Commuting to and from work or from jobsite to jobsite can feel monotonous. However, it's important to remain alert and prepared - even at a red light.
A momentary distraction or a poorly maintained vehicle is all it takes for an accident to occur, one that might even result in loss of life.
Preventing these incidents during the commute is a critical part of workplace safety. Here are six ways to avoid accidents when at a standstill.
Pull Up to Red Lights Slowly
You have to be a defensive driver, even when you're approaching a red light. Bad weather conditions or the temperament of other drivers could all be factors that play into a potential accident.
When the rain starts hitting the pavement, the first five minutes are the most critical. During that time, the oils in the road are slicker, and other drivers may have more trouble braking or stopping.
Slowly apply your brakes when approaching a red light. When the light turns green, assess your surroundings before driving ahead. The couple of seconds you would gain by rushing through isn't worth the harm you're risking.
Leave Plenty of Room Ahead of You
Rather than participating in road rage or the competitive driving that often fills the streets, you should remain calm and encourage other drivers to do the same. You can do that by leaving lots of space ahead of your vehicle. Don't ride the bumper of the car ahead of you, even if it's going extraordinarily slow in a fast lane.
Leave at least a car's distance between you and the driver ahead - and even more space if you're going over fifty miles an hour. This space will give you more time to hit your brake if you need to come to an abrupt stop, and it will make the driver in front of you feel less nervous. Often, if a driver feels they're being infringed upon, they'll hit the brakes as a warning. This can cause crashes, so please don't risk it.
At a red light, keep enough distance so that you can see the bottom of the taillights on the car ahead. This gap will give you twenty to thirty feet of room if your brakes fail or the road is slick. As important as it is to be prepared with the right resources in the even of an accident, driving defensively can keep you from needing them at all.
Keep at Least One Hand on the Wheel
Some stretches of road feel like they go on forever and it's tempting to multitask out of boredom or to knock an extra item off your to do list. But using your phone while driving is far too risky. At least one of your hands must be on the wheel at all times. There’s nothing you should be doing between job sites that should keep you from doing this.
Eating lunch on the way isn't entirely safe, either. But if you do it, make sure you keep one hand firmly on the wheel. Driving conditions can change quickly and cars can stop suddenly. Even at a red light, you should be ready to move at a moment's notice.
Stay Off Your Phone - Even at a Red Light
Your phone shouldn't be anywhere near your hands when you're driving. But a lot of drivers think that doesn't apply when they're stopped at a red light.
It does. In fact, it's the last place you should consider checking texts or Twitter. Being distracted at a red light means that you could miss the light change or falsely think the light has changed and move forward despite the light staying red. This small mistake can cause a potentially fatal collision.
(See Winter Driving Mode for seasonal safety tips)
Watch Out for Kids
Kids are unpredictable. Their parents and teachers can tell them day in and day out that they should pay attention to cars and stay on the sidewalk, but that doesn't mean it will stick.
Children are excitable, flighty, and easily distracted. When there are kids around, pay extra attention to what they're doing and to make sure they're moving along safely. You can't afford to be distracted, even for a moment, because that moment might be the one a child does something unpredictable. Even if the resulting accident isn't your fault, the harm is irreversible and the guilt and trauma can stay with you for ages.
Perform Engine Maintenance Regularly
Maintenance is a vehicle’s best friend. Have your car checked regularly, and address any concerns promptly.
If you notice your brakes aren’t acting correctly, or your vehicle isn’t starting or slowing as it should, have a mechanic look at it immediately. Failing to start when you’re at a red light could mean having another driver plow into the back of your vehicle. Fender benders can damage your spine, neck, and head, as well as injure the driver behind you.
Proper maintenance will keep you from stalling and could prevent serious injuries.