Driving through a city is regarded by many as stressful. It can feel more dangerous with so many more vehicles travelling close to you. Intersections, on-ramps, off-ramps and other challenges can be confusing for experienced and new drivers alike and collisions seem to be more frequent.
To avoid city driving, some people choose to take the highway instead. Or if you decide to take a road trip, you’ll want to take a route of free-flowing highways and interstates. The highway provides its own set of dangers, though, and needs to be approached with the proper respect and preparation in order to navigate the highway safely.
Part 1 of 3: Prepare for your highway trip
Preparing for your drive on the highway involves preparing your vehicle and making sure you have the necessary equipment and supplies in the event of an emergency.
Step 1: Make sure you have enough fuel. If you don’t have enough gas to get where you’re going, top up your tank or plan a fuel stop along the way.
- Warning: Running out of gas on the highway is one of the most dangerous things that can happen, especially for a preventable condition.
Have any immediate safety concerns addressed before heading out on the highway.
Make sure your fluids are topped up and your tire pressures are good.
Step 3: Make sure you have a spare tire. Ensure the spare tire is where it should be.
Check the tire pressure on your spare. It’s often missed on inspections by inexperienced mechanics and owners.
Make sure your tire jack and tools are where they should be as well.
Step 4: Have an emergency kit in your vehicle. A few common supplies could save a life in an accident or emergency.
Have an emergency blanket, matches, candles, bottled water, a few non-perishable snacks, and a first aid kit in your vehicle.
Keep it together in a crate or bag in your trunk to keep it out of the way.
Part 2 of 3: Stay safe in your car
Making yourself as safe as possible in your vehicle is as important as driving safely. Accidents aren’t always avoidable so you should be prepared for one, even if you’re the best driver on the road.
Step 1: Always wear your seatbelt. Seatbelts save lives if worn correctly.
Wear your lap belt low over your hips.
Adjust your shoulder belt so it comes across your shoulder, and collarbone, not touching your neck if possible.
Buckle your seatbelt before starting your engine to ensure you’re strapped in before you start moving.
Step 2: Lock your doors. Prevent your door from opening unexpectedly by keeping them locked.
Curious kids may accidentally open the door when the car is in motion or ill-intending people outside your car may try to make entry if your doors are unlocked.
Many late-model vehicles have door locks that engage automatically when the transmission is put in gear. If your vehicle doesn’t, use your power locks or manual locks to make sure doors are locked.
Step 3: Adjust your seat position for proper posture. Proper posture will help prevent back pain while driving as well as ensure safe body position in the event of an accident.
- Warning: If you sit too close to the steering wheel, you can be injured by the airbag.
Step 4: Stay focussed on the road. Most accidents happen when you take your eyes off the road for only a few seconds.
If you find yourself getting tired, pull off the highway at a rest stop or an exit. Get some rest or gather yourself before continuing. Getting there late is better than getting in an accident.
Step 5: Avoid using handheld electronics. Using your cell phone manually while driving is illegal in most parts of the country but is equally dangerous in areas it’s allowed.
Part 3 of 3: Operate your vehicle safely
Step 1: Don’t drive at speeds beyond your comfort. Drive only as fast as you feel the conditions allow.
If the roads are slippery or wet, reduce your speed.
Try to match the speed of traffic where possible without driving at speeds you feel are unsafe.
Step 2: Use your turn signals. Using your signal lights tells other drivers where you intend to go.
Give ten car lengths’ warning with your turn signal before changing lanes.
Always check two or three times for traffic in your destination lane before moving over.
If someone lets you into their lane when you signal, show courtesy with a wave if it’s safe to do so.
Step 3: Use your brake lights. When you’re coming to a stop, tap your brakes three times to indicate your intentions to drivers behind you.
This is especially a good idea when you are turning onto a side street or into a parking lot where there aren’t traffic controls in use.
Step 4: Obey traffic signs and laws. They are there for your safety.
Completely stop at stop signs and look all directions before proceeding.
Accelerating through a yellow light can contribute to an accident. Always try to stop when the light turns yellow.
Step 5: Be alert when you are driving on the highway. Anything can happen when you drive on the highway, from animals darting onto the road and children playing nearby to an accident occurring right in front of you.
Being alert means you’ll be ready to avoid an obstacle or accident without panicking.
Driving on the highway can cause anxiety even when you are well-prepared. If you are feeling overwhelmed, pull off the highway at a safe place and collect yourself before proceeding.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Stay Safe While Driving on the Highway and was authored by Jason Unrau.