Driving Safety Guide – Rules of the road
By Bernard Freeman
During an emergency, mere seconds can make the difference between life and death. As a driver of a passenger vehicle, it is your responsibility to give the right of way to vehicles like police cars, ambulances and firetrucks. By allowing first responders to do their jobs efficiently, you may be helping to save a life.
While your state may have different regulations regarding how to react to a responding emergency vehicle, standard practice is to get out of its way. Read on for tips on how to best react when you see lights and hear sirens.
Modern vehicles make it hard to hear the world outside. Thanks to enhanced air conditioning systems, louder stereos and increased efforts to insulate cabins, you may not always hear an emergency vehicle coming. Being aware of your surroundings is crucial.
Always look both ways before crossing an intersection, even if you have the right of way. You should also keep a safe distance from the other vehicles around you in case you are required to veer into another lane with little warning.
Actions During Approach
After you spot an emergency vehicle, know what to do. Here are recommendations from the National Safety Commission on how to act:
In your lane: If you notice a vehicle approaching in your lane, pull over to the nearest shoulder of the roadway to clear their path.
In an opposite lane: Slow vehicle or pull it to the edge of the road, in case they need to enter your lane.
Move Over Law
If you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road, change to the outside lane. According to the National Safety Commission, between 1999 and 2009, more than one emergency worker per month was killed while aiding a motorist by the side of the road.
These dangerous instances caused 47 states to enact a move over law. If you are unable to safely change lanes, you should always slow down when approaching a vehicle with their emergency lights on.
Check with your local government to learn proper procedures; some areas require motorists to slow to at least 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit.
Has Your Vehicle Been Recalled?
The Safety Recall Process
Manufacturer’s role: The vehicle’s manufacturer will notify registered owners by first-class mail within 60 days of notifying the NHTSA of a recall decision. They will also explain the process of how to correct the issue.
Owner’s role: Your responsibility is to follow the tips from the manufacturer in their notification. You should schedule an appointment with your local dealership to resolve the issue.
Check Twice a Year
In 2017, there were 813 new vehicle safety recalls affecting more than 30 million automobiles in the United States. While manufacturers do their best to notify drivers of these issues, there are times when you may miss the alert they send.
Because of this, NHTSA recommends using the tool on its website to check your vehicle’s status twice a year. You only need your vehicle identification number to find any safety recalls that are incomplete and issues that have been discovered over the past 15 years. Also make sure and check with your local dealership any time you bring your car in for service.
When Buying a Used Car
It may take years before serious safety defects are realized. It’s important to do thorough research on a used vehicle before you make a purchase. Always run the VIN to ensure there aren’t any known issues that have yet to be corrected.
Know the Car Seat Rules
Even among parents, there’s a great deal of confusion about the proper use of car seats. While your little one might protest the five-point harness or being rear-facing, it’s critical they stay in the correct seat for their age, weight and height. Every state has its own rules, so check with local officials to make sure you’re keeping your children safe.
Rear-facing seats are best for younger children. They have a harness and, in the event of a crash, cradle the neck and spine to prevent injury. The NHTSA recommends children stay in a rear-facing seat up to age 3.
Infant carriers: These basket-type seats can only be used rear-facing.
Convertible seats: These seats convert from rear-facing, to front-facing, then to a booster seat. They can keep your child rear-facing longer than the typical seat. Keep your child rear-facing until they max out the limits set by the seat’s manufacturer.
Teach your children that while some of their friends or siblings may be front-facing, you’re doing the right thing to keep them safe. Also teach your children from a young age proper car seat behavior so you can focus on the road.
The NHTSA recommends children be in a front-facing seat from ages 4-7, depending on your child’s size and your seat manufacturer’s recommendations. Only move your child to the front-facing when they’ve outgrown the manufacturer’s recommendations and meet state guidelines. Once they’ve flipped around, keep them in the harness system for as long as possible before moving to the car’s seat belt.
A booster seat helps your child fit into the car’s seat belt. A properly fitting seat belt, the NHTSA says, lies snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt is across the shoulder and chest and doesn’t hit the neck or face. Your child should always sit in the back seat; in the event of a crash, the front seat’s airbags can do serious damage to a child.
Once your child can meet these requirements and your state’s regulations, they can travel safely without a booster seat. Also, local officials often hold installation checks for free throughout the year. Visit any one of these checks to make sure your seat is properly installed.
Share the Road
In some areas, bicyclists have their own designated paths along roadways. Don’t forget to give cyclists the right of way and slow down if you are driving next to them. Some states may have laws governing the distance a car must maintain around a cyclist. For example, the New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee recommends leaving at least four feet between you and a cyclist while passing.
Buses signal drivers about 300 feet before they stop with yellow flashing lights. Once it has stopped, a sign is stretched to alert other vehicles to halt. Extreme caution is required when approaching a school bus as children will likely be walking across the street.
Always check the area before resuming your drive, even if the bus has signaled you are clear to move.
Construction zones are an extremely dangerous place to work. Distracted drivers may fail to see a worker before it’s too late. Watch for flashing lights on signs, barrels, and cones alerting you to change lanes or slow your speed. If you find yourself stopped in construction traffic, you should be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you. This provides you with room if an emergency exit is necessary.
Eighteen-wheelers are a staple of American highways because of their important role in moving goods across the country.
Their massive size requires a skilled driver inside. Avoid being in their blind spots or passing them and slowing your speed drastically. These trucks can’t stop as quickly as passenger vehicles and have much larger blind spots.