Safe driving, sometimes referred to as defensive driving, involves more than obeying traffic laws. Defensive drivers take extra precautions to avoid collisions and generally stay safe when traveling on the roads. Heavy traffic, like that found during rush hour and the holiday season, poses a particular set of challenges to defensive drivers with safety at the forefront of their minds. Here’s how to prepare before you start to drive, and what to do to stay safe while driving in heavy traffic.
How to drive safely in high-traffic conditions
While it may sound self-evident, research shows that fatal accidents rise as traffic gets heavier. This means that drivers must become more vigilant when more cars are on the road. Going into a larger city in the morning, leaving a city in the afternoon, traveling for holiday weekends, and times when gas prices are particularly low are all situations that tend to increase traffic. Incorporate these aspects into your driving skills to be safer during these times.
Step 1: Be prepared before you enter your vehicle. If you suspect traffic is heavy, it’s in your best interests to check weather and road conditions before you depart.
Fortunately, most modern smartphones allow you to do this simply by asking the assistant, such as Siri on iPhones or Bixby on Samsungs. You can also consult your state’s Department of Transportation website.
This way, you can avoid heavy traffic in the first place by taking an alternate route.
- Tip: Another essential part of driver preparedness is keeping a first aid kit, tire-changing equipment, and emergency flares in your vehicle at all times.
Step 2: Be alert. Your best defense in heavy traffic is being aware of your surroundings. Minimize your distractions by stashing your cell phone and keeping music at a reasonable volume.
Continuously look ahead for potential obstacles, and frequently check your side and rear-view mirrors.
Step 3: Drive a proper speed. While you should not exceed the posted speed limit, there are times you should drive even slower, especially in heavy traffic.
Slow down in the presence of adverse weather conditions like sleet or torrential rains, and keep approximately a car length behind the vehicle in front of you.
Step 4: Use your turn signal 100 feet or more before you turn. Part of preventing accidents in heavy traffic is communication your intention properly to other drivers on the road.
Allow those following you to slow down before you take a turn, and you greatly reduce your chance of being rear-ended.
Step 5: Pass with caution. Being in heavy traffic can easily prompt you to take extra chances to get ahead and shave time off your trip, but that isn’t always the safest tactic.
Only pass another vehicle if you do not have to exceed the speed limit to do so, and check first that you are in a passing zone. Also, ensure you can see oncoming traffic from far away to prevent head-on collisions.
While these tips can help you stay safe in heavy traffic, following these guidelines is wise any time you are behind the wheel. Danger lurks everywhere on the road and at all times, so proper preparation, awareness, and communication with other drivers helps protect you and others rolling from one place to another.