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5 Safe Driving Tips to Protect You on the Road

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Getting behind the wheel may be a part of your daily routine as you run errands or commute to work. The summer months may also have you on the road more often as you travel for vacation.

Keeping yourself and your family safe is a priority, especially given the recent uptick in road-related fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle fatalities increased by 10.5 percent from 2020 to 2021. This marks the highest number of fatalities recorded since 2005 and the biggest annual percentage increase in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The numbers are concerning but adopting some safe driving habits can help to reduce your chances of being involved in an accident. And it could potentially save some money as well if you're able to earn discounts on auto insurance.

What's Behind the Uptick in Vehicle Fatalities

One possible culprit for the uptick in the significant increase in motor vehicle fatalities may be the wave of reopenings that occurred in the second half of 2020, following the lockdowns that marked much of the first and second quarters.

The NHTSA data tracked the number of fatalities each month, with a steady uptick in fatalities beginning in the second quarter. That trend extended through most of 2020 and into January 2021, before the numbers dipped slightly in February. Fatalities jumped sharply again in March 2021 and remained above 2020 figures year-over-year through December.

study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety offers a different perspective. The study, published in February 2022, found that young, male drivers—who statistically present more of a risk—drove proportionally more during the pandemic. Researchers concluded that the higher fatality rates reported between 2020 and 2021 may be attributed to risky behaviors of those drivers, such as speeding, texting, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

How to Drive Safely and Avoid Accidents

Staying home can be a foolproof way to avoid motor vehicle accidents but that usually isn't realistic. Applying some simple driving tips instead can help you to stay safe while you're on the road.

1. Drive defensively, not aggressively

Aggressive driving means driving in a manner that's likely to endanger others or their property. Tailgaiting, brake-checking other drivers or weaving in and out of traffic are examples of aggressive driving tactics that could lead to an accident.

Defensive driving, on the other hand, means taking steps to reduce the risk of an accident. Allowing a sizable gap between yourself and the car in front of you, keeping an eye out for road hazards and slowing down when driving in poor weather are basic defensive driving techniques.

2. Eliminate distractions

Distracted driving is anything that takes your attention off the roadway. That can include texting, talking on the phone, chatting with passengers, changing the radio or even eating while you're behind the wheel.

According to the CDC, nine people are killed in motor vehicle accidents every day caused by distracted driving. You can minimize your risk by staying focused while driving. That means keeping both hands on the wheel and your eyes on your surroundings at all times.

3. Observe speed limits

Speed limits exist for a reason: to encourage safe driving. According to the NHTSA data, fatalities in speed-related crashes increased by 5 percent in 2021.

Driving the speed limit is a simple way to facilitate a safer environment for yourself and your passengers, as well as the other drivers on the road. You can take it a step further by reducing speed in unsafe or poor driving conditions, such as fog, snow or heavy rain, which could make it difficult to see or judge distances between yourself and other vehicles.

4. Wear your seatbelt

Wearing your seatbelt won't reduce your risk of being involved in a crash but it can protect you against serious injury or even death if a wreck happens. Specifically, buckling up in the front seat of a can reduce the risk of a fatality by 45 percent and the risk of a serious injury by 50 percent.

Airbags can help to provide a cushion against injuries if you're involved in an accident but they aren't a substitute for seatbelts. So before heading out, it's important to be sure that you and everyone in your vehicle is belted in. That includes properly securing infants or toddlers in car seats or booster seats that are appropriate for their age and weight.

5. Be mindful of other drivers

There's no way to predict what another driver will do but you could spare yourself a serious accident by keeping a cautious eye on the other vehicles around you. If you see a driver who's speeding or weaving in and out of traffic, for example, you may want to put some distance between your car and theirs. You may also want to report an unsafe driver to law enforcement if you believe they're at significant risk of causing an accident.

Bottom line? You can't count on other drivers to keep you safe on the road. Being conscious and aware is the next best way to minimize your odds of having a serious accident.

Get Rewarded for Safe Driving

Here's one more tip for promoting road safety: consider a usage-based auto insurance policy that incorporates telematics.

Telematics is a special type of technology that collects and stores data about driving habits, such as the time of day you drive, your speed, and the number of miles traveled. Insurers can use this personalized information to better assess your driving risk when setting auto insurance rates.

That's something you can take advantage of with Westfield's MissionSafe driving rewards program. The safer you drive, the more you can save on auto insurance. Find your Westfield agent today to learn how MissionSafe encourages safer driving.