Highway crashes are no accident. Each year, more than 800 people lose their lives on Hoosier roadways. Most of those crashes were caused by driver errors such as impaired driving, speeding, aggressive driving or distracted driving. The good news is that as a driver, you hold the key to crash prevention. The following safety tips will help you avoid the most common fatal errors drivers make, and help you drive defensively to protect yourself against other driver’s mistakes.
Five Keys to Crash Prevention
- Buckle Up! Make sure you and your passengers are properly restrained. This is the single most important thing you can do to protect your life and the lives of your loved ones if involved in a motor vehicle crash.
- Never Drive Impaired. Avoid alcohol and drugs if driving. Assign a designated driver.
- Drive Attentively. Avoid the three most common distractions: cell phones, CDs and coffee.
- Drive Defensively. Aggressive drivers take unnecessary risks and often cause crashes.
- Share the Road. Look out for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and commercial trucks.
Wear Your Seatbelt
According to studies, wearing a seatbelt reduces your chance of being killed in a car crash by 60 percent. A seatbelt is your best protection against injury and death in a highway crash. Don’t forget the following tips while driving:
- Never operate your car or truck until everyone is buckled up!
- Set a good example for your children. Use your seat belt every time you travel.
- Seat belts are your best defense against a drunk driver.
- Always use the seat belt properly. Adjust it so it lies across your upper thighs and fits snugly across the shoulder and chest.
- In Indiana, you can get pulled over and given a ticket for not having your seat belt fastened.
Protect Your Children
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1-13. Car seats and boosters provide protection for infants and children in a crash.
- Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, and use it every time.
- Make sure the car seat is installed properly by referring to the car seat manufacturer or the vehicle owner’s manual.
- Keep your child in a car seat as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
- Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
For more information, visit Buckle Up America.
Never Drive Impaired
In the U.S., an impaired driver kills someone every 30 seconds. Following these safety tips can help keep you from becoming a statistic:
- Don't risk it - If you plan to drive, don't drink.
- Choose a sober designated driver before partying.
- Take mass transit, a ride-sharing service, a taxicab, or ask a friend to drive you home.
- Spend the night where the activity is being held.
- Immediately report impaired drivers to law enforcement.
- Always wear your seat belt – it’s the best defense against an impaired driver.
For more information, visit StopImpairedDriving.org.
Drive Defensively, Not Aggressively
Aggressive drivers are not thinking clearly behind the wheel, and their dangerous actions often cause crashes. Use the following tips to keep a clear head and protect yourself from aggressive drivers:
- First and foremost, make every attempt to safely get out of their way.
- Put your pride in the back seat. Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold your own in your travel lane.
- Avoid eye contact and ignore gestures.
- Report aggressive drivers to the appropriate authorities.
- If an aggressive driver is involved in a crash farther down the road, stop a safe distance from the crash scene, wait for the police to arrive, and report the driving behavior you witnessed.
For more information, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Driving while distracted or drowsy can have deadly consequences. Follow these steps to stay alert on the highway:
- Get enough rest to avoid fatigue.
- Long-distance driving is hard work, and you need to be fresh and alert.
- Avoid long drives at night. The glare of lights, both on your dashboard and outside your car, can make you sleepy.
- Keep the temperature cool in your vehicle.
- Do not use cruise control; keep your body involved with the driving.
- Watch your posture. Drive with your head up and your shoulders back. Legs should not be fully extended, but flexed at about a 45 degree angle.
- Take frequent breaks. At least every two hours, stop at a gas station, restaurant or rest stop. Get out of the car, walk around, even jog or do calisthenics. Exercise fights fatigue.
- Avoid the primary causes of distracted driving: cell phones, CDs (or radio) and coffee (or other beverages and food).
Share the Road
Motorcycles, pedestrians, bicyclists and commercial trucks all need special consideration on the roadway. Pay special attention around these highway users, or you may end up in a crash.
- Stay out of the “No Zone,” the blind spot on the passenger side of the truck.
- Don’t brake suddenly in front of trucks; they take much longer to stop than a smaller vehicle.
- Give trucks plenty of room to turn; they have a wide turning radius.
- Watch aggressively for motorcycles, they can be easily hidden in traffic.
- Anticipate hazards that may confront motorcycles and predict how the motorcyclist may react.
- Follow at least two-seconds behind a motorcycle.
- Watch out when turning left. Most crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles involve turning left at an intersection.
Pedestrians and Bicycles:
- Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections.
- Slow down, pay attention and obey the posted speed limit.
- Always look out for pedestrians and cyclists, especially before turning at a green light or making a right on red or left on solid green.
- Leave at least three feet of passing space between the right side of your vehicle and a bicyclist.
- Reduce your speed when passing a cyclist, especially if the roadway is narrow.
- Children on bicycles are often unpredictable in their actions. Expect the unexpected.
Visit SharetheRoadSafely.org for more information.
Fender Bender? Move Vehicles to Shoulder
INDOT wants motorists to be safe as well as keep traffic moving smoothly on busy interstates and roadways.
Our Fender Bender signs reinforce Indiana law that states that drivers involved in crashes that do not result in injury or death shall not obstruct traffic more than necessary. Off the roadway or on a shoulder is a much safer place to exchange information or wait for law enforcement to arrive after a crash. Don't worry - your insurance coverage will not be compromised if you move your vehicle to the shoulder.
INDOT and the Indiana State Police urge motorists to dial 9-1-1 for more serious accidents involving bodily injury or when moving the damaged vehicle could be dangerous.
Work Zone Driving and Winter Driving
Driving on a highway in normal conditions can be dangerous, and when roads are slippery or when highway construction is occurring, driving can be even more dangerous. Please visit the following sites to learn more: