The Safest Times to Drive

Unless you are a stunt man or a commercial fisherman, driving is probably the most dangerous thing you do every day. In fact, Forbes magazine reports that auto accidents are actually the number one cause of death for people ages 1 to 34. But what if you could decrease your chances of getting in a fatal accident by changing the times that you drive? Would you switch up your routine?

Absolutely! So what times do I need to avoid?

If you have ever driven in rush hour traffic, it will be no surprise to you that the hours between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm are considered the most dangerous. According to the Institute for Highway Safety, an average of 13.2 people are killed every day between these hours. Well, of course that is the case, right? There are way more cars on the road during those hours. Plus, wouldn’t you avoid rush hour if you could regardless? Good point.

To get a more accurate view, the number of fatalities needs be broken down into a percentage of deaths versus number of cars on the road. When that is done, the most dangerous time to drive is between midnight and 4 am, probably due to the increase of intoxicated drivers on the road. Luckily, that is a much easier time to avoid.

Okay, I can do that. Is every day of the week fair game?

You may think that since there are so many commuters’ cars on the road during the week, those days must be the most dangerous. But, nope. Saturday is actually the most dangerous day to drive, actual numbers and percentages considered. Saturday’s have an average of 158 fatalities every day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or 1.2 deaths per 100 million drivers.

So you want me to avoid driving on Saturday?

While the life expectancy of the human race would undoubtedly increase if we could all live in our own little bubble, that is just not practical. Saturdays are a popular day for family outings, shopping and, well, living life. When it comes to driving, either during rush hour or on Saturday, you should just be more aware. Always wear your seatbelt, avoid any distractions, and of course, do not drink and drive. If you commit to be the safest driver you can be then you are free to drive whenever you want to.

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School Zones: Why You Need to Obey the Law While in Them

You grab your things, rush out the door, and begin driving to your appointment. You actually might make it in time! Yippee! And then you see it; the dreaded yellow blinking light signaling that you are entering a school zone. You glance around and don’t see any kids, or cops for that matter, so what’s the harm in speeding, right? Wrong! School zone laws are in place for a reason, and that is for the safety of children. So slow down, take a breath, and succumb to the fact that while you may be a few minutes late, at least the children will be safe.

But really, there are no kids around!

While you may not see any kids around at the moment, that does not mean they will not be just around the corner. Kids move fast, and they are little, make it really easy to miss seeing one if you are going too fast. That is why the speed limit in most school zones is 20 miles per hour. At that speed, you have enough time to really take in your surroundings so you do not risk hitting a child.

But my car doesn’t even idle that slowly!

That may be true, but you need to do everything you can to get your car to that speed, even if it means riding your breaks. Not only are kids are risk if you speed, but you also risk getting a speeding ticket. Cops love to hide out in school zones, as they make for easy targets. And it is pretty much guaranteed that if you get pulled over the cop is not going to care what your car’s idle speed is.

So I get a speeding ticket? Who cares?

Well, you should. In school zones, the fines are much higher than traditional speeding tickets. In fact, depending on how fast you are going and what state you live in, the fine could range anywhere from $200 up to $800. Not only that, but speeding tickets received in school zones are non-negotiable. That means you cannot go to court to try to get the fine reduced or the ticket eliminated from your record. Yep, that means you will likely get an increase in your insurance premium as well.

So the next time you are tempted to speed through a school zone, think again. Is the appointment you are headed to really worth a speeding ticket and a steep fine? Or even worse, are the few extra minutes it will take to slow down worth a child’s life?

How to Handle Your Kids When They Are Distracting on the Road

As you are driving, your baby is crying and you know that if you could just reach back and hand her a pacifier, she would be okay. Maybe you have older children that are begging (whining) for a snack and all you have to do is grab it out of your purse and hand it to them. No big deal, right? You’ll just reach back and tend to your children while semi-watching the road and then everything will be okay. As you reach back to grab the necessary object, the truck in front of you slams on his brakes. And guess what, you didn’t notice.

While this situation may seem extreme, it happens more than you may realize. In fact, according to a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80% of crashes involve some sort of distracted driving. They classify distracted driving into three categories: visual (eyes off the road), cognitive (mind off the road), and manual (hands off the steering wheel). When you are taking care of your children while driving, you are undoubtedly guilty of at least one of these infractions, if not all three.

So what is a parent to do?

Driving with children in the car is by far one of the most challenging things a parent does. You know that you need to keep your eyes, mind, and hands focused on the road, but that is often easier said than done. No parent likes to hear their kids crying or fighting. And if they ask for something, you want to give it to them. That is your nature. However, in order to keep you and your family safe, you must resist the urge and remember that being on the road is only temporary and you will be at your destination before you know it. Here are some suggestions to keep your kids entertained in the meantime:

  • Explain the situation to them. It is important that your kids understand why you are not meeting their needs. You could say something like this, “Mommy (Daddy) is in charge of keeping you safe while I am driving. I can’t get you a snack right now because it would not be safe. As soon as we get to the park I will get you a snack and some water, okay?”
  • Provide safe entertainment. Before you hit the road, give your children plenty of safe, age-appropriate entertainment to keep them occupied. This could include books, toys, or even an iPad mounted to the back of the seat that is playing their favorite movie.
  • Sing to/with them. This especially works with younger kids. If you can sing one of their favorite songs, they will probably calm down. If they are older, they may even join in and you can have a little traveling choir. You may feel a little goofy and end up with a sore throat, but that is a small price to pay for potentially saving the lives of your children.

How to Find the Safest Child Car Seat

When you first find out that you are going to have a baby, the shopping frenzy begins. You have clothes, cribs, and bottles to buy (and about a thousand other things). But the single most important item you will buy for your baby is a car seat. However, with so many car seats available on the market, it can sometimes be overwhelming to decide which one to buy. You feel a lot of pressure to find the safest car seat for your baby, but you probably also have a budget you want to stick to. Luckily, there is some good news. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “The right car seat or booster fits your child and your car, and is one you will use correctly every time you travel.” Yep, that means that there is no one car seat that reigns above the rest.

Great! But how do I know which one will fit my baby and car the best?

Since you have to have the car seat installed before your baby is born, there is no way to test out how it will fit your baby beforehand. However, you should take the store’s floor model out to your car to make sure that is will fit in your car at the correct angle. Once you move up to a convertible car seat, always take your child with you to the store so he can test them out. Even if he can’t talk yet, his body language will let you know which one is the most comfortable.

Okay, I made sure to get the right fit, but how do I know I am using it correctly?

I’m glad you asked! Even if you buy the most expensive car seat on the market, it doesn’t matter if you are not using it correctly. In fact, the NHTSA estimates that 59% of car seats are being used incorrectly.

  • Follow height/weight limits. Every car seat has them and they need to be followed. Convertible car seats even have limits for rear-facing and forward-facing. You should keep your children rear-facing as long as they fit within the height and weight guidelines, which is usually until about 2 years old. As much as you want to be able to see their smiling faces while you drive, this will keep their neck, spine, and head safer in the event of a crash.
  • Make sure the straps are tight enough. The best way to tell if the straps are tight enough is to try to pinch the fabric at your child’s shoulder. If you can pinch any fabric, the straps are too loose. Additionally, they should connect to the back of the car seat slightly below the top of the shoulder. That way they will properly hold down your child if needed. Children are crafty, and if there is any leeway, they will find a way to get out.
  • The chest clip needs to be at armpit level. This is the most common mistake parents make. If the clip is any lower, it could cause a strap to slip off the shoulder. Not only that, but the ribcage offers protection in an accident that the abdomen will not.

By making sure that you get the right fit and are using your car seat correctly, you can rest easy knowing that your precious cargo will reach your destination safe and sound.

How Often Should You Check Your Mirrors?

If you will, imagine yourself driving down the freeway. Five minutes has now passed. How many times have you checked your mirrors? Ten times? Maybe twenty if you are a really good driver, right? Actually, if you answered anything less than 60 times you are not checking your mirrors enough. Yep, that’s right; according to experts at the University of Texas at Dallas you should be checking your mirrors every five seconds. And this includes all of your mirrors, not just the rearview one. As if every five seconds isn’t enough, you should also be checking your mirrors before you slow down, while you are stopped, before changing lanes, and before and after turns. And, of course, anytime you want to make sure your hair looks just right (kidding).

Why do I need to check my mirrors so much?

First off, this does not mean you need to study your mirrors every five seconds, because then, frankly, you would miss what was going on ahead of you. You simply need to glance in all three mirrors every five seconds. By doing so, you are keeping yourself aware of everything going on around you, which is the key to being a successful defensive driver. For instance, let’s just say you glance in your mirrors and notice a car coming up behind up. Five seconds later, that car is gone. Where did it go? If you can’t see it in your other mirrors, chances are it is in your blind spot. You also want to be aware of what cars are around you so that if you do need to react in an emergency situation, you will know which lane you can move to or if it is safe to slam on your brakes.

Another reason that you need to check your mirrors so often is because your short-term memory is probably not as great as you think it is. Most people cannot recall what they just saw behind them if asked. If you want to test yourself, have one of your backseat drivers ask you, at an unannounced time, what you just saw in your mirrors. You will probably have to look in the mirrors again just to answer them, which isn’t such a bad thing because it has probably been five seconds anyway.

So the next time you are driving, challenge yourself to check your mirrors every five seconds. By getting in the practice of doing this, you will become a much safer driver on the road. Count to five, check mirrors. Count to five, check mirrors. Repeat continuously until you arrive at your destination.