Establish a pre-driving routine of all the necessary checks and adjustments
- Check around the car. Make sure your tires have air. Be sure there are no bicycles, children, concrete blocks or other obstacles in your way.
- Lock your doors.
- Adjust your seat. Your right foot should reach the pedal comfortably with your leg bent slightly. You should be able to keep the heel of your right foot on the floor and operate both the gas and brake pedal. The steering wheel should be a minimum of 12 inches from your chest.
- Air bags. Position the seat to keep your head 18" from the airbag. Airbags are designed to protect you while wearing safety belts, not instead of them.
- Always wear your safety belt. Oregon has a mandatory safety belt law. You can be ticketed for not wearing your safety belt. Buckle up for every trip. Keep your safety belt buckled when sitting in parking lots or parked on the side of a road—sometimes other drivers hit parked cars. The belt should fit snugly, low across your hips. Wearing a jacket with a slippery lining may impede the ability of the safety belt to keep the body secure. Consider removing outer wear while riding in the car.
- Adjust the mirrors. After you adjust the seat, adjust the rear-view mirror and outside driver side mirror so you can see cars approaching from behind.
- Adjust the head restraint. Position it directly behind the middle of your head.
- Check ventilation. Adjust the heat, air conditioning or airflow before you start to drive.
- Anything wrong with this car? Remember to check all the gauges—fuel, oil and temperature. Be sure to have service attendants routinely check radiator and oil levels. Keep the car you are driving in good mechanical condition. Vehicles in bad condition are dangerous.
- Use your car's safety features. Using sun visors, door locks and parking brakes make it easier and safer to drive.
- Check passenger safety. Instruct everyone to lock their doors and to buckle their safety belts. You are responsible for their safety.
Once you're on the road
- Drive sober. Alcohol and other drugs slow your reactions and distort perception-and they make you think you are an awesome driver. That's a bad combination!
- Ride with sober drivers. Riding with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs, is dangerous—48 percent of people who die in car crashes are passengers.
- Focus on driving. Don't do anything except drive when you're behind the wheel—not blast the music, talk on the phone, eat, study or put on make-up.
- Be a defensive driver and stay alert. Maintain a following distance of at least 4 seconds (about four car lengths, depending on how fast traffic is moving) between your car and the vehicle in front of you.
- Check side and rear-view mirrors often. Be aware of all traffic surrounding you. Check your rearview mirrors before and after you brake—every time.
- Follow traffic rules and do not drive faster than you can handle.
- Watch your speed. Speed limits are meant to protect human life, especially in school zones and neighborhoods. Nine of 10 children survive when hit by a car moving 20 mph; nine of 10 children die when hit by a car moving 40 mph and five of 10 die when hit by a car moving 30 mph.
- Keep clean. It's much easier to see and be seen when your car's headlights and taillights are clean.
—Adapted from the GDL Handbook, Trauma Nurses Talk Tough