On average, Americans spend 152 hours in their car per year. Yet very few of us think about our safety beyond a car accident. The time we spend in the car is often spent on auto-pilot not fully aware of our surroundings or what we have in the car. For those of us who are in the car more than we are our own homes, we need to focus more on the likelihood of having an emergency event on the road than we would in our house. However, very few of us are really prepared for the possibility of a life altering event when traveling. Today we are going to go over some things to be aware of when talking about vehicle safety.
The first big thing to go over is the obvious condition of the vehicle. The importance of regular and proper maintenance can’t be overstated but let’s focus on the smaller details that’s easy overlook.
Do you have a good set of windshield wipers and enough washer fluid in the car? This seems minor, but in a torrential downpour or heavy snows your ability to see is crucial! You can easily overdrive your headlights (driving faster than you can stop within the distance you can see illuminated) even before you add in obscuring weather. Give yourself the best possible chance to see oncoming or upcoming hazards with a clean windshield.
What about your tires? Another rudimentary thing, but how often do you check your tires or their pressure? Very few people check that their tires have enough tread and aren’t rotting or cracking. Take the time and look at your tires, you are literally relying on them to keep you on the road and stop you in an emergency! You can google how to check your that your tires have enough tread, all you need is a penny.
Now let’s talk about what’s in your car. There are a lot of lists of things you can keep in your car and you can look them up if you want to carry a large toolbox worth of things in your car. For me, there are 3 critical things you always need in your car. First are tools to change a flat tire. Seems simple, but when you bought your car, did you check that it had everything you needed in it to change a tire? Do you know how to get the tools out of wherever they are hidden on the car, or how they are used? Take time to look at them and identify how to use them. If you need to change a tire at 2 am on a back road with low lights, that’s not the time to try and find out you don’t have a lug wrench. Second is a basic first aid kit. You may find yourself cutting your hand on the nail that just gave you a flat tire! Or if you have an accident, you may be 20 minutes from am ambulance responding or out of cell reception. I know its hard to believe but there are areas that don’t have reception still. I have a 90-minute drive through a national park that has ZERO reception. Finally, I would have an emergency tool that can cut a seatbelt and break windows. Even if you have it, make sure you can reach it with either hand in case one of them is pinned or injured.
The last big thing to think about is protecting yourself while driving. I don’t mean defensive driving, but literally defending yourself while traveling. When I teach people about concealed carrying while driving, I tell them that they should be comfortable shooting the length of their car in case you are attacked during those 150+ hours you spend in your car. Not only should you be able to shoot that distance but do it proficiently! Be aware of your surroundings as you travel, park, or get gas. People acting suspicious isn’t the only indicator of a bad area. If its 4 pm and there are no kids playing outside, that may tell you it’s a high crime area. Don’t forget, when your life is on the line, your car can be used to defend yourself by moving obstacles and attackers out of the way. Be aware of your surroundings and the condition of the area you are in so that you don’t make yourself appear to be an easy target for an attack or carjacking.
Cars can be a dangerous place with over 40,000 people dying in car accidents last year. Maintaining your car, having the right tools with you, and being aware of dangerous conditions outside your vehicle are just some of the things you can do to make sure you and your family aren’t a statistic. We all spend a lot of time in our cars, we should do everything we can in them to be safe so we can spend as much time as possible outside of the vehicles enjoying life with our loved ones.