We don’t want to frighten you, lets be clear to remind you about the forgotten risks when driving.
When we learn to drive we are very alert and use all our senses whilst driving. With time driving can become automatic. These slip-ups at the wheel (often breaches in road safety) can carry a high price.
The magazine of DGT has recently compiled a list of the most common slip-ups and mistakes. Here we have chosen a few to remind you of the risks they carry and what conduct is correct:
- Not keeping a safe distance – risk of catching up to the vehicle in front.
It is fundamental that you keep a safe distance to have time to react and brake gently.
If you are not sure what that distance is look for a static object to refer to (a tree or a fence post) and when the car in front passes it begin to count: one thousand one hundred and one, one thousand one hundred and two. If you arrive at the reference point before finishing, you are too close so increase the gap.
- Bad posture while driving increases reaction time.
Driving while too close to the steering wheel makes steering difficult and involves a significant risk to you if the airbag is deployed. Too far away with your elbows resting on the window increases reaction time. The correct way is with your hands on the wheel at 10 to 10 (as in a clock face, left hand at 10 and the right hand at 2), your head in the center of the headrest and arms and legs slightly flexed.
- Improper positioning of the seat belt – Danger of serious injuries.
A wrongly positioned seatbelt can cause important injuries even in minor accidents or when braking hard, above all in children being more delicate. In Spain, children under 135cms in height must use an adult seatbelt, which is correctly adjusted. Ensuring that the upper strap is situated over the sternum and across the middle of the collarbone. The lower strap must be across the pelvic bones. A badly positioned seatbelt across the stomach or too close to the neck can cause serious internal injuries in an accident.
Spanish Traffic Law allows children over 135cms to use an adult seatbelt but the MAPFRE FOUNDATION would go further and would advise that you only use it if it can be correctly adjusted as described, if not keep using the booster seat.
- Driving in the middle lane causes incorrect maneuvers in others.
Driving in the middle lane, except when justified (in very heavy traffic), is a bad habit and can cause other driver to make dangerous maneuvers such as overtaking on the inside or changing lane twice. When ever you are driving on the highway use the right hand lane and the other only for overtaking.
- Distracted by an accident – traffic jams and rear-end collisions.
It is usual that while watching an accident your speed is reduced but don’t be distracted whilst still driving. It is better to follow the traffic flow keeping an eye on the road ahead and the traffic, paying attention to the traffic behind you in the rearview mirror.
- Not allowing pedestrians to cross - hitting them.
On our roads there are not only cars, pedestrians have confidence that cars will stop at a zebra crossing. Always respect the pedestrian’s priority wherever signposted. Slow down so they are aware you have seen them.
- Running out of fuel – breakdowns and having to stop somewhere dangerous.
The impurities that accumulate at the bottom of the fuel tank can be absorbed into the fuel injection system and cause a breakdown at the worst time. Never let the tank get too low, keep it at least ¼ full and always fill up before a trip.
Unawareness of the speed limit – the risk of accident or a fine
The speed limit not only depends on the road but also the type of vehicle. If you are not driving your usual vehicle such as a van or towing a trailer, make sure you are aware of the speed restrictions before setting off.
- Hitting the curb- Risk of punctures and damage.
Sometimes when parking the wheels hit the curb and end up on it. After the surprise of the tire deflating the next day, it can also have caused damage that could dangerously affect the steering and extreme cases lead to something on vehicle breaking while driving.
- Sudden braking – Danger of rear-end collisions, wheel locking, running off the road.
Even at low speeds sudden braking can cause loss of control or collisions and cause serious harm to children that are not properly restrained. Try to always remain fully aware, maintaining enough of a safe distance to anticipate any dangers and time to warn other drivers by using your emergency lights.
- Low tire pressure-Longer braking distance, aquaplaning, punctures.
Driving with low tire pressure or worn tires increases the risk of a puncture and the braking distance. Check the pressure of your tires periodically: every week if possible and always before embarking on a journey.
- Braking too hard going downhill-overheating loss of power.
Keeping your foot on the brake pedal during a long descent causes them to overheat and lose efficiency. Use low gears to slow the vehicle down and take your foot of the brake to cool the discs and pads. Apply the old saying that you should descend a pass in the same gear as you ascended it.
These mistakes, distractions and bad habits at the wheel are the cause of many common accidents on our roads. Remember that driving involves risk and even though experience gives you courage, there is nothing better than remaining as alert as your first day at the wheel.