Driving a vehicle is probably the most overlooked safety event in one's life. Personal vehicles are driven to have employees arrive at work, to take kids to soccer practice, and even to deliver goods to customers. Basic precautions take a few moments to check. Millions of people are killed each year. People ages 15-44 account for over half of all deaths due to road traffic injuries. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death by injury worldwide. In North America alone, the equivalent of the passengers on ten 747 jets die in traffic incidents each day.
The basics of vehicle operation are to know how to operate the vehicle and use any related equipment or attachments safely. Be familiar with the location and function of all the controls. A good place to start is the owner's manual. Many of the functions of the vehicle are not covered at the point of purchase.
Inspect the vehicle daily. Develop a routine method of inspecting vehicle by doing a quick walk around. Start at the front and do a complete walk around; check the tires, windshield wipers, lights, and for any objects that might be laying in the vehicle's path.
Once inside, adjust seat and controls. Fasten seat belt. Pump the foot brake; the brakes should hold the vehicle and while stopping they should stop the vehicle smoothly. If there is a clutch and gearshift, the shifter shifts smoothly without jumping or jerking. The steering wheel moves smoothly with no play. Make sure all dash controls are functioning properly.
For fleet and commercial vehicles, check the hydraulic systems for operation. If installed check the back-up alarm; if not installed, equip the vehicle with one. Check for the emergency equipment and make sure all required equipment is on board. Check the load and make sure it is secure and complying with regulations. Check the wheels and fasteners and make sure there are no defects in rim or loose or even missing fasteners.
While driving listen for strange noises and even smell for unusual odors that may be coming from the vehicle. Wear the seat belt; more people have been injured by not wearing the belt than those who do.
Now that the vehicle has checked and is safe, simple procedures can be learned and practiced to ensure safe driving. Wear the seat belt every time and insist all passengers wear theirs as well. The airbag is a safety device that can inflict injury if precautions are not used; be sure there is at least 10 inches between the air bag and the middle of the chest; never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an air bag.
Children 12 and under are safest buckled up in the back seat. Use the appropriate child and infant restraints. For child seats, follow the manufacturers' guidelines on installation; over half the checked seats checked by police are being used incorrectly.
Assuming everyone drives like an idiot will improve defensive driving skills. Keep all vehicle windows and mirrors clear so you can see potential hazards. Adjust your speed to the legal limit, the road conditions and your own driving abilities at the time. Slow down if you're tired, distracted, emotional or ill. Drowsy driving, just as drunk driving, can cause a crash within seconds. Get enough sleep before you take the wheel. Also know what medications may cause drowsiness or dizziness.
Expect the unexpected. Know what is around the vehicle at all times by checking all mirrors every five to eight seconds. Always keep the eyes moving and use every vantage point to gain information about the road ahead such as a hill top. By observing all areas around the vehicle, an escape movement can be used to avoid an incident.
By checking the vehicle each time before it is started and driving defensively, less traffic incidents will occur. The result will be better insurance rates and less injury in one's life.