Aren’t surveys interesting?

Take for example the recent compilation regarding drivers’ habits – good and bad – that have been posted on the internet by automotive authorities.  All this slicing and dicing…it’s enough to drive a car owner nuts.

For example: posted the top 100 safest drive cities in August. The internet group deemed Fort Collins, Colorado, number one when it comes to drivers navigating the roadways safely.  Who was one of the worse? Washington DC was sitting pretty at 194. Any reader with any driving experience in the capital area would definitely agree with that designation. So, how did our nation’s capital rank in the top 10 as being the safest “states-districts” to drive in this most recent synopsis?

This latest edition of based their analysis on tickets, DUI and accidents.  This one was filled with surprising – and contradicting – numbers versus the August study. The independent insurance group cited Louisiana as the worst state to drive your vehicle. Other states, included:

2) South Carolina

3) Mississippi

4) Texas

5) Alabama

6) Florida

7) Missouri

8) North Carolina

9) Montana

10) North Dakota

Yet, Washington DC was included in the top 10 of the safest to navigate. Others mentioned:

1)      Vermont

2)      Utah

3)      New Hampshire

4)      Minnesota

5)      Oregon

6)      Maine

7)      Connecticut

8) District of Columbia (Washington)

9)      Iowa

10)   Massachusetts

Where does a driver turn to for help?

First of all, if you are driving in one of the “worst” states or cities…know your odds. Like Vegas, the house is always the winner in the end. And that holds true when it comes to vehicle accidents and incidents. Eventually, it will catch up to you. But depending upon the frequency and severity of the incident depends 100 percent upon you and your vehicle’s maintenance.

First and foremost: There is nothing so important that you need to talk on the phone or text. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you are two times more likely to get into a traffic accident if you talk or text while driving. If you must answer that important phone call, either pull over or call back when you are in a safe – out of traffic — location!  Another distraction? Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. How can a driver concentrate on road conditions and vehicle operation when he is not in their “right mind?” If you are going to do something to cause impaired judgment, designate a driver or reserve a taxi before the fun begins.   According to NHTSA and common sense, accidents caused by the above are 100 percent preventable.

Maintenance – lack of it. When was the last time you checked the tire pressure? Running around town with a check engine light illuminated on the dash? How about your brakes? What condition are they in? It’s not up to your auto center to know these answers. You’re the vehicle owner and driver. It’s your responsibility to know what condition your vehicle is in and if it is road worthy. This is why it is so important to have an established ASE Blue Seal shop or dealership connection. The auto professionals can work with you, your vehicle and budget needed items. It’s always cheaper to mechanically maintain than body work coupled with the residual accident expenses.

It’s even more important to pay attention to the road and driving conditions.  More than ever, vehicle age is creeping into the mix of driving habits. Did you know the average age of a car or truck on today’s roads is more than 11 years? This mix of old and new technology can create mishaps, as well. Items such as anti-lock brakes, semi-autonomous vehicles that computer regulate speed-braking,  or the ability of vehicles to “communicate” within a specific range of cars and trucks equipped can cause mishaps to those vehicle without this advanced technology. I see the “two-second rule” between vehicles expanding for those cars and trucks without these gizmos.

Let’s talk about driving techniques and your personal abilities.  Can you see to drive at night? Do you have difficulty navigating the roadways in the rain? Do you have a disability that makes response time – like braking or accelerating – more difficult than the average driver?  Has age taken its toll on your reaction time? There are courses available through various organizations that can teach new, defensive driving techniques and help keep you accident-free. Your local chamber of commerce or United Way should be able to steer you in the appropriate course direction.

Then, we have the roadways – the community infrastructure compliments of the local traffic planners and engineers. How well are the intersections marked? How about that roadbed? Potholes galore or properly maintained? These features – beyond your control – have a lot to do with how your car handles on the streets. Feel your roadways are a contributing hazard? Contact your local government and let them know you want safe road conditions.

And, another thing that rush-hour drivers can’t count on: other drivers’ attitudes. Maybe you had a fight with your teenager just before taking off to go to work?  Or, you just got out of the bed on the wrong side this morning? No matter the reason, driver attitude has a lot to do with traffic patterns more than anything else. Aggressive driving is contagious and all it takes is one, bad mood driver to make a bonehead move and the sensible drive to work is history. People don’t realize that past the dashboard, there is a 4,000-pound piece of machinery that can inflict injury or death if not operated in the proper manner. Avoid the communicable mood, pop in a Jimmy Buffett CD and go to Margaretville, instead.

Don’t become an automotive internet statistic. Treat your vehicle for what it is: advanced technology transportation. Florida’s highway patrol says it best, “Arrive Alive,” and make the most of your day.

About The Author

Pam Oakes is a shop owner, ASE-certified technician, automotive author, automotive speaker, and syndicated radio host of “Car Care for the Clueless” on CBS Radio, CoachMeRadio, and AOL Radio -- LIVE@5 p.m. every Friday. And, yes, she still “turns wrenches.”

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