It’s as simple a road as you’ll ever see: smooth, fairly flat, fairly straight. It’s the most important road in your life. It’s the path where that baby girl first comes home from the hospital with mommy. It’s where a little boy departs for his first visit to grandma’s house. It’s where the journey to school, camp, parks, sports and all of life’s grand adventures begin.
It’s your driveway. The house it’s in front of may change, even the town or state, but that path leading from your door and into the big wide world is the launching pad for all life’s joys and glories.
It’s also the gateway to a world of hazards. Automobile accidents are far and away the leading cause of death in children and teens. The good news is our roads are getting safer. Cars also have more safety features, such as seat belts, air bags and advanced technology like that found in MICHELIN® Premier® A/S tire. These advances have led to dramatic improvement.
Here are ten simple and effective ways to keep your family even safer on the road, whether your babies are still babies or getting ready to take that first drive towards independence:
(1) BUCKLE UP!
It seems like the simplest thing in the world to remember – and in many states it’s illegal to forget – but many Americans still don’t employ this first line of defense. Others don’t properly use seatbelts and child safety seats (a whopping 72% error rate according to a recent study). The NHTSA says proper infant and toddler seat use reduces the risk of infant deaths by 71% and children ages 1-4 by 54%. Booster seats reduce the risk of injury in children aged 4-8 by 45% versus seat belts alone. For older children and adults, proper seat belt use cuts the risk of death or injury in half.
(2) CHECK, CHECK AND DOUBLE-CHECK
There are a million little things that can go wrong with your car, but most of us simply trust fate and drive along hoping there’s no trouble brewing. Use a logbook (or a good mechanic) to keep track of how long it’s been since you last replaced your windshield wipers and brake pads, or rotated your tires. Keep a reliable tire gauge in your car and use it monthly – check the tread at the same time. The little things count. Don’t get too busy to make sure your family’s protected.
(3) START WITH THE RIGHT TIRE
Tires may be the most important safety feature in your defensive arsenal. They’re the only part of the vehicle actually in contact with the roadway. The right tire, like MICHELIN® Premier® A/S tire, can make a big difference in handling, performance and – most critically – stopping. Michelin’s revolutionary new EverGrip™ technology provides drivers with exceptional levels of safety even as tires wear down, in wet or dry conditions. You’d expect innovation from the company that invented the radial tire, so it’s no surprise that Michelin has developed the new standard in safety. The MICHELIN® Premier® A/S tire combines hidden grooves that emerge as the tire wears down, expanding rain grooves that widen over time to continue to evacuate water, and a unique rubber compound for increased wet grip.
(4) BE AFRAID OF THE DARK
While only one-quarter of driving is done at night, more than half of all traffic fatalities occur in the dark. Your depth perception, ability to distinguish color, and peripheral vision are all worse in low-light conditions, regardless of age or visual acuity. Make sure your headlights are cleaned and properly aimed (yes, they’re adjustable). Dim interior light sources, like the dashboard display. Clean windshields with newspaper (no residue) and keep a clean cotton cloth in the car to wipe away interior nighttime fog and condensation.
(5) DON’T DRIVE AND DIAL
Nearly a third of last year’s 1.6 million motor vehicle accidents were a result of a driver talking or texting on a cell phone. Using a cell phone at all while driving is illegal in eight states; 33 make texting while driving a finable offense. Hands-free sets for conversations help – but statistics show anything that diverts your attention from the road is a hazard. If you must make a call or check a text while driving, pull over. That’s doubly true when impressionable eyes are watching.
(6) CLEAN IT UP
Most people prefer a pristine vehicle, but let’s face it, that’s not always a real life option. But toys, tumblers, coffee cups and other items can become hazards, wedging their way beneath foot pedals or even becoming projectiles in an accident. If you’re trying to keep the peace in the backseat, make sure selected toys will stay in reach of a child (think things with strings) – not a driver who has to either look away from the road or blindly grasp around trying to find Mr. Fluffy.
(7) SKIP THAT GLASS OF WINE
While every state has limits for legal levels of alcohol consumption for drivers, new research suggests having anything to drink before you get behind the wheel is having too much. While .08% is the legal limit in most states, research shows that the first signs of impairment (slowed reflexes and decision-making) occur at a blood alcohol level of .02%, the amount found in less than a single drink. Over the last decade, one in five child deaths from motor vehicle accidents involved alcohol. In 65% of those cases, the child’s own driver was the one drinking.
(8) EAT BEFORE YOU HIT THE STREET
Road food may help soothe frazzled nerves, but it can also be hazardous to more than just your digestion. Trying to eat and drive – or even help little ones with sandwiches or snacks – is a significant distraction. Eating before you run not only keeps your hands free, it’ll also help you focus on the road instead of the rumbling in your belly. For those times when it’s simply impossible to avoid eating in the car, keep power bars or nuts on-hand for quick, easy to handle energy boosts.
(9) REMAIN CALM IF THERE’S A BLOWOUT
A sudden blowout is one of the most terrifying experiences any driver can have. One moment it’s all smooth sailing and a clear sense of control, the next it feels like a monster grabbed your steering wheel and sounds like a helicopter’s trying to land atop your car. The key is to remain calm. Keep your foot on the gas (you’ll lose control faster if you step on the brakes); grip the wheel tightly and stay in your lane; slow down gradually and steer towards the shoulder of the road.
(10) BOTH HANDS ON THE WHEEL
The driver’s ed instructor who kept yelling at you was right: you do need both hands on the wheel. Can you drive safely and effectively with one? As long as nothing unexpected enters your environment, sure. But when was the last time you expected something unexpected? Both hands on the wheel helps keep your focus on the road and makes sure you’re ready to react when that driver talking on a cell phone and eating a sandwich cuts you off.