We all know that driving defensively and avoiding distractions can significantly reduce the chances of getting into a car accident. However, proactive measures such as properly maintaining your car can also prevent accidents on the road.
Not a mechanic? Don’t worry. It’s easier than you think.
In fact, there are some simple things you can do—even if you are not mechanically inclined. In fact, a little extra time and observation may ensure that your car runs well enough to reduce a potential traffic accident.
So, what exactly are some of the preventative steps that you can take to reduce road accidents? Let’s examine a few top tactics.
Maintain Your Tires
You don’t want to run a marathon in a pair of flip-flops, right? In a nutshell, your tires are the shoes of your car. They support your vehicle’s weight and serve as the point of contact to the road. Got worn or improperly inflated tires? These are more likely to fail when you need them the most.
A tire blowout can cause you to lose control of your car. Why? Many people don’t know how to react when a tire quickly loses pressure. They may slam on their brakes or jerk the steering wheel sharply to the side. These abrupt behaviors can result in rear-end collisions or T-bone accidents.
Checking your tire pressure is simple. In fact, you can do it at most gas stations. Many fill-up stations have tire-inflating kiosks that check and regulate tire pressure. Not sure what pressure level you need for your tires? Look for a label on the inside of your driver’s side door. If you can’t find anything, then consult your owner’s manual.
While your tire is inflating, look for signs of uneven wear or “balding tires”. As a simple diagnostic, stick a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you see Lincoln’s entire head, it is probably time to replace your tires.
Check Your Windshield Wipers
We’ve all had those moments when a sudden downpour severely limited our visibility. Ineffective windshield wipers can become a serious hazard in adverse weather. While you’re struggling to see past the windshield, you’re also drastically reducing your reaction time.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, of the nearly six million car accidents that occur each year, roughly 20% are weather-related. As many as 46% of these accidents occur during rainstorms.
Checking your windshield wipers is easy. Try to do it at least once a month—especially during rainy or snowy seasons. If you notice worn or cracked wipers, get them replaced. It only takes a minute or two. Some auto parts stores will even replace them if you can’t figure it out.
Make Sure All Your Lights Work
Even one broken or burned out light in your car can cause an accident. Turn signals, brake lights, and reverse lights effectively communicate your intentions while you’re maneuvering on the road. For example, if you signal a turn, then the driver behind you can start slowing down or change lanes. However, when these lights don’t work, other drivers have less time to react.
In addition, burned-out headlights make it harder to distinguish hazards on the road after dark. Likewise, other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians may not notice you as quickly, either.
Routinely enlist the help of someone to make sure that all your car’s lights are working properly. Have someone examine your lights as you put on your hazards, turn signals, brakes, and reverse lights. If a light is not working properly, change the bulb or take it in to get it serviced.
Stay Informed About Any Recalls
You’ve probably heard about car accident safety recalls in the news. Airbags not working properly. Faulty seat belt harnesses. The list goes on and on. Of course, the news isn’t going to report every automobile recall.
When an automobile manufacturer discovers or is found to be responsible for a serious defect in a car’s design, a recall is issued. A recall requires the manufacturer to send an official notice to the owners of a vehicle. From there, you can usually take your car to a dealer service department to have the issue resolved. These repairs are typically free.
If you get a notice, then don’t ignore it. Take the time to schedule the necessary repairs to ensure that your car is running safely and efficiently.
Didn’t receive a recall letter? It still doesn’t hurt to check if your car has any recall notices. After all, you may accidentally throw out a recall notice thinking it was junk mail. Or, the notice may simply have not found its way to you.
Checking for recalls is easy. You can go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association website and enter your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN). Then, you can see if your vehicle has any unrepaired recalls for up to the last 15 years.
Pay Attention to Your Brakes
Ever hear a squeaking or grinding noise while applying your brakes? Do you notice a vibration when stopping your car? It could be time to get the brakes checked out and repaired.
Let’s face it: brakes are important. If brakes aren’t working properly, you won’t be able to stop. And, the time it takes the car to slow down increases. Rear-end collisions, accidents involving pedestrians, and property damage are common during brake failures.
If you suspect any issues with your brakes, have your mechanic inspect them as soon as possible. Also, it certainly doesn’t hurt to schedule a routine brake inspection at least a couple of times a year. Many service centers will do this for free while changing your oil and rotating your tires.
Check for Leaks
Unless you’re mechanically inclined, checking under the hood for issues can be overwhelming. Looking under your car, however, can alert you to potential issues before they become dangerous problems. Simply taking a few seconds to inspect your driveway or garage floor can determine if your car is leaking any important fluids.
If you notice a puddle or even a few small spots under your car, get it checked out. Leaks don’t just fix themselves. Leaky oil, coolant, brake, or steering fluid will affect the way your car performs. For example, a blown brake line could make your brakes useless. Very low coolant levels can cause your engine to overheat or even catch fire.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what fluid is leaking. Any leak may eventually lead to unsafe driving conditions. And simply refilling your leaking fluids may only apply a cheap bandage on a potentially serious wound.
Look, Listen, and Feel as You Drive
While some car issues pop up quickly without much warning, others may be avoided by paying closer attention to the car’s performance. You may want to ignore a little extra vibration in the steering wheel or an unusual noise if your car seems to run fine otherwise. After all, mechanic bills can be costly. And, you may be stretching your budget to get it fixed.
But, consider the alternatives.
If something doesn’t seem right in the car and you don’t get it fixed, it could lead to more costly repairs down the line. Even worse, a failure in one of the car’s systems can cause a very dangerous situation on the road. A couple of hundred dollars to fix a steering issue is nothing compared to the financial hardships created by a head-on collision or accident involving major injuries.
Maintaining Your Car Isn’t as Hard as You Think
Do you want to stay safe in your car? Start with the simple steps mentioned in this article. Don’t forget to schedule regular oil changes and routine maintenance. The small cost of these services can save you thousands of dollars in costly repairs and accident claims.
Be cautious. Be proactive. And, think of all the time you spend in your car. Do you want to put you and your family at risk? Not taking proper care of your car may also wreak havoc on a potential car accident settlement.
So, go ahead and make a couple of these simple checks right now. Doing so will afford you peace of mind next time you get behind the wheel.