Highway driving safety tips
By Jeffrey Nadrich, Esq.
A recent report from home security website ASecureLife identified I-81 as one of the three deadliest roads in Virginia. 43 fatalities occurred on the road from 2015 to 2017 according to the report. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS) identified 476 auto accidents on I-81 which occurred in 2018. The single most dangerous section of I-81 was the intersection of I-81 and I-64, according to TREDS, where 31 accidents occurred in 2018. The following highway driving safety tips are provided to help the residents of Virginia safely navigate I-81 and other highways:
Obey Speed Limits
Speed limits are determined after thorough studies determine the maximum speed which drivers can safely navigate a section of road at, so obey speed limits to drive safely on highways. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics stated in 2017 that “speeding continues to be the number one cited driver-related factor in highway fatal crashes.” Speeding endangers your own life, the life of your passengers and the life of everyone else on the highway with you. Remember that it may be necessary to drive at speeds below the posted speed limit in order to drive safely in inclement weather like, rain, fog, ice and snow.
Wear Your Seat Belt
Wearing a seat belt is especially important when driving on a highway, where high-speed collisions can occur. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that over 14,000 lives were saved by seat belts in 2016.
Keep A Safe Following Distance
Tailgating isn’t only annoying to the person in front of you; it’s dangerous for them and you. Disastrous consequences can result if you follow the driver in front of you too closely. NHTSA says you should maintain at least three seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. It is wise to increase this following distance in wet or icy conditions which can increase your stopping distance.
You should accelerate to the speed of traffic, if possible, while proceeding down the entrance ramp before merging onto a highway. Turn your left blinker on as soon as you drive onto the entrance ramp. Check your left side mirror as well as your left blind spot to make sure you’re not merging into other vehicles.
Be aware of other drivers merging onto the highway and change lanes or adjust your speed to let them merge onto the highway safely.
Lane Changing Tips
Don’t change lanes unnecessarily. Always check your blind spot by looking over your shoulder before beginning a lane change. Always use your turn signal when changing lanes.
Give Stopped Vehicles Plenty Of Room
Be on the lookout for stopped vehicles on the highway and stay as far away from them as you safely can. Move over a lane for them when possible.
Use The Left Lane For Passing Only
Staying in the left lane can cause drivers behind you to try to make dangerous moves and pass you on the right, and staying in the left lane can create safety hazards by causing traffic to build up behind you. This is more than just a safety issue, however, as Virginia law prohibits people from driving below the speed limit in the left lane and being in the left lane if you are not passing another car or turning left. Over 16,000 people were cited under this law between July 1, 2017 and April 3, 2018.
Put Down Your Cell Phone
It is not only illegal in Virginia to text while driving, it is exceptionally dangerous. The NHTSA states that “sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”
Be Careful Around Semi Trucks
Look for the truck’s side mirrors. If you cannot see the truck’s driver, they cannot see you. Give semi trucks lots of room when passing them and merging in front of them, and use your blinkers. Keep in mind that semi trucks can’t stop as quickly as other vehicles, so give them plenty of space when merging in front of them.
Check Your Mirrors
It is essential that your mirrors are positioned properly before you drive on a highway. Side mirrors should be positioned so you can see along your vehicle’s entire side without needing to crane your neck. Rear view mirrors should be positioned so you have a clear view of what is behind your vehicle. Properly positioned side and rear view mirrors should provide an almost complete view of everything around your car.
Watch Out For Dangerous Drivers
Look out for aggressive or erratic drivers. Stay as far away as possible from drivers who are chaotically changing lanes, swerving, tailgating or constantly changing speeds.
If you need to stop on a highway due to an emergency, pull over as far as you physically can onto the shoulder and turn your emergency flashers on.