An absolute essential to responsible driving is staying alert on the road. This means staying sober, awake and putting aside distractions. We have a tendency to justify anything we do by pointing to how busy and important we are. But no amount of arguing or reasoning will convince a police officer that you are justified in driving drunk, tired or while you are sending text messages. This is blatantly irresponsible behavior that can result in an arrest, or even worse, in harm to someone innocent of blame. Anyone who gets behind a wheel needs to respect that staying alert is not just their legal responsibility, it is their human responsibility.
Sobriety is the most obvious necessity to staying alert. Every driver’s education program and high school driving class shows videos of what happens when people drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is seldom the driver who pays the price, but rather the innocent party involved in the crash who suffers. Every jurisdiction sets a legal limit for how much alcohol can be found in a person’s blood stream when they are operating a vehicle.
Recently, traffic laws began recognizing tiredness as being as dangerous to driving as intoxication is in many ways. When you drive tired, you are only half as alert as you usually are. This delays your reaction time and makes your decision making foggy. Most drivers have driven tired at some point, but it is a dangerous and costly habit to be in. It is likely to catch up to you at some point.
Driving distracted is another deadly error that drivers make. Drivers can be distracted in a number of ways, ranging from cell phone use to eating to putting on make up and much more. Anything that removes the driver’s hands from the wheel or takes their focus away from the road can prove deadly.
A very important aspect of responsible driving is being an informed driver. It is essential to the safety of yourself and of other drivers that you take your driving education seriously. You are expected to know the driving laws of anywhere you drive through, and you are expected to know how to operate all of the basic components of your vehicle. You can be held legally responsible for this information by law enforcement, which should indicate to you how critical it is that you know it.
Basic driving laws are the same throughout North America. Driving laws in Mexico are somewhat less regulated, but operate under the same basic principles as the rest of North America. The United States and Canada have driving laws that are almost identical, but different states and provinces are still free to have variations on those laws. The law enforcement agencies of different jurisdictions are not out to ensnare anyone with oddball driving laws, but they do expect every driver to abide by the driving laws of all jurisdictions.
Understanding your vehicle’s basic components is also very important to being an informed driver. There are features in your vehicle that are meant to assist you in almost any situation you can encounter on the road. It is important to your abilities as a driver that you understand how to use these features. For example, you should know what situations call for hazard lights and how to switch them on. You should know when to change gears to make the best use of your vehicles’s transmission. This includes knowledge of what to do in emergency situations, such as knowing to turn your wheel into a slide rather than turning against it.
If you are going to be a vehicle owner, it is best for yourself and everyone else on the road that you possess some kind of basic mechanical knowledge of your vehicle. Unfortunately, a large number of drivers on the road understand nothing about how their vehicles work. They have no way of anticipating any mechanical issues that they will encounter and are therefore a larger risk to themselves and to other drivers, even if only in a small way. Having the money to pay someone else to repair your car is not a replacement for a reasonable level of responsibility over how your car is operating, or for being aware that your car requires basic, ongoing maintenance. There is not a great deal of knowledge one needs to personally possess about how their car operates, but there are a handful of must know items.
Firstly, know that your vehicle needs its fluids checked regularly, especially before any kind of long drive. The most vital fluids to your vehicle are oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant and windshield spray. When you lift your hood, these fluids should be labeled fairly clearly. There are methods to understanding which fluids need to be changed and which are too low, which you can learn about by watching online tutorial videos.
There are many moving parts in your vehicle that need regular inspection, and often you can tell if something is wrong by watching for engine lights and listening for unknown sounds. But one aspect of your vehicle that you cannot afford to neglect, particularly before a long drive, are your tires. Never take off on a big drive without first testing your tire pressure. In a perfect world, everyone would know how much tread is on their tires and would have them replaced before they became worn too thin, but the least a responsible driver can do is check their tires with an air pressure gauge to make sure they have enough air in them, and to monitor the rate at which they are losing air.