Driving on the highway is the fastest and usually the most fuel-efficient way to arrive at most destinations. However, while the increased speed limits will certainly get you there faster and keep your vehicle from burning gas in stop-and-go traffic, they also make highway accidents more dangerous than neighborhood fender benders.
To make matters worse, there’s no shortage of unsafe motorists who completely ignore posted speed limits and create hazardous conditions for others. So, how do you make sure you’re in the best position to avoid an accident on the highway? Start with the following four tips and you should be a safe driver:
1. Always Check Your Blind Spots
Your vehicle’s rearview mirrors provide a good overview of all the cars that are behind your vehicle, but as you probably know, there’s a blind spot where you can’t quite see smaller vehicles for a brief time. A considerable percentage of 18 wheeler accidents are caused by drivers who fail to check whether a lane is clear before steering into it. So, be sure to check your blind spots – quickly glance in the direction you’re about to steer the vehicle when changing lanes.
Related: Can You Sue Self-Driving Vehicle?
2. Accelerate to the Speed Limit or Near It
Getting on the highway at slow speeds is never a good idea. You might feel like you’re playing it safe by taking it slow, but you’re actually just making yourself an obstacle for faster-moving vehicles. Be cognizant of your speed when driving on the on-ramp for any freeway or highway. There will usually be plenty of space to accelerate up to the speed limit.
3. Take Your Time Changing Lanes
Changing lanes is one of the most dangerous parts of highway driving because it seems straightforward but can require patience and concentration when you’re not expecting it. Being a safe driver means using your blinker to signify your lane switch well before you start to pull into the next lane. Avoid abrupt jerks or weaves into other lanes and give yourself at least 2-4 dotted lines of driving space for the lane switch.
4. Keep a Proper Distance Between Your Vehicle and the Next
Driving too close to other motorists is what leads to the majority of vehicle-to-vehicle collisions on the highway. Of course, if there aren’t any other cars close enough to crash into, you’ll have a much lower chance of crashing into one. The general rule of thumb is to keep one car length per 10 miles per hour. So, if you’re driving 50 mph, you would want to stay at least five car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you. That way, you’ll have enough room to safely brake if someone in front of you comes to an abrupt stop.
Finally, the only time you should be looking away from the road in front of you is when you turn your head briefly to check your blind spot, as mentioned in tip #2. Even then, you will be turning back around immediately to re-focus on the road in front of you. Using a smartphone or any other device that requires more than a quick glance should be avoided altogether. You might think to yourself “oh, this is a safe stretch of road for me to send a text” and then you look up three seconds later and there’s an aggressive motorist running you off the road. You need to be prepared to respond and you can’t do that when your eyes and attention are pre-occupied.