Here are some things to consider doing. Some items may not be applicable to you.

Driving

Approx. 50,000 people are killed each year in the U.S. in traffic accidents

Well before driving:

  • Get a car or cell phone (preferably a hands-free system if you expect to use it while you’re driving – some states prohibit cell phone use without a hands-free system while driving) – so you can call for help if you have an accident, have a flat tire, run out of gas, etc.

If you have a car phone:

  • Store frequently-called numbers – to minimize distractions while driving

  • Put in the vehicle:

    • Two wheel chocks to put behind and in front of tire opposite a flat tire (to prevent vehicle rolling while on a jack)
    • Jack
    • Flares
    • First aid kid
    • Dramamine or Bonine
    • Jumper cables
    • Bright rag to hang from antenna if car breaks down
    • Toilet tissue
    • Water – for radiator and/or drinking
    • Flashlight(s), extra batteries
    • Portable ‘potty’ seat
    • Tools, e.g., screwdrivers, wrenches
    • Tire gage
  • Install a kill switch – to deter theft

  • Install a homing device – to help recover vehicle if stolen
  • Have the vehicle identification number (VIN) etched on windows – to deter theft

  • Have your exhaust system checked – to ensure there are no leaks which could pose a danger to occupants of the vehicle

If your dashboard is light-colored:

  • Install a dashboard cover which is dark-colored – to reduce glare

  • Obtain maps (e.g., mapquest.com)

If you drink alcohol:

  • Ensure you don’t drink alcohol for at least approx. 12 hours before driving

Approx. 17,000 people are killed each year in the U.S. by drunk drivers

Loading/packing vehicle:

  • Put following in trunk: – Camera – Valuables (e.g. cameras) – so they won’t be visible during stops

If you’re planning to take a pet:

  • Consider keeping dog or cat in kennel during trip

Take:

  • Food
  • Dish(es)
  • Leash
  • ID tag(s)

Shortly before driving:

  • Don’t drive if you’ve consumed alcohol within approx. the last 12 hours and/or you still feel affected by alcohol

Approx. 17,000 people are killed each year in the U.S. by drunk drivers

Before walking to your vehicle:

  • Have your vehicle keys ready
  • Take:
    • Sunglasses

While walking to your vehicle:

  • Be aware of your surroundings (look for potential attackers)

  • Check tire pressure – underinflated tires are more likely to have a blowout, wear out more quickly, etc.

  • Ensure windshield clean – to reduce dangerous glare which can significantly obstruct your view

Passengers:

  • Ensure driver hasn’t been drinking alcohol within the last approx. 12 hours

Approx. 17,000 people are killed each year in the U.S. by drunk drivers

  • Take medication (e.g., Dramamine, Bonine) if you might get car sick

Right before driving:

  • Remember that even hitting a child at a slow speed can kill or seriously injure them
  • Remember that many kids don’t watch for vehicles as well as they should
  • Remember that many people, and especially kids, have a false sense of security when using a crosswalk
  • Remember that it’s up to you to drive carefully and watch for people, especially in crosswalks, to ensure you don’t hit anyone
  • Roll window(s) down, at least partway, and keep radio turned down – so you can hear children, safety patrol whistles, etc.
  • Be aware that there are significant penalties for failing to give way to people in a crosswalk

  • Don’t drive if you’ve consumed alcohol within approx. the last 12 hours and/or you still feel affected by alcohol

  • Don’t carry a gas can in the trunk

  • Check gas level

If low on gas:

  • Put something on dashboard to remind you to get gas

To prepare for possible glare which can keep you from seeing other vehicles, traffic lights, etc.:

  • Ensure windshield is clean
  • Clear papers, etc. from top of dashboard
  • Put a dark towel, etc. on top of the dashboard (if the dashboard is a light color)
  • Have sunglasses available

Approx. 200 people are killed each year in the U.S. due to glare

If vehicle accelerates suddenly, even though you are pressing the brake pedal:

  • Turn off ignition
  • Try to take vehicle out of gear

  • Avoid having children under 12 sit in the front seat, especially if there’s a passenger-side air bag – children are more likely to be injured in a crash if they’re sitting in the front

  • Ensure all passengers have buckled their seat belts
  • Buckle your seat belt
  • Adjust all mirrors

If you have a pickup truck with a camper shell or a station wagon and people will be riding in the back:

  • Be aware that carbon monoxide can kill people
  • Be aware that carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless
  • Be aware that, especially in older vehicles, carbon monoxide can leak into the rear of the vehicle due to a leaky exhaust system and/or holes in the floorboard
  • Have the exhaust system and floorboards checked by a mechanic for leaks
  • Don’t let children sleep in a camper shell in the back of a pick-up truck while engine is operating
  • Close windows in the back – an open window in the back can draw in carbon monoxide fumes from the exhaust which can be fatal

If vehicle won’t start:

  • Be aware that if the battery is dead, trying to jump start it using another battery could damage the vehicle’s computer system, especially in newer vehicles – it safer to disconnect it and have it recharged
  • Check your owner’s manual for proper procedures for jump starting using cables

While Driving:

Always:

  • Drive slow enough so that you can stop in time if a child runs across the street
  • Look for places from which children could dart into the street, e.g., from behind a parked vehicle
  • Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front in case the vehicle in front stops suddenly (some recommend one vehicle length for each 10 mph, or, ensure approx. two seconds elapses between the time the vehicle ahead passes something (e.g., an overpass) and the time you pass the same thing) – it takes a long time for you to see the vehicle ahead slowing down and react to it – some criminals intentionally suddenly stop their vehicle so you’ll hit them and they can collect insurance money – women and elderly drivers are the most common targets
  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel, especially when you might need to turn suddenly, e.g., when other vehicles are nearby
  • Watch for drivers who have their headlights off at night – they could be drunk
  • Be wary of drivers who drive below the speed limit or tailgate – they could be drunk
  • Stay clear of drivers who weave across the road – they could be drunk

If you see a driver who you believe may be drunk:

  • Avoid passing them if feasible – drunk drivers often swerve unpredictably
  • Stay a safe distance behind them
  • Immediately call the Highway Patrol using your cell phone

Regularly:

If there are two or more lanes for your direction of travel:

  • Avoid having vehicles right next to you – so you have a place to go if in danger of hitting a vehicle, etc. ahead or being hit by a vehicle (e.g., from other side or behind)

If you want to make a cell phone call:

  • Pull over in a safe location, if feasible One study found that people using cell phones while driving were 11 times more likely to die in a car crash – Using a cell phone while driving may make you 4 times more likely to be in a car crash (similar to the increased risk if you drive drunk) – Men tend to speed and swerve while using a cell phone while driving and are much more likely to be in a crash and be killed – Women tend to be less attentive while using a cell phone while driving and are much more likely to be in a crash and be injured

If not feasible to pull over:

  • Use speed dialing function to dial frequently-called numbers or ask a passenger to dial for you

If you have passengers sleeping in the back, especially if you have a pickup truck with a camper shell or a station wagon:

  • Stop if necessary to ensure they’re okay, e.g., not being affected by carbon monoxide fumes from exhaust

If glare (especially after sunrise and before sunset) might keep you from seeing other vehicles, pedestrians, traffic lights, etc.:

  • Slow down
  • Clear papers, etc. from top of dashboard

If glare might keep oncoming vehicles from seeing you:

  • Turn on your headlights
  • Slow down

If on an undivided highway:

  • Stay to the right side of your lane (to avoid oncoming traffic)

Approaching a crosswalk:

  • Slow down
  • Look for people waiting to cross

If people are waiting to cross:

  • Stop
  • Ensure no other vehicles are passing you

If other vehicles start to pass you while people are crossing the street:

  • Put your arm out your window
  • Wave the people across

After everyone has completely crossed the street:

  • Continue driving

Gas Stations:

Before lifting the pump handle: - Ensure nothing dangerous has been attached to the handle – there are reports of needles with HIV-positive blood on them being placed on pump handles

If you are filling a gas can:

Before taking off the cap of the can – to avoid an explosion due to static electricity igniting gas fumes: - Touch the can to the ground - Touch the gas pump nozzle to the can

While putting gas in your vehicle:

  • Stand upwind

  • Check the oil level

  • Check tire pressure with a gage (refer to the owner’s manual, not the side of the tire, for the proper pressure)

Parking:

If you’re parking in a parking lot:

  • Choose a well-lit area, close to populated area – to reduce risk of being attacked or having vehicle stolen
  • Avoid parking next to things or areas which could conceal attackers e.g., walls, vans, bushes, etc.
  • Consider backing your vehicle into your parking spot – to enable you to leave quickly if approached by a potential attacker
  • Turn wheels towards curb – to deter theft
  • Lock doors
  • Roll up windows

After parking:

  • Install steering wheel lock
  • Check under vehicle for leaks
  • Ensure vehicle is locked – to prevent theft – to prevent kids from getting into vehicle and activating garage door opener
  • Activate security systems

Flat Tire:

If you have a flat tire:

  • Stop in a safe, well-lit area
  • Put flashers on
  • Consider putting reflective triangles and/or flares behind your vehicle to warn approaching drivers

If you can’t change the tire yourself:

  • Lock your doors
  • Roll up your windows

If someone stops and offers to help:

  • Show them that you have a cell phone
  • Don’t get in the car with anyone
  • Don’t let them change your tire
  • Wait for police to come
  • Ask them to send help

If you can change the tire yourself:

  • Put chocks behind and in front of the tire at the opposite corner of the vehicle from the flat tire
  • Have someone watch approaching traffic – to warn you of drivers who don’t see you and might hit you
  • For most vehicles, place notch at top of jack directly under notch under side of vehicle between flat tire and middle of vehicle
  • Operate jack until notch at top of jack just touches the notch on the vehicle
  • Loosen all lug nuts on the wheel with the flat tire – reduces risk of tipping vehicle off the jack
  • Operate the jack to raise the vehicle until the flat tire is off the ground
  • Remove lugs nuts
  • Remove the flat tire/wheel
  • If necessary, operate jack to raise vehicle enough to put on the replacement wheel
  • Tighten one lug nut hand tight (wait until tire touches ground before tightening further – reduces risk of tipping vehicle off the jack)
  • Tighten hand tight one of the lug nuts opposite the first nut
  • Repeat until all nuts are hand tight
  • Operate jack to lower vehicle
  • Tighten one nut with wrench
  • Tighten one of the nuts opposite the first nut
  • Repeat until all nuts are tight
  • Get flat tire fixed

Trips:

Before: - Have car serviced by a mechanic - Check fluid levels (coolant, windshield washer, etc) - Check operation of headlights, tailights, turn signals, etc.

Take:

  • Aspirin
  • Cooler with cold sodas, etc.
  • Snacks
  • Extra car keys

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