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On the Road to Safety

Many of us drive so often that we operate on autopilot. We step in and out of our cars without giving our actions, or our safety, a second thought. By taking even the shortest ride for granted, you may be putting yourself and those who ride with you at risk. Maybe you follow the speed limit, use your signals at every turn, and turn your lights on when it's raining so that other cars can see you better. But there are more safety rules to consider.

The next time you're about to take a drive, consider doing the following:

Before you get in your car

  • Teens and beginning drivers should let their parents know where they are going and the route and the times. An adult making any type of extended trip should do the same.

  • Make sure your car in good working order, with safe tires and plenty of gas.

In the driveway

  • Everyone should buckle up. Wearing a seat belt is the law in most states, and it is the best protection in collisions. Air bags are not a substitute for seat belts.

  • Babies and small children should be in a child safety seat in the center of the back seat.

  • All children who have outgrown child safety seats should sit in the back seat with their seat belt fastened. Kids can be injured or even killed if they are in the front seat when an air bag opens.

  • Make sure that the area behind your car is clear and that there are no small children in the area. They can get behind you very quickly.

While driving

  • As the driver, you should be well rested. Driving when drowsy is considered as dangerous as driving drunk.

  • You should also be drug-free. Read labels on over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and ask your pharmacist if it's safe to drive when taking them. Drugs can increase your reaction time and make you unfit for the road.

  • You must be sober. Never drink and drive. Alcohol may give you a false sense of confidence and well being, but it actually slows your reflexes.

Personal safety

If you drive in a high-crime area, be sure that your answer is "yes" to all of these questions.

1. Are your car doors locked and your windows up? You don't want anyone to be able to reach inside the car while you are stopped.

2. Are all valuables, such as wallets and purses, out of sight? If you have a trunk, put them in there.

3. When stopped, do you avoid being "boxed in" by other cars? Leave enough space to get away from a threatening situation. If someone suspicious approaches your car, blow your horn.

4. Do you park in busy, well-lit areas?

5. Do you lock your vehicle and take the keys? Never leave your car with the motor running. A few moments are all a thief needs to steal a car. Also, don't hide a spare key on your car, such as under the bumper.

6. Do you exit and enter your car quickly, with your keys in hand?

7. When you use valet parking, do you leave only the ignition and door keys, not your house keys?

If you have car trouble in an area that might be dangerous, try to get to a safe location. If you're not able to, try to find a 24-hour store, or use a cellular phone to call for help.