Here are some things I try to keep in mind every time I get behind the wheel:
- The most important thing you can do happens before the car starts moving: give yourself plenty of time, so you're not rushing. Life doesn't always give you that luxury, but most of the time it's possible to leave a few minutes early. It's a lot easier to be safe when you have that extra time, and less stressful as well.
- Leave room for other vehicles. Seems obvious, I know, but it's all too common to see bumper-to-bumper packed traffic in all kinds of situations. The worst is on the highway, traveling at high speeds without stopping room. Or switching lanes right in front of someone at 70 MPH. Take the extra few seconds to give the other vehicle a few car-lengths of room.
- Look ahead and change your path accordingly. This takes experience, and it can be difficult if you're on unfamiliar roads, but much of the time we're driving in places we know or on highways. If I'm on a freeway coming up on a slow truck, and I see someone coming up behind me, I might slow down to let them go by rather than passing the truck right away. Or if I know I'll be turning left in a couple of blocks, I might move to the left lane even if there's more traffic there.
- Pay attention to the speed limit. I know, no one actually goes the speed limit, but at least keep it close. Yes, it's annoying to have to slow down, but they post those signs for a reason. Construction zones are particularly bad, especially on freeways. You might even save yourself some money, since speeding fines are pretty high in a lot of places.
- Stay calm. The more upset or angry or even just excited that you are, the more likely you are to make bad decisions. Most of the accidents and close calls that I've had on the road have happened because I've been in the wrong mindset. Usually, it's frustration with bad traffic or other drivers. Keeping your emotional state in check can save a lot of grief.
Nothing new or groundbreaking here, just some common sense things to keep the roads a bit safer. Control your own driving actions, and it makes the road safer for everyone.