Helpful Driving Tips
Provided by AAA Mid-Atlantic
Inclement Weather Driving
Winter Driving and Winter Car Care
Better Fuel Efficiency
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving occurs whenever a driver is slow to recognize a potential hazard because something inside or outside the vehicle draws the driver's attention away from the driving task. Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involve some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.
Distracted driving is:
- Using vehicle controls
- Cell phone use (talking, texting, Internet browsing)
- Eating, drinking and smoking
- Domestic issues
- Loud music
Aggressive driving is a form of reckless driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that aggressive drivers cause two-thirds of all fatal crashes and are responsible for nearly 35 percent of all crashes.
Causes of aggressive driving may include:
- Crowded roads
- Being in a hurry
- Road work
- Dangerous driving attitudes
How to avoid becoming an aggressive driver
- Obey the speed limit
- Identify alternate routes
- Be a courteous and patient driver
How to protect yourself from aggressive drivers
- Get out of the way and let an aggressive driver pass
- Don't challenge them
- Avoid eye contact
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes each year are a direct result of driver fatigue. The administration further estimates that this results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary loses. In an effort to reduce this alarming trend in traffic safety, the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education presents Fatigued Driving programs to motorists throughout the AAA Mid-Atlantic service area.
Signs of driver fatigue
- Difficulties in focusing
- Drifting to either side of the road
- Taking longer than normal to react to a dangerous driving situation
- Failing to scan the roadway and mirrors
- Dropping off to sleep, even for an instant
- Failing to remember the previous few miles of the trip
How to avoid driver fatigue
- Plan ahead to drive during daylight hours.
- Avoid steady driving around your usual bedtime.
- Eat small meals while traveling.
- Stop frequently (at least every two hours) and walk around.
- Don't focus your eyes in one spot.
- Don't expect fatigue to be relieved by caffeine.
Inclement Weather Driving
Driving in inclement weather requires proper vehicle maintenance, pre-trip planning, specific driving skills and the correct driving attitude.
Be mentally prepared for bad weather
- Leave earlier for your destination.
- Use main roads or arteries whenever possible.
- Use your knowledge of the area to your advantage.
- Expect traffic to travel at a slower pace.
How to handle a skid
- Avoid using cruise control in wet weather driving conditions.
- Look farther ahead and pay particular attention to "hot spots" - bridges, culverts, on and off ramps, and elevated highways. Be alert for black ice.
- Avoid unusual driving maneuvers that could induce a skid.
- If you find yourself beginning to skid, ease up on the accelerator, keep a firm grip on the wheel, and steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
Increase your following distance
- Slow down and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
- Add more space as conditions worsen.
- Don't be afraid to shift into a lower gear to reduce speed.
- Observe other vehicles to determine existing road conditions.
Winter Driving and Winter Car Care
- If snow and ice have fallen, don't drive unless it's necessary. Most motorists in the Mid-Atlantic states are not used to driving in these conditions.
- If you must travel during snow and ice, increase your stopping and following distances between you and the vehicle in front of you.
- Be cautious of "black ice" as temperatures drop, refreezing any moisture on roads. Morotists often cannot see these slippery conditions until it's too late.
- If you drive a four-weel-drive vehicle, avoid over-confidence regarding stopping quickly in winter conditions. In fact, these vehicles, other SUVs and minivans require more stopping distance because they weigh more than smaller vehicles.
- Be aware of glare during early morning and late afternoon hours because of the more direct angle of the sun at this time of the year. Often glare problems increase when icy conditions exist, causing a blinding situation, occasionally preventing motorists from seeing stop signs and intersection signal lights. This problem increases with age, particularly for drivers 55 and older.
- Be fully aware of how to handle your vehicle's braking system if you should go into a skid. Practice on a vacant parking lot during wet conditions to become familiar with how to handle your car if you should go into a skid. Please share this information with family members, also.
- Allow extra time to reach intended destinations during winter weather.
Winter car care
- Keep an eye on the inflation level of your tires. During colder temperatures, tires tend to lose air pressure, causing loss of traction and fuel efficiency.
- Make sure your vehicle's engine maintains a full level of a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water in the radiator. Also, check all fluid levels, including brake, transmission, oil and windshield cleaner.
- Have your vehicle's battery tested for its power load, especially if it's three to four years old. Colder temperatures demand extra power from your vehicle's electrical system, including the battery, to start.
- During colder than normal weekends, even if you're not planning to travel anywhere in your vehicle, start it at least once a day to re-energize its electrical system.
- Keep your headlamps and taillights clear of snow, mud and dirt, critical during shorter daylight hours in winter months. Dirty headlamps can reduce the amount of light produced by up to 90 percent.
- Make sure your vehicle's windshield wipers are in good condition for full visibility.
Tips for staying safe while driving alone:
- Never fully let your guard down when traveling alone, including while running errands close to home. Remain aware of your surroundings when approaching, entering or exiting your vehicle.
- When leaving a building, have your car keys in your hand, ready to enter your car. This will allow quick entry to your car if you are approached by a stranger while struggling with items you are carrying.
- Keep valuable items in your trunk, out of sight from thieves.
- Carry a cell phone for safety reasons, in case your vehicle becomes disabled or you have a medical emergency. AAA ADVISES NOT USING A CELL PHONE FOR ANY PURPOSE WHILE YOU DRIVE.
Better Fuel Efficiency
Attitude is everything
The type of car or truck you drive, how it's maintained, and how you drive are the most important factors in both conserving fuel and staying safe behind the wheel. Here are some tips from AAA Mid-Atlantic that will help save your gasoline and money:
- If you own more than one car, use the more energy-conserving vehicle as often as possible.
- Find one location where you can take care of banking, grocery shopping and other chores. "Comparison shop" by phone, online or through newspaper ads.
- Avoid quick starts and sudden stops. This wastes fuel, is harder on vehicle components, and increases the odds of a traffic crash.
- Stick to a routine maintenance schedule.
- Maintain steady speeds for the best fuel economy.
- Be alert for slowdowns, and decelerate by coasting whenever possible.
- Travel at moderate speeds on the open road. Higher speeds require more fuel to overcome air resistance. Remember, however, speeds slower than the flow of traffic can create a traffic hazard.
- Use the air conditioner conservatively. Most air conditioners have an "economy" or "recirculation" setting that reduces the hot outside air that must be chilled.
Maintaining fuel efficiency
Check your owner's manual for routine maintenance instructions, and keep the following points in mind:
- Spark plugs must be in good condition. Some will last for 100,000 miles, but many need to be replaced more often.
- Check the air and fuel filters at least twice a year. Dirty filters increase fuel consumption and can cause poor performance.
- Inflate tires according to manufacturer recommendations. Under-inflated tires are a safety hazard and can cut fuel economy by as much as 2 percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level.
- Have your vehicle serviced immediately if the emissions malfunction indicator light (MIL) or "Check Engine" light comes on.
- Have your vehicle serviced regularly by a certified technician, who also can inspect important vehicle components that can affect fuel consumption.