver for about 20 years, and one of his biggest pet peeves is when someone tries to tell him how to do his job. My uncle is a mechanic, and he feels the same way. If you are kind and patient with them (like you should be with every human being), they will usually go out of their way to help you even more than they already are.
6. Move Over for Emergency Personnel
Police officers, tow truck drivers, firefighters, and highway clean-up crews are just a few groups of people who risk their lives every day to help those in need. A good rule of thumb is this: if you see flashing lights, move over at least one lane. Usually these lights come in the colors of white, yellow, red, or even blue. In some states, including Minnesota, if you do not move over for emergency personnel, you can be ticketed more than $100. If you cannot safely move over, you should slow down. N
7. Clear All Snow/Debris from Your Vehicle Before Driving
In Minnesota, it isn’t unusual to see vehicles with snow on the hood, roof, or trunk driving down the road. I have even seen people drive with snow still on their windows. However, it is illegal to have snow or frost on your windows since it obstructs your vision, and some officers will even fine you for littering if large chunks of icicles and/or snow blow off your vehicle while driving. So taking the extra minute to clean off your vehicle or spending a few extra dollars to buy a snowbrush with an extension is definitely worth it.
1. Park on the Line
Yes, technically you are in your parking spot, but parking on the line can lead to so many problems. Your vehicle will be damaged more easily, you or others may not be able to get in or out of their vehicle, or someone may purposefully damage your vehicle out of retaliation (which I do not recommend or condone either). It only takes 30 seconds extra to back up and straighten your vehicle into your parking spot.
2. Stop Directly Behind Someone
While it is tricky for police officers to ticket someone for tailgating, especially at a stoplight or stop sign, it is still dangerous and rude. A good rule of thumb is to either be able to see the vehicle’s tires touch the ground in front of you and/or see the vehicle’s headlights in your rearview mirror. If you cannot see these, you are too close to the vehicles around you. Complications of being too close to people while stopped (and while driving) include multi-vehicle pileups, road debris damage, and a limited field of view.
3. Get into Your Vehicle without Looking in the Backseat
Many women are told this, but most men are not. To avoid car hijackings, robberies, and abductions, always check your backseat before sitting in your vehicle. It is usually easiest to peek through the back windows before getting into the vehicle rather than sitting down and checking behind you.
4. Drive the Speed Limit on Wet or Icy/Snowy Roads
In Driver’s Education classes, they tell us the level of water it takes to hydroplane and the definition of black ice. However, most classes do not teach you that it is okay to go below the speed limit, especially on a road with dangerous conditions. After all, it is called a limit for a reason, so you should not feel the need to meet or exceed it.
5. Cut-Off a Large Vehicle
I have seen too many people pull in front of a semi-truck, cement truck, or tow truck too often. Most of the time, they cannot see you, and they also have a much longer braking distance. In most circumstances, a large vehicle cannot see 20 feet in front of their bumper. Therefore, you should maintain at least a three car distance between you and them. However, considering semi-trucks take up to 200 yards (about two football fields) to stop when they are going the average highway speed, you should give them even more room in case you both have to slam on your brakes. Keep in mind these are on clear roads, so weather may play a large factor. Thus, I recommend putting at least ten car lengths between you two.
At the end of the day, experience plays a large part in how well we drive and handle challenging situations. No matter what, pay attention to your surroundings and play it safe. If you are in a hurry, ask yourself if your destination is worth your or someone else’s death.