Driver Licensing

Driving Tips

No driver manual can teach you how to operate a vehicle or be a safe driver. Driving requires skills you can only gain through instruction and practice. The following offers some basic driving information.

Your safety and that of the public depends a lot on what you do before driving, including adjusting the seat and mirrors, using safety belts, checking your vehicle, maintaining a clear view and securing items in and on the vehicle.

Trip Planning
Maintaining the Vehicle
Windshields and Windows
Using your Mirrors
Safety Belts and Child Restraints
Car Seat Guides
Basic Driving Tips
Communicating on the Road
Adjusting to Road Conditions
Adjusting to Traffic
Interstate Highway Driving
Points to Remember
Being in Shape to Drive
What to do in an Emergency
Protecting yourself in a Collision
At the Scene of an Accident

Trip Planning

There are ways you can help reduce your driving costs. First, determine your overall transportation needs. For each trip, determine if it is necessary. If so, there may be times you do not need to drive yourself. You might ride with someone else or you could take public transportation if it is available.

The best way to prolong the life of your car and save on fuel is to use it as little as possible. Trip planning can make your life easier, and help cut down on your driving.

  • Take public transportation when it is available.
  • Avoid driving during heavy traffic. It causes extra wear and tear on you and the vehicle.
  • Use carpools or share rides whenever possible.
  • Plan, and then combine your trips. Make a list of the things you need and the places you need to go. Go to as many places as possible on any one trip. Try to reduce the number of places you need to go. This will cut down on the number of trips you need to take.
  • Call ahead to make sure that they have what you need or that what you are picking up is ready.

By doing these things you can help cut down on the amount of traffic on the road, cut your travel costs and save yourself time and effort.

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Maintaining and Checking the Vehicle

How safely you can drive starts with the vehicle you are driving. It is the duty of drivers to make certain that the vehicles they drive are safe to operate. A vehicle that is in bad shape is unsafe and costs more to run than one that is maintained. It can break down or cause a collision. If a vehicle is in bad shape, you might not be able to get out of an emergency situation. A vehicle in good shape can give you an extra safety margin when you need it, and, you never know when you will need it.

You should follow your vehicle owners manual for routine maintenance. Some you can do yourself and some must be done by a qualified mechanic. A few simple checks will help prevent trouble on the road.

Braking system - Only your brakes can stop your vehicle. It is very dangerous if they are not working properly. If they do not seem to be working properly, are making a lot of noise, smell funny or, the brake pedal goes to the floor, have a mechanic check them.

Lights - Make sure that turn signals, brake lights, tail lights and headlights are operating properly. These should be checked from the outside of the vehicle. Brake lights tell other road users that you are stopping and turn signals tell them you are turning.

An out-of-line headlight can shine where it does not help you and may blind other drivers. If you are having trouble seeing at night or if other drivers are constantly flashing their headlights at you, have a mechanic check the headlights.

Windshield and wipers - Damaged glass can more easily break in a minor collision or when something hits the windshield. Have a damaged windshield replaced.

Windshield wipers keep the rain and snow off the windshield. Some vehicles also have wipers for rear windows and headlights. Make sure all wipers are in good operating condition. If the blades are not clearing water well, replace them.

Tires - Worn or bald tires can increase your stopping distance and make turning more difficult when the road is wet. Unbalanced tires and low pressure cause faster tire wear, reduce fuel economy and make the vehicle harder to steer and stop. If the vehicle bounces, the steering wheel shakes or the vehicle pulls to one side, have a mechanic check it.

Worn tires can cause "hydroplaning" and increase the chance of having a flat tire. Check tire air pressure with an air pressure gauge when the tires are cold. Check the vehicle owner's manual

Check the tread with a penny. Stick the penny into the tread "head" first. If the tread does not come at least to Abe's head, the tire is unsafe and you need to replace it.

Steering system - If the steering is not working properly, it is difficult to control the direction you want to go. If the vehicle is hard to turn or does not turn when the steering wheel is first turned, have the steering checked by a mechanic.

Suspension system - Your suspension helps you control your vehicle and provides a comfortable ride over varying road surfaces. If the vehicle bounces a lot after a bump or a stop, or is hard to control, you may need new shocks or other suspension parts. Have a mechanic check it out.

Exhaust system - The exhaust system helps reduce the noise from the engine, helps cool the hot gases coming from running the engine, and moves these gases to the rear of the vehicle. Gases from a leaky exhaust can cause death inside a vehicle in a very short time. Never run the motor in a closed garage. If you sit in a vehicle with the motor running for a long time, open a window.

Some exhaust leaks are easily heard but many are not. This is why it is important to have the exhaust system checked periodically.

Engine - A poorly running engine may lose power that is needed for normal driving and emergencies, may not start, gets poor fuel economy, pollutes the air, and could die on you when you are on the road, causing you and traffic a problem. Follow the procedures recommended in the owner's manual for maintenance.

Loose objects - Make sure that there are no loose objects in the vehicle that could hit someone in the event of a sudden stop or crash. Make sure there are no objects on the floor that could roll under the brake pedal and prevent you from stopping the vehicle.

Horn - The horn may not seem like it is important for safety; but as a warning device, it could save your life. Only use your horn as a warning to others.

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Windshield & Windows

Windshields, side wings or side windows forward of, or either side of, or adjacent to the operators seat, may not be covered with one way glass, adhesive film or other application that reduces the light transmittance to a level below 35%. No motor vehicle may be equipped with one-way glass, adhesive film, or other glaze in the rear windows that reduces light transmission below 20%, with an enforcement tolerance of 9%.

  • Keep the windshield clean. Bright sun or headlights on a dirty windshield make it hard to see. Carry liquid cleaner and a paper or cloth towel so you can clean your windshield whenever it is necessary.
  • Keep your window washer bottle full. Use antifreeze wash in areas where the temperature could fall below freezing.
  • Keep the inside of your windows clean, especially if anyone has been smoking in the vehicle. Smoking causes a film to build up on the inside glass.
  • Clear snow, ice or frost from all windows before driving. Make sure you clean the front, sides and back
  • Do not hang things from your mirror or clutter up the windshield with decals. They could block your view.
  • Keep the headlights, backup, brake and taillights clean. Dirt on the lenses can reduce the light by 50%.

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Adjust Seat and Mirrors

You should always check your seat and mirrors before you start to drive. Make any adjustments to the seat and mirrors before you drive off.

  • Adjust your seat so that you are high enough to clearly see the road. If necessary, use a seat cushion. Do not move the seat so far forward that you cannot easily steer.
  • Adjust your rear view mirror and side mirrors. You should be able to see out the back window with the rear view mirror and to the sides with the side mirrors. A good adjustment for the side mirrors is to set them so that when you lean forward slightly, you can see just the side of your vehicle.
  • If you have a day/night mirror, make sure it is set for the time of day you are driving.
  • Head restraints are designed to prevent whip-lash if you are hit from behind. They should be adjusted so the head restraint contacts the back of your head.

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Use Safety Belts And Child Restraints

Before you drive away, always fasten your safety belts and make sure all your passengers are using safety belts or child restraints. Also remember to lock the vehicle's doors.

It is important that you and your passengers use safety belts. Studies have shown that if you are in an accident while using safety belts, your chances of being hurt or killed are greatly reduced. In South Dakota, it is illegal to drive or to be a front-seat passenger, without wearing safety belts.

If your vehicle has a two-part safety belt system, be sure to wear both the lap-belt and the shoulder-belt. Wearing either part alone greatly reduces your protection. If you have an automatic shoulder belt, be sure to buckle your lap belt as well. Otherwise, in a collision you could slide out of the belt and be hurt or killed.

In addition to protecting you from injury as a driver, safety belts help you keep control of the vehicle. If you are struck from the side or make a quick turn, the force could push you sideways. You cannot steer the vehicle if you are not behind the wheel.

Safety belts should be worn even if the vehicle is equipped with air bags. While air bags are good protection against hitting the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield, they do not protect you if you are hit from the side or rear or if the vehicle rolls over. And, an air bag will not keep you behind the wheel in these situations.

The law requires that all children under the age of 18 wear appropriate safety restraints while the vehicle is in motion. Small children should be secured in the rear seat. Never secure a child in the front passenger side, especially if your vehicle has an air bag. If you are in a crash and the bag deploys, your child could be injured. A number of organizations will loan you a child safety device if you are unable to afford one.

What is an infant car carrier?

It's a reclining seat engineered to give babies the best possible protection. The child rides facing backwards, it's entire head and body cushioned by impact-absorbing materials. The carrier is securely attached to the vehicle's seat by the lap belt, while the built-in harness holds the baby firmly in place. Thousands of parents have found that babies can ride happily and safely in car carriers.

Do not confuse infant car carriers with baby seats. Baby seats may be useful in the house, but are not made to protect a baby in the vehicle and should not be used there.

Use the carrier from birth until your child can sit well alone, at about 9 months of age. Many models can then be converted into upright, forward facing safety seats for toddlers.

  • An adult's arms are not safe: Ordinarily, a parent's arms are a very secure place for a child, but this is not so in a vehicle. Even if you are wearing a lap and shoulder belt yourself, the child would be torn from your grasp by the violent forces of a collision. Never put a belt around you and the child on your lap. Your own weight, greatly increased by collision forces would press the belt deeply into the child's body; this could lead to serious or even fatal injuries.
  • Beginning with the very first ride-the drive home from the hospital-the baby should be carried in an approved safety restraint.
  • As a rule, the back seat is safer than the front, and the center of the vehicle is safer than the sides. But bear in mind that a driver who must turn around frequently to check on children in the back may get into an accident situation. Insist on everyone riding buckled up. Apart from the risk of themselves, unrestrained passengers often injure others who are belted in.

South Dakota Codified Laws Chapter 32-37
Child Passenger Restraint System

Click on the sited chapter below to read the law in its entirety.

32-37-1  Use of system required - Violations as petty offense.

32-37-1.1 Operator to assure that passengers between ages five and eighteen wear seatbelts

32-37-1.2 Certain operators required to wear seatbelts

32-37-1.3 Passengers between ages fourteen and eighteen required to wear seatbelts.

32-37-2  Exemptions.

32-37-4  Violation not considered negligence or assumption of risk-Evidence inadmissible


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Car Seat Guide

Infant Seats

  • Infant Car Seats for children up to 20 pounds
  • Always face rearward
  • Recline 30 degrees

Toddler/Convertible Car Seats

  • For infants and children up to 40 pounds
  • For infants, recline and face rearwards
  • For toddlers, upright and forward facing

Booster Seats

  • For toddlers at least 30 pounds
  • Must be used with a tethered harness or shoulder straps if it doesn't have a shield. Can be used with just a lap belt if it has a shield

A Car Seat Is Used Incorrectly If:

  • It's not secured to the automobile with a seat belt
  • The harness straps are not used or are very loose
  • An infant is facing forward
  • A top tether strap is present but not used

Some people still have "bad information" about using safety belts. For example:

Myth: "Safety belts can trap you inside a car."

It takes less than a second to undo a safety belt. Crashes where a vehicle catches fire or sinks in deep water and you are "trapped" seldom happen. Even if an accident such as this were to happen, a safety belt may keep you from being "knocked out". Your chance

Myth: "Safety belts are good on long trips, but I do not need them if I am driving around town."

Over half of all traffic deaths happen within 25 miles of home. Many of them occur on roads posted at less then 45 mph.

Myth: "Some people are thrown clear in a crash and walk away with hardly a scratch."

Your chances of not being killed in an accident are much better if you stay inside the vehicle. Safety belts can keep you from being thrown out of your vehicle, into the path of another one.

Myth: "If I get hit from the side, I am better off being thrown across the car; away from the crash point."

When a vehicle is struck from the side, it will move sideways. Everything in the vehicle that is not fastened down, including the passengers, will slide toward the point of crash, not away from it.

Myth: "At slow speeds, I can brace myself."

Even at 25 mph, the force of a head-on crash is the same as pedaling a bicycle full-speed into a brick wall or diving off a three-story building onto the sidewalk. No one can "brace" for that.

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Basic Driving Tips


Check the vehicle owner's manual for how to best start the vehicle. Make sure the parking brake is on before you start the vehicle. If the vehicle has a manual transmission, it must not be in gear and in some vehicles the clutch must be depressed. For a vehicle that has an automatic transmission, you must put the shift selector "park."


Accelerate gradually and smoothly. Trying to start too fast can cause the drive wheels to spin, particularly on slippery surfaces, and cause the vehicle to slide. With a manual-shift vehicle, practice using the clutch and accelerator so that the engine does not over-rev or stall when shifting between gears.


Both hands should be placed on opposite sides of the steering wheel (e.g., left hand between 8 and 10 o'clock and right hand between 2 and 4 o'clock). This position is comfortable, and on high speed roads it allows you to make turns without taking your hands off the wheel.

Look well down the road and on both sides of the road, not at the road just in front of your vehicle. Look for traffic situations where you will need to steer before you get to them. This way, you have time to steer smoothly and safely.

When turning sharp corners, turn the steering wheel using the "hand-over-hand" technique. When you complete a turn, straighten out the steering wheel by


The best way not to speed is to know how fast you are going. Check the speedometer often. People are not very good at judging how fast they are going. It is easy to be traveling much faster than you think. This is especially true when you leave high speed roads and are driving on much slower local roads.

Follow the speed limit signs. They are there for your safety.


Be alert so that you know when you will have to stop well ahead of time. Stopping suddenly is dangerous and usually points to a driver who was not paying attention. When you brake quickly, you could skid and lose control of your vehicle. You also make it harder for drivers behind you to stop without hitting you.

Try to avoid panic stops by seeing events well in advance. By slowing down or changing lanes, you may not have to stop at all and if you do, you can make a more gradual and safer stop.

Seeing Well

Most of what you do in driving depends on what you see. To be a good driver, you need to see well. The single biggest contributor to crashes is failing to see what is happening. You must look down the road, to the sides and behind your vehicle and be alert for unexpected events. At night and at other times when it's hard to see, you must use your headlights.

You must be alert to what is going on around you. Many crashes occur because drivers do not pay enough attention to their driving. Do not take your eyes off the road for more than a few seconds at any one time. If you need to look at a map, pull safely off the road before you try to look at it. Do not try to read the map while you are driving. In many crashes with motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians, drivers reported that they looked but did not see them.

If you have a cellular phone or CB radio, avoid using it when the vehicle is in motion. Even with "hands-free" equipment, conversing on a phone or radio takes your attention away from driving

Do not slow down just to look at a crash, someone getting a ticket or other roadside activity (rubbernecking). This could cause you to be in a crash. If you take your eyes off the road to look at something, you could run into a vehicle ahead that has slowed or stopped. Rubbernecking also can increase congestion. When you pass these roadside activities, keep your eyes on the road and get past them as soon and as safely as you can.


To be a good driver, you must know what is happening around your vehicle. You must look ahead, to the sides and behind the vehicle. Scanning helps you to see problems ahead, vehicles and people that may be in the road by the time you reach them, signs warning of problems ahead and signs giving you directions.

Look ahead - In order to avoid last-minute braking or the need to turn, you should look well down the road. By looking well ahead and being ready to stop or change lanes if needed, you can drive more safely, save on fuel, help keep traffic moving at a steady pace and allow yourself time to better see around your vehicle and along side the road. Looking well down the road will also help you to steer straighter with less weaving. Safer drivers tend to look at least 10 seconds ahead of their vehicle. How far is this? It is the distance that your vehicle will travel in 10 seconds.

In the city, 10 seconds is about one block. When you drive in city traffic, you should try to look at least one block ahead. On the highway, 10 seconds is about four city blocks or a quarter of a mile.

Looking ahead diagram

How do you know how many seconds you are looking ahead?
Here is how to figure how far ahead you are looking.

  • Find a non-moving object like a sign or telephone pole near the road about as far ahead as you are looking.
  • Start counting: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, etc., until you reach the object.
  • The number of seconds you have counted is the number of seconds ahead that you were looking.

You can be a safer driver by looking well ahead. You can avoid the need to stop or turn quickly. The less you have to stop or turn quickly, the less likely you are to run into someone or have someone run into you.

By looking well ahead you can save on fuel. Every time you have to stop quickly, it takes time and fuel to get your vehicle back up to speed. Drivers who look ahead, can slow down gradually or change lanes and avoid unnecessary braking that leads to lower miles-per-gallon.

Traffic would flow more smoothly if everyone looked well ahead. Making driving changes before the last moment gives drivers behind you more time to react. The earlier you act, the less often someone behind you has to react quickly to your vehicle. By seeing needed driving changes early, you can drive more safely and that helps drivers behind you drive more safely too. It also keeps traffic moving at a steady pace.

Look to the sides - As other vehicles or pedestrians may cross or enter your path anytime, you should look to the sides to make sure no one is coming. This is especially true at intersections and railroad crossings.

Intersections - Intersections are any place where traffic merges or crosses. They include: side streets, driveways and shopping center or parking lot entrances. Before you enter an intersection, look to both the left and right for approaching vehicles and/or crossing pedestrians. If stopped, look to both the left and right just before you start moving. Look across the intersection before you start to move to make sure the path is clear all the way through the intersection and you will not block it if you have to stop.

Before you turn left across oncoming traffic, look for a safe gap in the traffic. Look to the street you are turning into to make sure that no vehicles or pedestrians are in your path, leaving you stranded in the path of oncoming traffic. Look one more time in the direction of oncoming traffic before you turn.

Before turning right, make sure that there is no traffic approaching from your left and no oncoming traffic turning left into your path. Do not begin your turn without checking for pedestrians crossing where you will be turning. You may turn right on red unless prohibited. You may also turn left from a one-way street into another one-way street unless prohibited.

Do not rely on traffic signals or signs to tell you that no one will be crossing in front of you. Some drivers do not obey traffic signals or signs. At an intersection, look left and right, even if other traffic has a red light or a stop sign. This is especially important just after the light has turned green. This is when people on the cross street are most likely to hurry through the intersection before the light changes to red. Others who may not stop are individuals who have been drinking or other reckless drivers.

Make sure you can clearly see crossing traffic before entering an intersection. If you were stopped and your view of a cross street is blocked, edge forward slowly until you can see. By moving forward slowly, crossing drivers can see the front of your vehicle before you can see them. This gives them a chance to slow down and warn you if needed

Look behind - Besides watching traffic ahead of you, you must check traffic behind you. You need to check more often when traffic is heavy. This is the only way you will know if someone is following too closely or coming up too fast and will give you time to do something about it. It is very important to look for vehicles behind you when you change lanes, slow down, back up or are driving down a long or steep hill.

When changing lanes - Whenever you want to change lanes, you must check that there are no vehicles in the lane you want to enter. This means you must check for traffic to the side and behind your vehicle before you change lanes. Changing lanes includes changing from one lane to another, merging onto a roadway from an entrance ramp and entering the roadway from the curb or shoulder. When changing lanes, you should:

  • Look in your rear-view and side mirrors. Make sure there are no vehicles in the lane you want to enter. Make sure that nobody is about to pass you.
  • Look over your shoulder in the direction you plan to move. Be sure no one is near the rear corners of your vehicle. These areas are called "blind spots" because you cannot see them through your mirrors. You must turn your head and look to see vehicles in your blind spot.
  • All drivers must signal: When turning or changing lanes at least 100 feet from an intersection. (Signaling at least 4 to 5 seconds BEFORE you wish to turn is better at higher speeds). The signal must be given with: An electric signal light or the left arm and hand.
    Hand signals for turning
  • Check quickly. Do not take your eyes off the road ahead for more than an instant. Traffic ahead of you could stop suddenly while you are checking traffic to the sides, rear or over your shoulder. Also, use your mirrors to check traffic while you are preparing to change lanes, merge or pull onto the roadway. This way you can keep an eye on vehicles ahead of you at the same time. Check over your shoulder just before you change lanes for traffic in your blind spot. Look several times if you need to so as not to look for too long a period at any one time. You must keep track of what traffic is doing in front of you and in the lane you are entering.
  • Check for other road users. Remember that there are other road users such as motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians that are harder to see than are cars and trucks. Be especially alert when you are entering the roadway from the curb or driveway.

When you slow down - You must check behind your vehicle whenever you slow down. This is very important when you slow down quickly or at points where a following driver would not expect you to slow down, such as private driveways or parking spaces.

When you back up - It is hard for you to see behind your vehicle. Try to do as little backing as possible. In a shopping center, try to find a parking space you can drive through, so you can drive forward when you leave. Where backing is necessary, here are some hints that will help you back your vehicle safely.

  • Check behind your vehicle before you get in. Children or small objects cannot be seen from the driver's seat.
  • Place your right arm on the back of the seat and turn around so that you can look directly through the rear window. Do not depend on your rearview or side mirrors as you can not see directly behind your vehicle.
  • Back slowly; your vehicle is much harder to steer while you are backing.
  • Whenever possible; use a person outside the vehicle to help you back.

When going down a long or steep hill - Check your mirrors when you are going down hills or mountains. Vehicles often build up speed going down a steep grade. Be alert for large trucks and buses that may be going too fast.

Use Your Lights

It is much harder to see at night. Here are some things you can do that will help you see better:

  • Use your high beams whenever there are no oncoming vehicles. High beams let you see twice as far as low beams. It is important to use high beams on unfamiliar roads, in construction areas or where there may be people along the side of the road.
  • You should dim your high beams at least 500 feet (4-5 seconds) before meeting an oncoming vehicle.
  • Use your low beams when following another vehicle or when in heavy traffic.
  • Use the low beams in fog or when it is snowing or raining hard. Light from high beams will reflect back, causing glare and making it more difficult to see ahead. Some vehicles have fog lights that you also should use under these conditions.
  • Do not drive at any time with only your parking lights on. Parking lights are for parking only.

If a vehicle comes toward you with high beams on, switch to low beam and look to the right edge of the road. This will keep you from being blinded by the other vehicle's headlights and allow you to see enough of the edge of the road to stay on course. Do not try to "get back" at the other driver by keeping your bright lights on.

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Communicating on the Road

Crashes often happen because one driver does not see another driver, or when one driver does something the other driver does not expect. It is important that drivers let other road users know they are there and what they plan to do.

Letting Others Know You Are There

Some drivers do not always pay attention to what is going on around them. It is important that other road users know that you are there.

Use headlights - Besides helping you to see at night, headlights help other people see you. If needed, flick your headlights to alert other road users you are there. Remember to turn on your headlights whenever you have trouble seeing others. If you have trouble seeing them, they may be having trouble seeing you.

  • On rainy, snowy or foggy days, it is sometimes hard for other drivers to see your vehicle. In these conditions, headlights make your vehicle easier to see. Remember, if you turn on your wipers, turn on your headlights.
  • Turn on your headlights when it begins to get dark. Even if you turn them on a little early, you will help other drivers see you.
  • Whenever driving and lights are necessary, use your headlights. Parking lights are for parked vehicles only.
  • When driving away from a rising or setting sun, turn on your headlights. Drivers coming towards you may have trouble seeing your vehicle. Your headlights will help them see you.

To the defensive driver, darkness requires even greater alertness. Reduced visibility, glare from oncoming headlights, animals crossing the road, and eye strain all combine to make night driving hazardous.

  • Headlights must be used from one half hour after sunset until one half hour before sunrise, and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to enable a driver to clearly see a person on the highway at a distance of 200 feet ahead.
  • Turn on low beams whenever the light begins to fade. It helps others identify you and judge what you're doing.
  • Never use parking lights while driving. They can't be seen until after your vehicle is clearly visible. It's not legal to drive with only parking lights when headlights are required.
  • If you cannot see clearly, it makes sense to increase your following distance at least 3 or 4 seconds
  • At night your headlights give you a clear view for only a very limited distance ahead. If you go faster than 55 m.p.h., at night you cannot stop in the distance that you can see ahead.
  • Never use your high beam head lamps when there are animals in your path. Using them to ward off animals will have a negative effect because the bright lights will just freeze the animals in their tracks. The best defense for animals in the road is a slower speed, accompanied by your horn and/or ultrasonic animal warning device
  • Use high beams on rural highways. Use low beams when following other vehicles, when meeting oncoming vehicles, and when driving in town. You should dim at least 500 feet (about 4 to 5 seconds) before meeting an oncoming vehicle.
  • If the oncoming driver fails to dim, switch your headlights to low beam. If the glare is "blinding" you, look toward the right edge of the road
  • A clean windshield, inside and out, will help reduce the amount of glare from oncoming vehicles. Clean headlights will naturally give more light and help you to see better
  • Eyestrain, fatigue, and lack of concentration can be the result of staring at the spot created by your headlights. It may be difficult, but keep your eyes moving, especially at night. Scan for animals, pedestrians, and bicycle riders. Check to the sides for lights from other vehicles that might be crossing or entering your roadway ahead. Constantly check the lights of vehicles ahead for any indication that they are changing speed or lane position.

Use your horn - People cannot see you unless they are looking your way. Your horn can get their attention. Use it whenever it will help prevent an accident. If there is no immediate danger, a light tap on the horn should be all you need.

Give your horn a light tap:

  • when a person on foot or on a bike appears to be moving into your lane of travel
  • when you are passing a driver who starts to turn into your lane
  • when a driver is not paying attention or may have trouble seeing you
  • when coming to a place where you cannot see what is ahead - like a steep hill, a sharp curve or exiting a narrow alley

If there is danger, do not be afraid to sound a SHARP BLAST on your horn.  Do this:

  • when a child or older person is about to walk, run or ride into the street
  • when another vehicle is in danger of hitting you
  • when you have lost control of your vehicle and are moving towards someone

When not to use your horn - There are several occasions when you should not use your horn.
They include the following:

  • encouraging someone to drive faster or get out of the way
  • apprising other drivers of an error
  • greeting a friend
  • around blind pedestrians.

Use emergency signals - If your vehicle breaks down on a highway, make sure that other drivers can see it. All too often crashes occur because a driver did not see a stalled vehicle until it was too late to stop.

If available, use a 2-way radio or telephone to notify authorities that your vehicle or someone else has broken down. Many roadways have signs that tell you the CB channel or telephone number to call in an emergency.

If you are having vehicle trouble and have to stop:

  • get your vehicle off the road and away from traffic if at all possible
  • turn on your emergency flashers to show you are having trouble
  • stop where other drivers have a clear view of your vehicle if you cannot get your vehicle off the roadway.  Do not stop just over a hill or just around a curve.
  • warn other road users that your vehicle is there. Place emergency flares behind the vehicle. This allows other drivers to change lanes if necessary.
  • if you do not have emergency flares or other warning devices, stand by the side of the road where you are safe from traffic and wave traffic around your vehicle. Use a white cloth if you have one.
  • never stand in the roadway. Do not try to change a tire if it means you have to be in a traffic lane.
  • lift the hood or tie a white cloth to the antenna, side mirror or door handle to signal an emergency.

Stay out of the blind spot - Drive your vehicle where others can see you.
Do not drive in another vehicle's blind spot.

  • try to avoid driving on either side and slightly to the rear of another vehicle. You will be in his/her blind spot. Either speed up or drop back so the other driver can see your vehicle more easily.
  • when passing another vehicle, get through the other driver's blind spot as quickly as you can. The longer you stay there, the longer you are in danger of him/her turning into you.
  • never stay along side a large vehicle such as a truck or bus. These vehicles have large blind spots, and it is hard for drivers of large vehicles to see you.

Letting Others Know What You Are Doing

Generally other drivers expect you to keep doing what you are doing. You must warn them when you are going to change direction or slow down. This will give them time to react if needed, or at least not to be surprised by what you do.

Signal when you change direction - signaling gives other drivers time to react to your moves. You should use your turn signals before you change lanes, turn right or left, merge into traffic or park.

  • get into the habit of signaling every time you change direction. Signal even when you do not see anyone else around. It is easy to miss someone who needs to know what you are doing.
  • signal as early as you can. Try to signal at least three seconds before you make your move.
  • be careful that you do not signal too early. If there are streets, driveways or entrances between you and where you want to turn, wait until you have passed them to signal.
  • if another vehicle is about to enter the street between you and where you plan to turn, wait until you have passed it to signal your turn. If you signal earlier, the other driver may think you plan to turn where they are and they might pull into your path.
  • after you have made a turn or lane change, make sure your turn signal is off. After small turns, the signals may not turn off by themselves. Turn it off if it has not clicked off by itself. If you don't, others might think you plan to turn again.

Signal when you slow down - your brake lights let people know that you are slowing down. Always slow down as early as it is safe to do so. If you are going to stop or slow down at a place where another driver does not expect it, tap your brake pedal three or four times quickly to let those behind you know you are about to slow down.

Signal when you slow down:

  • to turn off a roadway which does not have separate turn or exit lanes.
  • to park or turn just before an intersection. Following traffic expects you to continue to the intersection.
  • to avoid something in the road or stopped or slowing traffic that a driver behind you cannot see.

Adjusting Speed

The faster your vehicle is going, the more distance it will take to turn, slow or stop. For example, stopping at 60 mph does not take twice the distance it takes at 30 mph as one might think, but over three times the distance. Driving safely means adjusting your speed for road and traffic conditions, how well you can see and obeying speed limits.

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Adjusting To Road Conditions

There are various road conditions where to be safe you must slow down. For example, you must slow down before a sharp curve, when the roadway is slippery and when there is standing water on the road.

The only contact your vehicle has with the road is through the tires. How good a grip the tires have with the road depends on the type and condition of the tires and the type and condition of the road surface.

Many drivers do not pay enough attention to the condition of their tires or to the condition of the roadway. It is important that the tires be in good condition and have enough air in them. See the vehicle owner's manual for correct tire pressure.

You do not have as much traction on gravel or dirt roads as you do on concrete or asphalt roads. When driving on gravel or dirt, you must slow down. It will take you much longer to stop, and it is much easier to skid when turning.

Curves - A vehicle can travel much faster in a straight line than it can in a curve. It is easy to go too fast in a curve. If you go too fast, then the tires will not be able to grip the road and the vehicle will skid. Always slow down before you enter the curve so you do not have to brake in the curve. Braking in a curve can cause the vehicle to skid.

Slippery roads - Slow down at the first sign of rain, snow or sleet. These all make the roadway slippery. When the road is slippery, the vehicle's tires do not grip as well as they do on a dry road. How slow should you go? On a wet road you should reduce your speed about 10 mph. On packed snow, you should cut your speed in half. Use snow tires or chains when the road has snow on it. On ice, you must slow to a crawl. It is very dangerous to drive on ice.

If at all possible, do not drive when the roads are icy. In some areas where there is a lot of icy weather, special studded tires are allowed. Because these tires can cause road damage, they are not allowed in many areas or on certain roads.

Some road surfaces are slippery at certain times or places.

Here are some clues to help you spot slippery roads:

  • on cold, wet days shady spots can be icy. These areas freeze first and dry out last.
  • overpasses and other types of bridges can have icy spots. The pavement on bridges can be icy even when other pavement is not. This is because bridges do not have earth underneath them to help insulate them against the cold and thus can be colder and more icy than other roadways.
  • when the temperature is around the freezing point, ice can become wet. This makes it more slippery than at temperatures well below freezing.
  • if it starts to rain on a hot day, pavement can be very slippery for the first few minutes. Heat causes the oil in the asphalt to come to the surface. The road is more slippery until the oil is washed off.

Water on the roadway - When it is raining or the road is wet, most tires have good traction up to about 35 mph. However as you go faster, your tires will start to ride up on the water, like water skis. This is called "hydroplaning." In a heavy rain, your tires can lose all traction with the road at about 50 mph. Bald or badly worn tires will lose traction at much lower speeds. The best way to keep from hydroplaning is to slow down in the rain.

If it feels like as if your tires have lost traction with the surface of the road you should:

  • ease your foot off the gas pedal.
  • keep the steering wheel straight. Only try to turn if it's an emergency. If you must turn, do it slowly, or you will cause your vehicle to skid.
  • do not try to stop or turn until your tires are gripping the road again.

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Adjusting to Traffic

Vehicles moving in the same direction at the same speed cannot hit one another. Crashes involving two or more vehicles often happen when drivers go faster or slower than other vehicles on the road.

Keep pace with traffic - If you are going faster than traffic, you will have to keep passing others. Each time you pass someone, there is a chance for a collision. The vehicle you are passing may change lanes suddenly or on a two-lane road, an oncoming vehicle may appear suddenly. Slow down and keep pace with other traffic. Speeding does not save more than a few minutes an hour.

Going much slower than other vehicles can be just as bad as speeding. It tends to make vehicles bunch up behind you and causes the other traffic to pass you. If vehicles are lined up behind you, pull over when safe to do so and let them pass. You should either drive faster or consider using a road with slower speeds.

Entering into traffic - When you merge with traffic, try to enter at the same speed that traffic is moving. High speed roadways generally have ramps to give you time to build up your speed. Use the ramp to reach the speed of other vehicles before you pull onto the road. Do not drive to the end of the ramp and stop or you will not have enough room to get up to the speed of traffic. Also, drivers behind you will not expect you to stop. If they are watching the traffic on the main road, you may be hit from the rear. If you have to wait for space to enter a roadway, slow down on the ramp so you have some room to speed up before you have to merge.

Leaving traffic - Keep up with the speed of traffic as long as you are on the main road. If the road you are traveling has exit ramps, do not slow down until you move onto the exit ramp. When you turn from a high speed, two-lane roadway, try not to slow down too early if you have traffic following you. Tap your brakes and reduce your speed quickly but safely.

Slow moving traffic - Some vehicles cannot travel very fast or have trouble keeping up with the speed of traffic. If you spot these vehicles early, you have time to change lanes or slow down safely. Slowing suddenly can cause a traffic accident.

  • watch for large trucks and small under powered cars on steep grades or when they are entering traffic. They can lose speed on long or steep hills, and it takes longer for these vehicles to get up to speed when they enter traffic.
  • farm tractors, animal-drawn vehicles, and roadway maintenance vehicles usually go 25 mph or less. These vehicles should have a slow-moving vehicle decal (an orange triangle) on the back.

Trouble spots - Wherever people or traffic gather, your room to maneuver is limited. You need to lower your speed to have time to react in a crowded space.

Here are some of the places where you may need to slow down:

  • shopping centers, parking lots and downtown areas - These are busy areas with vehicles and people stopping, starting and moving in different directions.
  • rush hours - Rush hours often have heavy traffic and drivers who always seem to be in a hurry.
  • narrow bridges and tunnels - Vehicles approaching each other are closer together.
  • schools, playgrounds and residential streets - These areas often have children present. Always be alert for children crossing the street or running or riding into the street without looking.
  • railroad crossings - you need to make sure that there are no trains coming and that you have room to cross. Some crossings are bumpy so you need to slow down to safely cross.

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Interstate Highway Driving

Traffic on an interstate highway normally moves more safely and smoothly because there are fewer places for the type of problems that cause accidents. Crossings don't exist. However, the accidents that do happen are usually serious. As a driver you need to know and follow some basic rules and practices to drive on an interstate highway.

Entering The Interstate

You get on the interstate by using an entrance ramp. Be alert for "DO NOT ENTER" and "WRONG WAY" signs that warn you are on the exit ramp. The entrance ramp usually takes you to an acceleration lane. Its purpose is to let you match your speed to that of interstate

As you approach the interstate:

  • Check over your shoulder for a gap in the traffic on the interstate.
  • Adjust your speed to meet that gap and signal.
  • DO NOT STOP unless there is no gap in traffic.
  • As you merge, make sure you are driving about the same speed as other traffic.

If another vehicle is ahead of you on the entrance ramp, be ready in case it slows or stops without warning. Don't forget that traffic on the interstate has the right-of-way. You can't always count on other drivers seeing you or moving over to give you room to enter.

Proper Driving Techniques On The Interstate

Once you are on the interstate, you should follow these driving rules:

  • Maintain steady speed. Keep pace with other traffic. Obey posted speed limits.
  • Don't follow too closely to the vehicle in front of you. Always leave at least two seconds space cushion between you and the vehicle ahead. When the weather is bad or the pavement is slick, double or triple the time. Rear-end collisions are the most frequent type of accidents on the interstate.
  • Watch for vehicles entering the interstate. If it is safe, move left to allow them a smooth, safe entry.
  • Avoid unnecessary lane changing. Stay in the right lane unless overtaking and passing another vehicle.
  • Signal lane changes.
  • Pass with caution. Check your blind spots when making lane changes. Make sure you can see the vehicle you are passing in your rear-view mirror before pulling back in. REMEMBER-If you are passing a truck or bus, wait longer before pulling back in because that driver has purposely left a larger space cushion ahead of his vehicle. If you pull back in as soon as you see the vehicle in your inside rearview mirror, you destroy the space cushion the truck or bus driver has established for their vehicle.
  • If you miss your exit, go on to the next exit. Backing up on the interstate is prohibited under any circumstances
  • You must not cross the median of the interstate highway.
  • To avoid drowsiness, open the windows to get fresh air, sing along with the radio, keep moving your eyes and do not stare in one direction.

How Well Can You See?

If something is in your path and you need to stop, you need to see it in time to be able to stop. It takes much longer and further to stop than many people think.

If you have good tires and brakes and dry pavement:

  • At 50 mph, it can take about 400 feet to react to something you see and bring your vehicle to a stop. That is about the length of a city block.
  • At 30 mph, it can take about 200 feet to stop. That is almost half a city block in length.

If you cannot see 400 feet ahead, it means you may not be driving safely at 50 mph. If you cannot see 200 feet ahead, you may not be driving safely at 30 mph. By the time you see an object in your path, it may be too late to stop without hitting it.

Here are some things that limit how well you can see and hints you can follow to be a safer driver.

  • Darkness - It is harder to see at night. You must be closer to an object to see it at night than during the day. You must be able to stop within the distance you can see ahead with your headlights. Your headlights will let you see about 400 feet ahead. You should drive at a speed that allows you to stop within this distance or about 50 mph.
  • Rain, fog or snow - In a very heavy rain, snowstorm or thick fog, you may not be able to see much more than 200 feet ahead. When you cannot see any farther than that, you cannot safely drive faster than 30 mph. In a very heavy downpour, you may not be able to see well enough to drive. If this happens, pull off the road in a safe place and wait until it clears.
  • Hills and curves - You may not know what is on the other side of a hill or just around a curve, even if you have driven the road many times. If a vehicle is stalled on the road just over a hill or around a curve, you must be able to stop. Whenever you come to a hill or curve where you cannot see over or around, adjust your speed so you can stop if necessary.
  • Parked vehicles - Vehicles parked along the side of the road may block your view. People may be ready to get out of a vehicle or walk out from between parked vehicles. Give parked vehicles as much room as you can.
  • Sight-distance rule - Drive at a speed where you can always safely stop. To tell if you are driving too fast for conditions, use the "Four Second Sight Distance Rule." Pick out a stationary object as far ahead as you can clearly see (e.g. a sign or a telephone pole). Start counting "one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, four-one-thousand." If you reach the object before you finish saying "four-one-thousand," you need to slow down. You are going too fast for your sight-distance. You must not drive faster than the distance you can see. If you do,

You should also use the "Four Second Sight Distance Rule" at night
"over-driving your headlights."

Speed limits - You must comply with speed limits. They are based on the design of the road, and the type of vehicles that use them. They take into account things you cannot see, such as side roads and driveways where people may pull out suddenly, and the amount of traffic that uses the road.

Remember, speed limits are posted for ideal conditions. If the road is wet or icy, if you cannot see well or if traffic is heavy, then you must slow down. Even if you are driving under the posted speed limit, you can get a ticket for traveling too fast under these conditions.

Sharing Space

You always must share the road with others. The more distance you keep between yourself and everyone else, the more time you have to react. This space is like a safety cushion. The more you have, the safer it can be. This section describes how to make sure you have enough space around you when you drive.

Space Ahead

Rear-end crashes are very common. They are caused from drivers following too closely to be able to stop before hitting the vehicle ahead when it suddenly stops. There is an easy way to tell if you are following too closely. It is called the "two-second rule," and it works at any speed.

  • Watch for when the rear of the vehicle ahead passes a sign, pole or any other stationary point.
  • Count the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot. ("One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two.")
  • You are following too closely if you pass the mark before you finish counting.
  • If so, drop back and then count again at another spot to check the new following distance. Repeat until you are following no closer "two seconds."

There are situations where you need more space in front of your vehicle. In the following situations, you may need a four second following distance to be safe.

  • On slippery roads - Because you need more distance to stop your vehicle on slippery roads, you must leave more space in front of you. If the vehicle ahead suddenly stops, you will need the extra distance to stop safely.
  • When the driver behind you wants to pass - Slow down to allow room in front of your vehicle. Slowing also will allow the pass to be completed sooner0
  • When following motorcycles - If the motorcycle should fall, you need extra distance to avoid the rider. The chances of a fall are greatest on wet or icy roads, gravel roads or metal surfaces such as bridges, gratings or streetcar or railroad tracks.
  • When following drivers who cannot see you - The drivers of trucks, buses, vans or vehicles pulling campers or trailers may not be able to see you when you are directly behind them. They could stop suddenly without knowing you are there. Large vehicles also block your view of the road ahead. Falling back allows you more room to see ahead.
  • When you have a heavy load or are pulling a trailer - The extra weight increases your stopping distance.
  • When it is hard for you to see - When it is hard for you to see ahead because of darkness or bad weather, you need to increase your following distance.
  • When being followed closely - If you are being followed closely, you should allow extra room by reducing speed to encourage the driver behind to pass. You will then be able to stop without being hit from behind.
  • When following emergency vehicles - Police vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks need more room to operate.
  • When approaching railroad crossings - Leave extra room for vehicles required to come to a stop at railroad crossings, including transit buses, school buses or vehicles carrying hazardous materials.
  • When stopped on a hill or incline - Leave extra space when stopped on a hill or incline. The vehicle ahead may roll back when it starts up.

Space Behind

It is not always easy to maintain a safe distance behind your vehicle. However, you can help keep the driver at a safe distance by keeping a steady speed and signaling in advance when you have to slow down or turn.

  • Stopping to pick up or let off passengers - Try to find a safe place out of traffic to stop.
  • Parallel parking - If you want to parallel park and there is traffic coming behind you, put on your turn signal, pull next to the space and allow following vehicles to pass before you park.
  • Driving slowly - When you have to drive so slowly that you slow down other vehicles, pull to the side of the road when safe to do so and let them pass. There are "turnout" areas on some two lane roads you can use. Other two lane roads sometimes have "passing lanes."
  • Being tailgated - Every now and then you may find yourself being followed closely or "tailgated" by another driver. If you are being followed too closely and there is a right lane, move over to the right. If there is no right lane, wait until the road ahead is clear then reduce speed slowly. This will encourage the tailgater to drive around you. Never slow down quickly to discourage a tailgater, all that does is increase your risk of being hit from behind.

Space to the Side

You need space on both sides of your vehicle to have room to turn or change lanes.

  • Avoid driving next to other vehicles on multi-lane roads. Someone may crowd your lane or try to change lanes and pull into you. Move ahead or drop back of the other vehicle.
  • Keep as much space as you can between yourself and oncoming vehicles. On a two lane road, this means not crowding the center line. In general, it is safest to drive in the center of your lane.
  • Make room for vehicles entering on a roadway that has two or more lanes. If there is no one next to you, move over a lane.
  • Keep extra space between your vehicle and parked cars. Someone could step out from a parked vehicle or from between vehicles, or a parked vehicle could pull out.
  • Give extra space to pedestrians or bicycles, especially children. They can move into your path quickly and without warning. Do not share a lane with a pedestrian or bicyclist. Wait until it is safe to pass in the adjoining lane.
  • "Split the difference." Split the difference between two hazards. For example, steer a middle course between oncoming and parked vehicles. However, if one is more dangerous than the other, leave a little more space on the dangerous side. In this example, if the oncoming vehicle is a tractor-trailer, leave a little more room on the side that the truck will pass.
  • When possible, take potential hazards one at a time. For example, if you are overtaking a bicycle and an oncoming vehicle is approaching, slow down and let the vehicle pass first so that you can give extra room to the bicycle.

Anytime you want to merge with other traffic, you need a gap of about four seconds. If you move into the middle of a four second gap, both you and the vehicle that is now behind you have a two-second following distance. You need a four-second gap whenever you change lanes, enter a roadway or when your lane merges with another travel lane.

  • Do not try to merge into a gap that is too small. A small gap can quickly become even smaller. Enter a gap that gives you a big enough space cushion to be safe.
  • If you want to cross several lanes, take them one at a time. Like going up or down stairs one step at a time, it is safest and easiest to merge one lane at a time. It is very difficult to determine that all the lanes are free and safe to cross. If you wait until all the lanes are clear, you can tie up traffic and even cause a crash.

Space to Cross or Enter

When you cross traffic, you need a large enough gap to get all the way across the road. When you enter traffic, you need enough space to first turn and then to get up to speed.

  • When you cross traffic, you need room to get all the way across. Stopping halfway across is only safe when there is a median divider large enough for your vehicle. Do not stop in a divider where part of your vehicle is sticking into traffic.
  • If you are turning left, make sure there are no vehicles or pedestrians blocking your path. You do not want to be caught waiting for a path to clear while stuck across a lane that has vehicles coming towards you.
  • Even if you have the green light, do not start across the intersection if there are vehicles blocking your way. If you are caught in the intersection when the light changes to red, you will block other traffic. You can get a ticket for blocking an intersection.
  • Never assume another driver will share space with you or give you space. For example, do not turn just because an approaching vehicle has a turn signal on. The driver may plan to turn after they pass your vehicle or may have forgotten to turn the signal off from a prior turn. This is particularly true of motorcycles as their signals often do not cancel by themselves. Wait until the other driver actually starts to turn and then go if it is safe to do so.

Space to Pass

Whenever signs or road markings permit you to pass, you will have to judge whether you have enough room to pass safely. Do not count on having enough time to pass several vehicles at once. Be safe. As a general rule only pass one vehicle at a time.

  • Oncoming vehicles - At a speed of 55 mph, you need about 10 seconds to pass. That means you need a 10 second gap in oncoming traffic and sight-distance to pass. You must judge whether you will have enough space to pass safely.

At 55 mph you will travel over 800 feet in 10 seconds. So will an oncoming vehicle. That means you need over 1600 feet or about one-third of a mile to pass safely. It is hard to judge the speed of oncoming vehicles at this distance. They do not seem to be coming as fast as they really are. A vehicle that is far away generally appears to be standing still. In fact, if you can actually see that it is coming closer, it may be too close for you to pass. If you are not sure, wait to pass until you are sure that there is enough space.

Hills and curves - You have to be able to see at least one-third of a mile or about 10 seconds ahead. Anytime your view is blocked by a curve or a hill, you should assume that there is an oncoming vehicle just out of sight. Therefore, you should treat a curve or a hill as you do an oncoming vehicle. This means you should not start to pass if you are within one-third of a mile of a hill or curve.

Intersections - It is dangerous and unlawful to pass where a vehicle is likely to enter or cross the road. Such places include intersections, railroad crossings and shopping center entrances. While you are passing, your view of people, vehicles or trains can be blocked by the vehicle you are passing. Also, drivers turning right into the approaching lane will not expect to find you approaching in their lane. They may not even look your way before turning.

Lane restrictions - Before you pass, look ahead for road conditions and traffic that may cause other vehicles to move into your lane. You might lose your space for passing because of:

  • people or bicyclists near the road,
  • a narrow bridge or other situation that causes reduced lane width, or
  • a patch of ice, pot hole or something on the road.

Space to return - Do not pass unless you have enough space to return to the driving lane. Do not count on other drivers to make room for you.

Railroad grade crossing - Do not pass if there is a railroad grade crossing ahead.

Before you return to the driving lane, be sure to leave enough room between yourself and the vehicle you have passed. When you can see both headlights of the vehicle you just passed in your rear-view mirror, it is safe to return to the driving lane.

Space for Special Situations

There are certain drivers and other road users you should give extra room. Some are listed here.

Those who cannot see you - Anyone who cannot see you may enter your path without knowing you are there.

Those who could have trouble seeing you include:

  • drivers at intersections or driveways whose view is blocked by buildings, trees or other vehicles
  • drivers backing into the roadway or backing into or pulling out of parking spaces
  • drivers whose windows are covered with snow or ice or are steamed-up,
  • pedestrians with umbrellas in front of their faces or with their hats pulled down.

People who are distracted - Even when others can see you, allow extra room or be extra cautious if you think they may be distracted.

People who may be distracted include:

  • delivery persons
  • construction workers
  • children or drivers who are not paying attention to their driving

People who may be confused:
People who are confused may cause an unsafe situation.

People who may be confused include:

  • tourists or others who do not seem to know where they are going
  • drivers who slow down for what seems like no reason
  • drivers looking for street signs or house numbers

Drivers in trouble - If another driver makes a mistake, do not make it worse. Drivers who pass you when they do not have enough room, for example. Slow down and let them return to the drive lane safely. If another driver needs to suddenly change lanes, slow down and let them merge. These gestures will keep traffic moving smoothly and safely.

Separate Risks

Another defensive driving technique is to separate risks. Take risks one at a time whenever possible. For example, suppose that you IDENTIFIED some joggers running on the edge of the road and an oncoming truck. You PREDICT that you, the oncoming vehicle, and the joggers will all meet at about the same time. To separate risks, make a DECISION to speed up or slow down in order to pass the joggers before or after the truck. Finally, EXECUTE your decision and pass the truck and the joggers one at a time. You controlled the space to the sides by separating the risks. This gives you space to move in case of an emergency.

Compromise Space

A final defensive driving technique is compromise. When you cannot separate risks and must deal with two or more at the same time, compromise by giving the most room to the worst danger. For example, suppose you are on a two lane street and there are oncoming cars to your left and a child riding a bike to your right. Since the child is more likely to move suddenly than the oncoming cars, the child is the greater danger and you need a larger space cushion to the right. Move closer to the center line and oncoming car to create a bigger space cushion to the right. Although if traffic permits, the safest action would be to pass the bicyclist after the oncoming car passes the bicyclist.

Sharing The Road With Large Trucks And Buses

Due to their size, large trucks and buses present unique problems to motorists who share the highway with them. A loaded truck with good tires and properly adjusted brakes traveling at 55 miles per hour on a clear, dry roadway requires a minimum of 290 feet to come to a complete stop. Buses may require a minimum of 300 feet to come to a complete stop.

Trucks and buses require more room than automobiles to execute turns, make lane changes, and for other driving maneuvers.

Trucks and buses have blind spots called No-Zones. No-Zones are the areas around trucks and buses where cars (1) "disappear" into blind spots or (2) are so close that they restrict the truck or bus driver's ability to stop or maneuver safely.

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Points To Remember

Backing Up

When a truck is backing up, it sometimes must temporarily block the street to maneuver its trailer accurately. Buses are not backed up unless it is absolutely necessary. Never pass close behind a truck that is preparing to back up or is in the process of backing up. Remember, most trailers and buses are 8 1/2 feet wide and can completely hide objects that suddenly come between them and a loading area. So if you try to pass behind the truck or bus, you enter a (NO-ZONE) blind spot for you and the truck or bus driver.


Another No-Zone is just in front of trucks and buses. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to cut in too soon and slow down after passing. Because of their size and weight, trucks and buses need a much greater distance to stop than cars. If you don't give them enough space, you run the risk of being hit from behind. So be sure to maintain a consistent speed when passing and don't pull in front of a truck or bus until you can see the entire front of the vehicle in your rear-view mirror.

Rear Blind Spots

Unlike automobiles, trucks and buses have deep blind spots directly behind them. If you tailgate, not only do you make it impossible for a driver to see you, but you also cut off your own view of traffic flow. Staying in this No-Zone is almost like inviting a collision.

An additional potential hazard is created if the truck or bus blows a tire and you are following too closely. The debris may strike your vehicle and cause damage to your vehicle, loss of control, bodily injury, or death.

Side Blind Spots

Trucks and buses have much larger blind spots on both sides than cars do. When you travel in these blind spots for any length of time, you can't be seen by the driver. If the truck or bus driver needs to make an emergency maneuver or change lanes, they won't be able to see you and a crash could result. Trucks also have an additional blind spot, which begins at the right side mirror and continues forward to the bumper.

Wide Turns

Because of their size, trucks and buses need to move to the left lane in order to make a right turn. This is not an invitation for you to squeeze in on the right side. When making a wide turn, truck and bus drivers can't see vehicles directly behind or beside them. Remember, if you can't see the driver in the driver's mirrors, the driver can't see you.


Merging traffic should keep moving and enter highways at the same speed as the existing traffic flow. Do not merge in front of a truck or bus and then slow down. Remember, trucks and buses are unable to slow down as quickly as four wheel vehicles.

Trucks and buses do not accelerate at the same rate as automobiles. If a truck or bus has to stop on an acceleration lane when entering a freeway, it requires a long distance for the truck or bus to reach merging speed. Automobile drivers can assist the truck and bus drivers who are entering a freeway by maintaining the proper speed for the flow of traffic. This enables trucks and buses to smoothly enter the freeway. The truck or bus driver can then maintain speed and avoid having to stop.

Runaway Truck Ramps

Occasionally, trucks and buses lose their ability to brake. This is especially dangerous in mountainous terrain. In order to prevent serious accidents from occurring due to out-of-control vehicles, runaway truck ramps have been built. Never park on the ramp or even in the entrance. Not only is this illegal, it is inviting disaster. You may be depriving a driver of the chance to survive by denying him or her access to the runaway ramp. One indication of a runaway truck or bus is smoke coming from the brakes. So if you see a truck or bus with smoke coming from their brakes, get out of the way and/or do not get in front of the vehicle.

Construction Areas

Exercise extreme caution and courtesy in construction areas. Under normal conditions, highways are sign posted and the lanes are clearly marked. In construction areas, these items may not exist. Do not suddenly pull in front of a truck or bus and stop abruptly. The truck or bus driver may not see you or may not be able to stop in time.

Bus Related Issues

Inter-city buses make frequent stops. If you do not want to get caught behind a bus when they make a stop, then "Read the Road" ahead. If you see a bus ahead of you, move to another lane of traffic before the bus stops. Additionally, if you are passing a parked bus, do so with care as the bus may start to move out into your

Another important consideration is to remember that as with school buses, children have been known to run in front of inter-city buses and in front of on-coming traffic. Drivers should also be alert for pedestrians running to catch a bus. In summary, be cautious when passing a parked bus and be on the lookout for pedestrians running in front of your vehicle.

Articulated buses present an additional hazard due to tail swing, where the rear of the bus "swings" out into traffic. The swing on the articulated buses is approximately 3 feet. Allow enough room between your vehicle and the rear of articulated buses

Generally speaking, the bigger they are:

  • The bigger their blind spots
  • The more room they need to maneuver
  • The longer it takes them to stop
  • The longer it takes them to accelerate
  • The longer it takes to pass them
  • The more likely you're going to be the loser in a collision.

Remember: the smaller the vehicle you are driving, the harder it is for truck and bus drivers to see you.

Let's share the road safely with large trucks and buses. Don't Hang out in the No-Zone. Exercise courtesy and common sense when driving.

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Be In Shape To Drive

Driving safely is not always easy. In fact, it is one of the most complex things that people do. It also is one of the few things we do regularly that can injure or kill us. It is worth the effort to be a careful driver.

Being a safe driver takes a lot of skill and judgment. This task is even more difficult when you are just learning to drive. Driving can easily take every ability you have. If anything happens so you are not up to your ability, you may not be a safe driver. Your ability to be a safe driver depends on being able to see clearly, not being overly tired, not driving while on drugs, being generally healthy and being emotionally fit to drive. In other words, being "shape" to drive safely.

Vision And Hearing


Good vision is a must for safe driving. You drive based on what you see. If you cannot see clearly, you will have trouble identifying traffic and road conditions, spotting potential trouble or reacting in a timely manner.

Vision is so important that South Dakota requires that you pass a vision test before you get a driver's license. To qualify for a driver's license without restrictions, an applicant shall score 20/40 or better with both eyes, but no worse than 20/50 in either eye.

Other important aspects of vision are:

Side vision - You need to see "out the corner of your eye." This lets you spot vehicles and other potential trouble on either side of you while you look ahead. Because you cannot focus on things to the side, you also must use your side mirrors and glance to

Judging distances and speeds - Even if you can see clearly, you still may not be able to judge distances or speeds very well. In fact, you are not alone, many people have problems judging distances and speeds. It takes a lot of practice to be able to judge both. It is especially important in knowing how far you are from other vehicles and judging safe gaps when merging and when passing on two lane roads, or when judging the speed of a train before crossing tracks safely.

Night vision - Many people who can see clearly in the daytime have trouble seeing at night. It is more difficult for everyone to see at night than in the daytime. Some drivers have problems with glare while driving at night, especially with the glare of oncoming headlights. If you have problems seeing at night, don't drive more than is necessary and be very careful when you do.

Because seeing well is so important to safe driving, you should have your eyes checked every year or two by an eye specialist. You may never know you have poor vision unless your eyes are tested.

If you need to wear glasses or contact lenses for driving, remember to:

  • Always wear them when you drive, even if it is only to run down to the corner. If your driver license says you must wear corrective lenses, you could get a ticket if you are stopped by law enforcement and you are not wearing them.
  • Try to keep an extra pair of glasses in your vehicle. If your regular glasses are broken or lost, you can use the spare pair to drive safely. This also can be helpful if you do not wear glasses all the time as it is easy to misplace them.
  • Avoid using dark glasses or tinted contact lenses at night, even if you think they help with glare. The problem is that they cut down the light that you need to see clearly.


Hearing can be helpful to safe driving. The sound of horns, a siren or screeching tires can warn you of danger. Hearing problems, like bad eyesight, can come on so slowly that you do not notice it. Drivers who know they are deaf or have hearing problems can adjust and be safe drivers. These drivers learn to rely more on their vision and tend to stay more alert. Studies have shown that the driving records of hearing impaired drivers are just as good as those drivers with good hearing.


You cannot drive as safely when you are tired as when you are rested. You do not see as well, nor are you as alert. It takes you more time to make decisions and you do not always make good decisions. You can be more irritable and can get upset more easily. When you are tired, you could fall asleep behind the wheel and crash, injuring or killing yourself or others.

There are things you can do to help from getting tired on a long trip:

  • Try to get a normal night's sleep before you leave.
  • Do not leave on a trip if you are already tired. Plan your trips so you can leave when you are rested.
  • Do not take any medicine that can make you drowsy.
  • Eat lightly. Do not eat a large meal before you leave. Some people get sleepy after they eat a big meal.
  • Take breaks. Stop every hour or so or when you need to. Walk around, get some fresh air and have some coffee, soda or juice. The few minutes spent on a rest break can save your life. Plan for plenty of time to complete your trip safely.
  • Try not to drive late at night when you are normally asleep. Your body thinks it is time to go to sleep and will try to do so.
  • Never drive if you are sleepy. It is better to stop and sleep for a few hours than to take a chance you can stay awake. If possible, switch driving tasks with another driver so you can sleep while they drive.

Drinking And Driving

Alcohol is involved in about 40% of the traffic crashes in which someone is killed. If you drink alcohol, even a little, your chances of being in an accident are much greater than if you did not drink any alcohol.

No one can drink alcohol and drive safely, even if you have been driving for many years. New drivers are more affected by alcohol than experienced drivers because they are still learning to drive. Small amounts of alcohol are likely to increase the number of errors dramatically.

Because drinking alcohol and then driving is so dangerous, the penalties are very tough. People who drive after drinking risk heavy fines, higher insurance rates, loss of license and even jail sentences.

Why is Drinking and Driving so Dangerous?

Alcohol reduces all of the important skills you need to drive safely. Alcohol goes from your stomach into your blood and to all parts of your body. It reaches your brain in 20 to 40 minutes. Alcohol affects those areas of your brain that control judgment and skill. This is one reason why drinking alcohol is so dangerous; it affects your judgment. Good judgment is important to driving but in this case, judgment helps you to know when to stop drinking. In a way, it's like alcohol puts good judgment on hold. You do not know when you have had too much to drink until it is too late. It is a little like a sunburn, by the time you feel it, it is already too late.

Alcohol slows your reflexes and reaction time, reduces your ability to see clearly and makes you less alert. As the amount of alcohol in your body increases, your judgment worsens and your skills decrease. You will have trouble judging distances, speeds and the movement of other vehicles. You will also have trouble controlling your vehicle.

When alcohol reaches the stomach, it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. As more and more alcohol is absorbed, the percentage of alcohol in the blood gets higher and higher. A person may feel the effects of alcohol shortly after starting to drink. The effects will increase with the passage of time since it takes 30 to 40 minutes to totally absorb the alcohol contained in a single drink. Food or milk in the stomach slows absorption. At the end of a two hour period, however, it won't matter if you had been drinking on a full stomach or not. If two persons of equal weight drink the same amount, they will have about the same Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at the end of the two hour period. TIME IS THE ONLY SIGNIFICANT FACTOR IN REDUCING BAC LEVELS.

Approximately 90% of the alcohol is eliminated from the body by the liver. It is eliminated at a constant rate and this rate is about the same for all persons. This rate is equal to just about one drink per hour. It can NOT be speeded up. SHOWERING, DRINKING COFFEE, OR EXERCISING IN AN EFFORT TO SOBER UP ARE USELESS. Nothing you do can make your liver work any faster. Only time can do the job.

If You Drink, When Can You Drive?

The best advice is if you drink alcohol, do not drive. Even one drink of alcohol can affect your driving. With two or more drinks in your bloodstream, you are impaired and could be arrested.

An alcohol drink is a 1 1/2 oz. of 80-proof liquor (one shot glass) straight or with a mixer, 12 oz. of beer (a regular size can, bottle, mug or glass) or a 5 oz. glass of wine. Specialty drinks can have more alcohol in them and are the same as having several normal drinks.

It takes about an hour for your body to get rid of each drink. So even if you have spread out your drinks, you should stop drinking at least one hour before you have to drive. There is no way to sober up quickly. Coffee, fresh air, exercise or cold showers will not help. Time is the only thing that will sober you up.

There are ways of dealing with social drinking situations. Arrange to go with two or more persons and agree which one of you will not drink alcohol. You can rotate among the group being a "designated driver." You can use public transportation or use a cab, if available.

There are ways to slow down the effects of drinking alcohol. The best is to increase the amount of time between drinks. Another is to eat before and while you are drinking. Food slows down how fast alcohol gets into your blood. Starchy foods like potato chips, pretzels, bread and crackers are best. Remember, food only slows when the alcohol gets into your blood, it will not keep you from getting drunk.

Effects of Body Weight

As indicated before, the amount of alcohol in the blood is called Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC. For example, a BAC of .02% means that for every 100 ounces of blood in the body there are .02 ounces of alcohol. Also, a BAC of .08% means that for every 100 ounces of blood there are .10 ounces of alcohol. The alcohol is diluted by the blood and all of the other body fluids. Heavier people have more blood and body fluids which dilute a given amount of alcohol more than a lighter person's blood and fluids. If a heavy person and light person drank the same amount of alcohol, the heavy person would have a lower BAC because there is more body fluid to dilute the alcohol.

Many people think that drunkenness is determined by outward signs. They have in mind individuals who stagger, slobber, or put lamp shades on their heads. These acts may reflect drunkenness, but there are individuals who regularly drink to relatively high BAC's and do not show any of the outward signs. Even though they compensate and cover up their drunkenness, they increase their chances of being in a crash if they drive with a BAC of .05% or higher. AS A PERSON'S BAC RISES, THEIR ABILITY TO JUDGE AND MAKE ACCURATE DECISIONS IN TRAFFIC BECOMES MORE AND MORE IMPAIRED.

Effects on Decision Making

Alcohol seriously impairs the ability to judge and make accurate decisions because the ability to IDENTIFY, PREDICT, DECIDE and EXECUTE is seriously reduced.

1) IDENTIFY: The sharpness and clarity of senses such as vision, hearing and body position are reduced. Studies show that a person's ability to detect hazards in a pattern of traffic is seriously affected. There is a tendency for impaired drivers to fix their vision on a particular object. The ability to detect persons and vehicles to the side is almost completely lost. Other studies show loss of distance judgment and hearing. The impairment of deep muscle feelings causes persons with relatively high BAC's to lose their sense of body position. With increasing impairment, drivers may fade across the center line, wander from lane to lane, or even run off the roadway.


2) PREDICT: Driving with the reduced ability to see, hear, and feel body position is at best hazardous. You know that drivers must predict what other vehicles could do to cause them problems. Increasing amounts of alcohol change the predictions that a driver makes.


3) DECIDE: It is little wonder that decisions based on faulty sense, faulty judgments, and poor predictions are likely to be wrong. A false sense of confidence and lack of good judgment cause the person to lose the ability to make the critical decision to stop drinking. The same false confidence and lack of good judgment lead to highly questionable decisions in emergency situations.


4) EXECUTE: In demonstrations using driving simulators, test subjects often turned left when they thought they were turning right. They jammed on the accelerator when they thought they were applying the brakes. This happened even though the persons being tested were sober by outward appearances and legal definition. Their BACs were between .05% and .09% when the errors were made. Other experiments have shown that reaction time can increase by two-fifths of a second even with a BAC as low as .05%. When traveling at 55 m.p.h., a vehicle will travel an additional 32 feet before the impaired driver can start to slow. Even at lower speeds, the two-fifths of a second could make the difference between a near miss and a crash.


Alcohol And The Law

You are not allowed to buy alcohol unless you are 21 years of age. If you are arrested for drinking and driving, the penalties are severe. If you are placed under arrest for DWI or, if under 21, for Zero Tolerance (.02 to .08 BAC) by the police, you may be asked to take a chemical test to determine your BAC. Under the "IMPLIED CONSENT LAW," you give your consent for a chemical test whenever you drive on a public highway. If you refuse, you will lose your driver license for up to one year, unless a hearing determines otherwise. You can lose your license just for refusing to take the test even though you may not have been drinking at all. Your license can be confiscated immediately by the officer. A BAC of .08% (.02% if under 21 years of age) or more is evidence that you were driving under the influence of alcohol. You can be charged and convicted of DWI or Zero Tolerance even though you do not take a chemical test. UPON CONVICTION OF DWI, YOU MUST PRESENT AN SR-22 "INSURANCE FILING" TO THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND MAINTAIN THIS INSURANCE FOR 3 YEARS FROM THE CONVICTION DATE OF THE VIOLATION. The penalties for driving under the influence are:

ZERO TOLERANCE (Under 21, .02% or more BAC)

First Offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine and a 6-month loss of your driver license.

Second or Subsequent Offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine and a 1-year loss of your driver license.

DWI (.08% or more BAC)

First offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine up to $1,000, imprisonment up to one year, or both. You will also lose your driver license for a minimum of 30 days.

Second offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment up to one year, or both, and loss of driver license for a minimum of one year. If such person is convicted of driving without a license during that period, he shall be sentenced to the county jail for not less than three days, which may not be suspended.

Third offense is a Class 6 felony which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment up to two years, and loss of driver license for no less than one year (after release from incarceration). If such person is convicted of driving without a license during that period, he shall be sentenced to the county jail for not less than ten days, which may not be suspended.

Small amounts of alcohol are likely to increase the number or errors dramatically.


Other Drugs And Driving

Besides alcohol, there are many other drugs that can affect a person's ability to drive safely. These drugs can have effects like those of alcohol, or even worse. This is true of many prescription drugs and even many of the drugs you can buy without a prescription. Drugs taken for headaches, colds, hay fever or other allergies or those to calm nerves can make a person drowsy and affect their driving. Pep pills, "uppers" and diet pills can make a driver feel more alert for a short time. Later, however, they can cause a person to be nervous, dizzy, unable to concentrate, and they can affect your vision. Other prescription drugs can affect your reflexes, judgment, vision, and alertness in ways similar to

If you are driving, check the label before you take a drug for warnings about its effect. If you are not sure it is safe to take the drug and drive, ask your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects.

Never drink alcohol while you are taking other drugs. These drugs could multiply the effects of alcohol or have additional effects of their own. These effects not only reduce your ability to be a safe driver but could cause serious health problems, even death.

Illegal drugs are not good for your health and affect your ability to be a safe driver. For example, studies have shown that people who use marijuana make more mistakes, have more trouble adjusting to glare, and get arrested for traffic violations more than other drivers.


Many health problems can affect your driving - a bad cold, infection, or virus. Even little problems like a stiff neck, a cough, or a sore leg can affect your driving. If you are not feeling well and need to go somewhere, let someone else drive.

Some conditions can be very dangerous:

  • Epilepsy - So long as it is under medical control, epilepsy generally is not dangerous.
  • Diabetes - Diabetics who take insulin should not drive when there is any chance of an insulin reaction, blackout, convulsion or shock. Such a situation could result from skipping a meal or snack or from taking the wrong amount of insulin. It also might be a good idea to have someone else drive for you during times when your doctor is adjusting your insulin dosage. If you have diabetes, you also should have your eyes checked regularly for possible night blindness or other vision problems.
  • Heart condition - People with heart diseases, high blood pressure, or circulation problems or those in danger of a blackout, fainting, or having a heart attack should not get behind the wheel. If you are being treated by a doctor for a heart condition, ask if the condition could affect your driving safety.


Emotions can have a great effect on your driving safely. You may not be able to drive well if you are overly worried, excited, afraid, angry, or depressed.

  • If you are angry or excited, give yourself time to cool off. If necessary, take a short walk, but stay off the road until you have calmed down.
  • If you are worried, down or are upset about something, try to keep your mind on your driving. Some find listening to the radio helps.
  • If you are impatient, give yourself extra time for your driving trip. Leave a few minutes early. If you have plenty of time, you may not tend to speed or do other things that can get you a traffic ticket or cause a crash. Don't be impatient to wait for a train to cross in front of you. Driving around lowered gates or trying to beat the train can be fatal.

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All drivers sooner or later will find themselves in an emergency situation. As careful as you are, there are situations that could cause a problem for you. If you are prepared, you may be able to prevent any serious outcomes.

Vehicle Emergencies

There is always a chance of a vehicle problem while driving. You should follow the recommended maintenance schedule listed in the vehicle owner's manual. Following these preventive measures greatly reduces the chance your vehicle will have a problem. Possible vehicle failures and what you can do if they happen are listed below.

Brake Failure

If your brakes stop working:

  1. Pump the brake pedal several times. This will often build up enough brake pressure to allow you to stop.
  2. If that does not work, use the parking brake. Pull on the parking brake handle slowly so you will not lock the rear wheels and cause a skid. Be ready to release the brake if the vehicle does start to skid.
  3. If that does not work, start shifting to lower gears and look for a safe place to slow to a stop. Make sure the vehicle is off the roadway. Do not drive the vehicle without brakes.

Tire Blowout

If a tire suddenly goes flat:

  1. Hold the steering wheel tightly and keep the vehicle going straight.
  2. Slow down gradually. Take your foot off the gas pedal and use the brakes lightly.
  3. Do not stop on the road if at all possible. Pull off the road in a safe place.

Power Failure

If the engine dies while you are driving:

  • Keep a strong grip on the steering wheel. Be aware that the steering may be difficult to turn, but you can turn it.
  • Pull off the roadway. The brakes will still work but you may have to push very hard on the brake pedal.

Headlight Failure

If your headlights suddenly go out:

  1. Try the headlight switch a few times.
  2. If that does not work, put on the emergency flashers, turn signals or fog lights if you have them.
  3. Pull off the road as soon as possible.

Gas Pedal Sticks

The motor keeps going faster and faster:

  1. Keep your eyes on the road.
  2. Quickly shift to neutral.
  3. Pull off the road when safe to do so.
  4. Turn off the engine.

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Avoiding Collisions

When it looks like a collision may happen, many drivers panic and fail to act. In some cases they do act, but they do something that does not help to reduce the chance of the collision. There almost always is something you can do to avoid the crash or reduce the impact of the crash. In avoiding a collision, drivers have three options: stop, turn or speed up.

Stopping Quickly

Many newer vehicles have an ABS (Antilock Braking System). Be sure to read the vehicle owner's manual on how to use the ABS. The ABS system will allow you stop without skidding. In general, if you need to stop quickly:

With ABS - If you have an antilock braking system and you need to stop quickly:

  1. Press on the brake pedal as hard as you can and keep pressing on it.
  2. You might feel the brake pedal pushing back when the ABS is working. Do not let-up on the brake pedal. The ABS system will only work with the brake pedal pushed down.

Without ABS - If you must stop quickly and you do not have an antilock braking system:

  1. You can cause the vehicle to go into a skid if you brake too hard.
  2. Apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking them.
  3. If the brakes lock-up, you will feel the vehicle start to skid. Quickly let up on the brake pedal.
  4. As soon as the vehicle stops skidding, push down on the brake pedal again. Keep doing this until the vehicle has stopped.

Turning Quickly

In most cases, you can turn the vehicle quicker than you can stop it. You should consider turning in order to avoid a collision.

Make sure you have a good grip with both hands on the steering wheel. Once you have turned away or changed lanes, you must be ready to keep the vehicle under control. Some drivers steer away from one collision only to end up in another. Always steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go.

With ABS - One aspect of having ABS, is that you can turn your vehicle while braking without skidding. This is very helpful if you must turn and stop or slow down.

Without ABS - If you do not have ABS, you must use a different procedure to turn quickly. You should step on the brake pedal, then let-up and turn the steering wheel. Braking will slow the vehicle, put more weight on the front tires, and allow for a quicker turn. Do not lock-up the front wheels while braking or turn so sharply that the vehicle can only plow ahead.

Remember that, generally, it is better to run off the road than to crash head-on into another vehicle.

Road Construction - Special care is needed whenever the normal pattern of highway traffic is changed by construction. A flagperson may be stationed on the shoulder of the road near the work site to protect the lives of the traveling public and the highway workers. If the flagperson directs you to stop, do not proceed until you are directed to do so. Drive slowly and keep alert for workers or equipment that may enter into the traffic stream, causing you to slow or change lanes.

When driving in construction, stay in your lane and never cut off a car or truck trying to merge into a narrow construction zone.

Wheels Off Road - If you should run off the road, there are certain things you can do which may save your life:

  1. Don't panic.
  2. Grip the steering wheel tightly and be prepared to withstand sudden shocks.
  3. Stay on the shoulder. Ease off the accelerator.
  4. Brake gently and slow gradually.
  5. After speed has been reduced, check behind as well as ahead for oncoming traffic.
  6. Turn back onto the pavement.

Speeding Up

Sometimes it is best or necessary to speed up to avoid a collision. This may happen when another vehicle is about to hit you from the side or from behind and there is room to the front of you to get out of danger. Be sure to slow down once the danger has passed.

Dealing With Skids

Any road that is safe under normal conditions can be dangerous when it is wet or has snow or ice on it. High speeds under normal conditions also increase the possibility of a skid if you must turn or stop suddenly. Skids are caused when the tires can no longer grip the road. As you cannot control a vehicle when it is skidding, it is best not to cause your vehicle to skid in the first place. Skids are caused by drivers traveling too fast for conditions.

If your vehicle begins to skid:

Stay off the brake. Until the vehicle slows, your brakes will not work and could cause you to skid more.

Steer. Turn the wheel in the direction you want the vehicle to go. As soon as the vehicle begins to straighten out, turn the steering wheel back the other way. If you do not do so, your vehicle may swing around in the other direction and you could start a new skid.

Continue to steer. Continue to correct your steering, left and right, until the vehicle is again moving down the road under your control.

Protect Yourself In Collisions

You may not always be able to avoid a collision. Try everything you can to keep from getting hit. If nothing works, try to lessen any injuries that could result from the crash. The most important thing you can do is to use your lap and shoulder belts. Besides your safety belts, there are a couple of other things that could help prevent more serious injuries.

Hit From the Rear

If your vehicle is hit from the rear, your body will be thrown backwards. Press yourself against the back of your seat and put your head against the head restraint. Be ready to apply your brakes so you will not be pushed into another vehicle.

Hit From the Side

If your vehicle is hit from the side, your body will be thrown towards the side that is hit. Front air bags will not help in this situation. Your lap and shoulder belts are needed to help keep you behind the wheel. Get ready to steer or brake to prevent your vehicle from hitting something else.

Hit From the Front

If your vehicle is about to be hit from the front, it is important to try and have a "glancing blow" rather than being struck head on. This means that if a collision is going to happen, you should try to turn the vehicle. At worse, you hit with a glancing blow. You might miss it. If your vehicle has an air bag, it will inflate. It also will deflate following the crash, so be ready to prevent your vehicle from hitting something else. You must use your lap and shoulder belts to keep you behind the wheel and to


Do not stop at an accident unless you are involved or if emergency help has not yet arrived. Keep your attention on your driving and keep moving, watching for people who might be in or near the road. Never drive to the scene of an accident, fire, or other disaster just to look. You may block the way for police, firefighters, ambulances, tow trucks, and other rescue vehicles.

No matter how good a driver you are, there may be a time when you are involved in a crash. If you are involved in an accident, you must stop. If you are involved in an accident with a parked vehicle, you must try to locate the owner. If any person is injured or killed, the police must be notified. It is a crime for you to leave a crash site where your vehicle was involved if there is an injury or death before police have talked to you and gotten all the information they need about the crash.

You may want to carry a basic vehicle emergency kit. These kits have emergency flares, first aid supplies and basic tools.

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At the accident scene

  • Stop your vehicle at or near the accident site. If your vehicle can move, get it off the road so that it does not block traffic or cause another crash.
  • Do not stand or walk in traffic lanes. You could be struck by another vehicle.
  • Turn off the ignition of wrecked vehicles. Do not smoke around wrecked vehicles. Fuel could have spilled and fire is a real danger.
  • If there are power lines down with wires in the road, do not go near them.
  • Make sure that other traffic will not be involved in the crash. Use flares or other warning devices to alert traffic of the accident.

If someone is injured

  • Get help. Make sure the police and emergency medical or rescue squad have been called. If there is a fire, tell this to the police when they are called.
  • Do not move the injured unless they are in a burning vehicle or in other immediate danger of being hit by another vehicle. Moving a person can make their injuries worse.
  • First, help anyone who is not already walking and talking. Check for breathing then check for bleeding.
  • If there is bleeding, apply pressure directly on the wound with your hand or with a cloth. Even severe bleeding can almost always be stopped or slowed by putting pressure on the wound.
  • Do not give injured persons anything to drink, not even water.
  • To help prevent an injured person from going into shock, cover them with a blanket or coat to keep them warm.

Report the Accident

  • Get the names and addresses of all people involved in the accident and any witnesses, including injured persons.
  • Exchange information with other drivers involved in the crash (name, address, driver license number, vehicle information, insurance company, and policy number if available).
  • Record any damage to the vehicles involved in the crash.
  • Provide information to the police or other emergency officials if requested.
  • Should the accident involve a parked vehicle, try to find the owner. If you cannot, leave a note in a place where it can be seen with information on how the owner can reach you and the date and time of the accident.
  • You must contact the police if there is an injury, a death, or property damage of $1,000 or more to one person's property or $2,000 per accident. The law requires you to give the police information on the accident at the time of the accident. Notify your own insurance company as soon as possible. If you are injured and unable to complete the report, someone may file it for you.

Damaging Unattended Vehicles

If you damage an unattended vehicle or other property and you cannot locate the owner, contact the nearest law enforcement agency, and leave the following information on a piece of paper where the owner can find it:

  1. Your name, address, and phone number
  2. Driver license number
  3. License plate number
  4. Date and time of accident
  5. Damage to the vehicle

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