If you’re like most Americans, your New Year’s resolutions focused on getting more exercise or eating fewer calories. While we all need to consider getting more regular exercise and eating a healthier diet, a renewed commitment to being a safer driver may help avoid a car accident and injuries to your family.
In Georgia, 1,179 people died in traffic accidents in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It was the state’s lowest total in a decade. Still, it’s far too many lives lost, especially when most crashes can be prevented.
To get serious about kicking bad driving habits and making Georgia’s highways safer, here is a list of resolutions to help you get started:
- Resolve to turn off your cell phone while driving. Distracted driving contributed to more than 3,300 deaths in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Cell phones are the primary cause of distraction, whether drivers are checking email, receiving and sending text messages or just talking on the phone.
- Resolve to follow Georgia’s state laws on cell phones. Texting is banned for all drivers regardless of age and experience. It’s a good first step toward avoiding cell phones while driving. All cell-phone use, including handheld and hands-free, is prohibited for novice drivers, those under 18.
- Resolve to anticipate unexpected delays. Leave the house or office five to 10 minutes earlier, so if traffic comes to a standstill you don’t feel rushed and resort to speeding when traffic does start to move.
- Resolve to lighten up on the gas pedal. Speeding, which is defined as exceeding the posted limit or traveling too fast for conditions, is a factor in many fatal wrecks. Nearly 200 of Georgia’s 1,179 fatal crashes in 2013 involved speeding, according to NHTSA. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that when many states raised speed limits in 1996, motor vehicle fatalities increased dramatically on interstates, according to smartmotorist.com.
- Resolve to avoid drinking and driving. Twenty-six percent of Georgia’s highway fatalities, 333 of 1,292, involved alcohol impaired drivers with blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or greater in 2013, NHTSA statistics show. Alcohol affects attentiveness and the ability to react to sudden changes on the road.
- Resolve to be a designated driver. If you’re going out with friends who plan to be consuming alcoholic beverages, take the initiative to stay sober and serve as the designated driver. You could keep everyone from becoming seriously injured in a crash.
- Resolve to maintain your vehicle properly. Many deadly crashes involve cars and trucks that are poorly maintained, whether they’re broken down on the side of the road or involved in crashes because of tire blowouts. Have a qualified mechanic service your vehicle regularly, checking all major functions, in addition to tire pressure, fluid levels and wiper blades.
- Resolve to show patience behind the wheel. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If someone cuts you off in traffic, let them. If other people fail to use their blinkers before turning, don’t curse at them. Focus on staying calm and driving defensively, maintaining safe distances and anticipating potential errors by other motorists.
- Resolve to avoid driving while fatigued. Even the most experienced drivers can fall prey to fatigued driving while taking long trips. The NHTSA estimates falling asleep at the wheel causes 100,000 crashes, 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths annually. The first time you feel drowsy, pull over and drink a cup of coffee or let someone else take the wheel. Don’t try to drive through sleepiness because fatigued driving can be even more dangerous than drunk driving.
- Resolve to be a responsible role model for young drivers. If your children see you driving responsibly, avoiding talking on the phone while driving, obeying the speed limit, and showing respect to other drivers, they will be more likely to follow your lead and develop their own good driving habits. If you model responsible driving behavior today, your children are more likely to follow your example when they are drivers.
Here’s to a wonderful 2015. May it be a year full of safe driving and few car accidents.
- 2013 Traffic Safety Facts, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration