Forget backpacks. The most important thing you can give your teen this school year is sleep

Forget backpacks. The most important thing you can give your teen this school year is sleepParents, as you plan your teen’s upcoming school year, are you factoring at least eight hours of sleep into their routines? Sure, you’re buying school supplies and shopping for healthy lunches, but are you considering how their workloads and schedules will affect their quality of sleep, and thus, their safety behind the wheel?

Sleep deprivation has become so much of a deadly, national epidemic that it was the subject of an Aug. 23 webinar hosted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), entitled “Wake Up to Teen Drowsy Driving: Don’t Send Them Back to School in Debt.”

“When young people do not get enough quality sleep, they begin to accumulate ‘sleep debt,’” said Jana Price, PhD, a senior human performance investigator with the NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety. “This can result from a late night of studying, getting up early for sports practice, or fragmenting sleep by using a cell phone during the night. Sleep debt accumulates over time and, ultimately, can affect a person’s ability to think and perform, or safely operate a vehicle—this deficit, while a concern for all humans, is particularly risky for teens. Sleep debt is linked to high-risk behaviors, such as texting while driving, drinking and driving, and not wearing a seat belt.”

Prioritizing sleep
We know that crash rates rise with every hour of lost sleep. In fact, 17 consecutive hours of wakefulness causes a level of performance impairment equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of .05%. And whereas earlier research concluded that exercise, diet, and sleep comprised the recommended “triad of health” for teens, recent work and events have altered that prioritization.

“We really need to think of sleep in a different context,” said Terry Cralle, a nurse and certified clinical sleep educator who also served as a panelist on the NTSB webinar. “Sleep is now the foundation of health and wellness.”

Early school start times, work schedules, technology use, homework, extracurricular activities, and medical disorders all put teens at risk for sleep deprivation, which is why their sleep durations must be protected at all costs, Cralle said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend teens get at least eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, though its research found that only two-thirds of high school students reported getting on average only 7 hours of sleep each night.

“Here’s a scary thought: When our performance degrades with sleep deprivation, we tend to not see it,” she said. “Saying ‘I’m doing fine,’ is a tricky thing that affects our judgement on how we’re doing and how sleepy we are.”

Practicing recognition
Educating teens to recognize the warning signs of sleep deprivation is also vital, the panel said during the webinar. While individuals who have consumed alcoholic drinks realize the warning signs that tell them not to drive, the same sort of realization must occur among adults – and teens – who feel sleep deprived but are still ready to get behind the wheel.

“People who are sleep deprived are saying they’re absolutely fine to drive, but they’re absolutely not fine to drive,” Cralle said.

The webinar cited several examples of how sleep deprivation has played a role in vehicle incidents with teen drivers. One of which occurred on March 20, 2016, as four teens were traveling home from a weekend trip in south Texas. The driver’s three passengers did not survive the incident.

“At about 1:57 p.m. the driver crossed the center median, lost control of the car, entered the opposing lanes of traffic, and collided with a truck-tractor semitrailer,” Price said. “The driver was seriously injured and her three passengers died. NTSB investigators learned that, in the 24 hours before the crash, the driver had very little opportunity for sleep – only about 5 hours on the morning of the crash. The crash also happened at a time of day when most people commonly experience a dip in alertness and performance; in fact, the three passengers in the car were all either asleep or dozing at the time of the crash. We determined that that the driver’s loss of control was due to inattention resulting from her fatigue.

“What I think is interesting about this, is that teens know you shouldn’t drink and drive,” she continued. “But they don’t think about the sleep deprivation part. It makes me very sad to think these teens who thought they were choosing the right path, still ended up in a tragedy.”

Parents, here are four steps you can take now to enforce healthy sleeping habits among your teens:

  1. Create a good environment for sleep. Restrict mobile device use to common areas – outside of your teen’s bedroom – and ask your teen to power down an hour or two before bed.
  2. Advocate for later school start times. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a teen’s school day should ideally begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
  3. Teach your young driver that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk, drugged, or distracted driving.
  4. Make other transportation plans if your teen needs to make an early-morning or late-night event. Do not let your teen drive during those times, as they are when sleep normally occurs.

The NTSB has placed fatigue-related accidents on its 2017-18 Most Wanted List, a collection of NTSB’s advocacy priorities. Visit the NTSB website to read research and factsheets on the epidemic.

Read more on fatigue and drowsy driving from eDriving’s driver’s ed and driver improvement websites:

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Know before you go: How to be a safe driver during Monday’s solar eclipse

Know before you go: How to be a safe driver during Monday’s solar eclipseThis Monday, Aug. 21, the moon will move between the Earth and the sun and, for the first time in nearly a century, residents across the U.S. will view a total solar eclipse. And though not all U.S. residents will be able to view the total eclipse, about 200 million of them live within a day’s drive of the eclipse’s path. In the interest of our favorite hashtag – #roadsafety – there are some dos and don’ts drivers should follow to ensure safe travels for all.

Solar eclipse: The 4-1-1
This path of the solar eclipse – where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s tenuous atmosphere, the corona – will stretch from Salem, Ore., to Charleston, S.C. Observers outside of this path will be able to see a partial solar eclipse. Traffic around the path of the eclipse is expected to be congested on Monday, and those needing to drive that day will be tempted to glance up at the event. As such, regardless of location, looking up at the eclipse without eye protection is extremely dangerous. Doing so would cause permanent injury to your retina within 100 seconds, as the naked eye is insufficiently prepared to take in all that ultraviolet light at once.

Follow these tips to ensure your safety behind the wheel on Monday:

DO NOT pull over to the shoulder of the roadway you’re driving on to view the eclipse. Instead, look for the nearest exit to take, or parking lot to pull into, and properly park your car in a designated space. Additionally, if you’re in the West, DO NOT drive on grass or through an open field to get a good spot, or to avoid traffic. That’s a quick way to start a wildfire.

DO bring the appropriate eye wear you’ll need to view the eclipse before you leave the house. NASA has these tips to finding – or creating – sufficient eyewear.

DO NOT wear opaque eclipse glasses while operating a vehicle. Use them only after you have safely parked your car.

DO look out for pedestrians along smaller roads. People may randomly park and walk along the road in the hours around the eclipse to get the best view.

DO plan for congested roadways, especially on the highways in the direct path of the eclipse the day before, the day of, and the day after the eclipse. And bring a map with you in case you find yourself with no GPS accessibility.

The more you plan ahead for Monday’s eclipse, the safer you’ll be. See what eclipse-themed activities are being held in your region, and be sure to visit NASA’s solar eclipse site for partial and total eclipse times across the U.S.

A map of the United States showing the path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.

See the path of totality for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse in the map above. Click the map to go to NASA’s solar eclipse info page. Source: NASA

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A tight squeeze: How to fit drivers ed into a busy teenage schedule

DriversEd.com teen blogger Jett Roberts, 16, is a student at Bishop O’ Dowd High School in Oakland, California. Jett is working toward obtaining his drivers license and currently drives under adult supervision with a California permit.

Teen blogger Jett RobertsTo start off, let me explain: Many people might think I don’t have an extremely busy schedule due to the fact that when I am in school, I only have one after-school commitment, however this engagement takes about 3 1/2 hours of time each and every day for months! Add this to the amount of homework I receive at a college prep school, and it doesn’t leave a lot of spare time for online drivers training, or even to practice driving now with my permit.

Using time management skills

During the school year I usually get home around 7 – 7:30p.m. every night, which is followed by at least an hour or two of homework (I think junior year is going to be even worse!). I had to fit in my work with DriversEd.com somewhere, so I used my weekends to consistently attack the challenge. Every Saturday morning for several weeks I scheduled drivers ed work between 10:30 a.m. and noon. To be honest, it took time that I would have rather spent doing things with my friends or sleeping, but I had to get it done, and I was motivated by the benefits of getting my license and learning to drive competently. This system worked out for me very well, and if you have a very busy schedule then I really suggest this method! Even better, if you have time during the week after school, set aside a specific mount of time each day for your online course, and drive whenever possible once you get your permit.

Still having schedule problems?

Even if you can only schedule in 30 minutes once or twice a week, write it in your diary or on your phone’s calendar and soon, you’ll be done! An alternative is to fit it into an already established break, such as Christmas, spring, or summer break. (I did this on my Boy Scout Eagle project and it worked – just carve out big sections of time for something important like learning to drive, or getting an Eagle project done!)

A few other pieces of advice:

  • Make sure you take all of the practice tests given by DriversEd.com – they will be a huge help when you go to take the test at the Department of Motor Vehicles!
  • If you live in a busy state like California, or maybe any state where the government is backed up and scheduled to the max, make sure you call in advance to set an appointment to take your test. Here, it takes at least a month to get on the schedule, so plan that in too, and you will be set!

So, just to go over my thoughts on getting DriversEd.com done, here is my advice:

  • Schedule it into your week, either during the week after school a couple of days a week, or on the weekend, which is what I did. Write it on your calendar!
  • Keep at it! If you consistently set aside time in your schedule, you will plow through the chapters and be successful.
  • Don’t forget to make an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles to take your test for your permit. I recommended doing this at the halfway point through online drivers training, which will motivate you to keep at it to finish the course.

Good luck and happy driving!

Learn more about DriversEd.com:

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Popular distracted driving webinar now free and available to the public

The Seven Stages of Distraction Denial helps drivers confront myths that fuel their own distracted driving demons.Did you know distracted driving was the reason behind more than 3,400 fatal collisions in 2015? Distraction is deadly, and eDriving is working to reverse the dangerous trend. eDriving has now released its popular July webinar, “The 7 Stages of Distraction Denial,” online for all drivers to learn from and review.

For the webinar eDriving partnered with Paul Atchley, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas who specializes in cognitive and brain sciences. Dr. Atchley has spent more than 25 years conducting research and teaching about cognitive factors related to driving and on the real-world implications of multitasking. With his help, eDriving is reaching out to drivers to help them confront the common denials keeping them locked into life-threatening bad habits.

Dr. Paul AtchleyIn the free “7 Stages of Distraction Denial,” webinar, Dr. Atchley reviews methods fleet managers can take to engage their drivers in confronting and breaking down their own distracted driving habits. It reviews the truth about multitasking, what companies have learned about employee productivity losses while they conduct business from their vehicle, as well as the common misconception that hands-free device use behind the wheel is safer than hands-held device use. It’s not!

The webinar may be viewed by the public on eDriving.com.

Based on the success of the “7 Stages of Distraction Denial” webinar, eDriving will host a follow-up webinar, “Changing Behavior Using ‘Closed Loop’ Telematics-Based Strategies,” Aug. 22 at 11 a.m. PDT, 2 p.m. EDT. Register here for the webinar.

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Teen talk: “Finally, my time to drive is here!”

DriversEd.com Contributing Writer Alexis David has kept an ongoing diary for us as she takes our California online drivers ed course. Here’s her fifth entry.

minicooperBeing a passenger was a routine thing that I took for granted. As a passenger, I could sleep in the car, eat, listen to music without being distracted and admire the passing scenery. I wasn’t concerned of anything as my parents or any other driver drove, but I did know that one day, I’d have to learn all the driving techniques and laws and become responsible enough to be adequate of driving a vehicle. And although I love the luxury of sitting back and relaxing in the car, I was ecstatic to get behind the wheel.

It was finally the moment that I’ve always anticipated as I grew up: driving a car. Despite the fact that excitement was coursing through me when I found out when my first driving lesson was, I was insanely nervous. All of the questions and jitters making me overestimate the experience was annoying. Questions and concerns like, “What if I crash the car during the first time?” or “I hope it won’t be awkward when I mess up and I hope it’s not too quiet.” The more I thought, the more agitated I became, so I stopped thinking about it until the day came.

Hands-on training
When it was finally the day, I had that eager-yet-hesitant feeling again. I met my driving instructor and we were off to the MINI Cooper. He drove me to an empty parking lot around my neighborhood, and we switched spots. I was in the driver’s seat while my instructor was in the passenger seat. He asked me some simple questions about where certain tools on the dashboard are, the hand signals for turns and stops, he gave me a quick hearing test, he tested my sight, and I was off. My instructor explained and showed me how to start the car, and that I was ready to begin driving at any time. He instructed me to start at my own pace, and that we’d first practice left turns. All I thought was, “We’re already starting?” but I swallowed that nervous gut feeling, and lightly stepped on the gas pedal. The car lightly lurched forward, and I was driving. I was moving the car! By myself! I slowly turned the wheel and made my turn. It was moderately bizarre, like learning how to ride a bike the first time, but the bike being much bigger, harder to move, and with more controls. I then did right turns, and after that I practiced both left and right turns while using the signal lights. I circled the parking lot until I was comfortable with what I was doing. That is, until my instructor told me to drive out of the lot. There was that nervous gut feeling again. He told me to drive through a neighborhood, and there, I encountered road bumps, turns, blind spots, pedestrians, unmarked and unmarked crosswalks. I had to remain observant of my surroundings. And like the turns, I got the hang of it. I got used to what to do when I confronted a new obstacle, and learned more about the neighborhoods I live near. Before I knew it, my lesson was over. Even with simply stepping on the pedal and turning, I felt incredibly accomplished after it was all over.

The best part of the driving was my instructor. He made it fun and he talked to me, giving me the chance to learn how to focus on the road and to the conversation I was a part of. I got to ask countless questions because he knew I was learning. That’s what I always loved about drivers ed, their support makes it incredibly easy and fun to understand.

Practice makes perfect
I loved the feeling of driving a car so much that I wanted to practice again with my dad. Nevertheless, I still had to get my permit to continue practicing. I took a vast amount of practice tests online on drivers ed, trying to improve the grade of my previous test every time. When I was ready, I was prepared to take the test.

After much waiting, I was able to take my permit test, and I passed! I was extremely relieved. I got about three questions wrong, but enough studying was exactly what I needed to pass the test.

Both driving for the first time and taking my permit test had me nervous and wondering what the outcomes would be when really, it was not a big problem. Both are building me up to becoming an exceptional driver.

Learn more about DriversEd.com:

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4 strategies for dealing with aggressive drivers

Reacting to Aggressive DriversA common wisdom says that you can’t control other people, you can only control your reactions to them. The same is true for your interactions on the road—particularly when it comes to aggressive drivers.

We’ve all encountered them: those impatient drivers who need to go as fast as possible and react angrily if they perceive someone is in their way (which is to say, everyone). Or, perhaps (ahem) it might be a young driver trying to show off by demonstrating how they “own the road.”

Unfortunately, aggressive drivers are a reality of the road, and a dangerous one at that. Having a stranger blast their horn at you or pressure you to move aside or driver faster can be distracting and uncomfortable, and at an extreme, make you do something unsafe.

Less experienced drivers are particularly susceptible to on-the-road bullying, simply because they don’t have as much experience handling a vehicle or dealing with the conflicting distractions of city streets. Here are a few skills to keep in mind to stay safer when you inevitably encounter an aggressive driver.

1. Don’t be one.
The first rule of dealing with aggressive drivers is to not be one yourself. Leave on time for your destinations so you don’t feel rushed on the road, and, please, don’t try to show off by driving fast everywhere. Just, don’t. Putting other people in danger by attempting to impress is a silly thing to do.

2. Stay calm.
If someone is tailgating you, honking at you, or yelling at you, try your best not to react. Breath, stay focused, and continue driving in a safe manner. They’ll most likely just drive around you once they have a chance. Panicking and reacting to the aggression, such as entering an intersection before you’re ready because someone is honking at you, will only put you and others in danger.

Even worse, responding with aggressive tactics of your own, like hitting your breaks to startle a tailgater or driving faster to prevent someone from passing you, only increases the danger and could insight a road rage incident. Neither of those outcomes are worth the small satisfaction you might feel from antagonizing someone who’s being a jerk behind the wheel. Instead, let it go and ignore them.

3. Just yield.
In many cases, the best way to deal with an aggressive driver is to let them be on their way. If someone is tailgating you on a two-lane road, don’t speed up. Maintain the speed limit and let them find a place to (safely!) pass. If they try to pass you in an unsafe manner (such as on a windy road or with visible oncoming traffic), gently slow down to be out of the way in case they need to suddenly veer back into your lane. If there appears to be nowhere safe for them to pass you, use the nearest pull out. It will take only a few seconds to pull over, and then you can continue your drive in peace. Whey they inevitably race past you, possibly with a hand gesture, ignore them.

4. Be thoughtful about horns.
A honking horn can is meant to be startling because it’s a safety feature, intended to quickly get someone’s attention to hopefully avoid a collision. If a driver isn’t paying enough attention and is about to run into your car, you want to use your horn to alert them to your presence.

A horn is a tool to say, “I’m here! Be careful!” (i.e. stop moving). A lot of aggressive drivers, however, use the horn to yell, “Get out of my way!” (i.e. go faster).

Do your best to keep context in mind when someone is honking at you. If someone honks at you in a parking lot, for example, it might be because you’re about to hit their car while maneuvering into a parking spot; or it might mean that they want to get out of the parking lot and are impatient that you’re driving slow to look for a spot. Take a moment to try and assess what’s being communicated before responding, especially in the latter scenario.

Also be thoughtful about your own horn use. Be sparing and use it to communicate danger or potential car damage, not as a way to yell at people.

Confidence isn’t aggression
By staying calm and clear in your driving, you can remain in control of the situation, even if someone is throwing a temper tantrum because they want you out of their way. Driving aggressively doesn’t make you a better driver, it only makes you an unsafe one. So, stay calm and focused so that you can drive with confidence.

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Texas fights distracted driving with new DL requirement

New Driver Course to Combat Distracted DrivingThe Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will implement a new driver’s education requirement Sept. 1 that mandates all drivers 18 and older participate in a one-hour driving course on distracted driving.

The Impact Texas Young Drivers (ITYD) course tackles one of the biggest safety issues today: the plethora of mobile devices, as well as bad driving habits, that facilitate distracted driving.

“Driving is one of the most dangerous things we do on a daily basis, and it should command our undivided attention,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “This new component of the department’s distracted driving initiative uses research and compelling true stories to highlight the many risks facing drivers. This important program is designed to provide Texas drivers with critical information to help keep their focus on driving – and to ultimately save lives on Texas roadways.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving caused more than 3,400 fatal collisions in 2015 alone. NHTSA also estimates that about 660,000 drivers in the U.S. continue to use electronic devices while driving every day.

The ITYD course is the second offered by the state’s Impact Texas Drivers program, which was developed to educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving. The first, launched in 2015, targeted only new 16- and 17-year-old drivers. A third course, Impact Texas Adult Drivers – specifically for drivers 25 and older – will be announced in 2018.

Follow Texas’ suit and train yourself to be a safe, distraction-free driver. eDriving’s One More Second® defensive driving course helps parent and teen drivers combat distracted driving. Sign up now!
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Teen blogger Jett Roberts talks 1-on-1 with a DriversEd.com driving instructor

DriversEd.com teen blogger Jett Roberts, 16, is a student at Bishop O’ Dowd High School in Oakland, California. Jett is working toward obtaining his drivers license and currently drives under adult supervision with a California permit.

Teen blogger Jett Roberts goes 1-on-1 with a DriversEd.com driving instructorAs you know, if you’ve finished the DriversEd.com online training, to qualify for your license you must have clocked in at least six hours of behind-the-wheel training with a qualified driving instructor. Mia Ha is one of the company’s many talented instructors, and we had the chance to meet and share some car time earlier this month. I thought she was a kind, helpful person, and as I got to talking to her, that thought did not falter! I enjoyed our lesson very much and I learned a lot from it! Here are some of her answers to questions I asked during our session:

How many students have you taught?

At this point Mia has lost count of how many students she has taught, since she’s been with DriversEd.com for roughly 7 years with hundreds of students each year!

How is driving different than when you learned?

The DMV had similar requirements of behind-the-wheel training for teenagers like they require now. The only difference that traffic was not as bad as it is now.

What defensive driving skills will make me a better driver?

Her biggest suggestion was to practice SIPDE which means: Scanning, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute. One of the key aspects of SIPDE is to leave a safe “Space Cushion” when I drive, which means leaving several car lengths of space between you and the car in front of you, depending on how fast you are going. She also recommended scanning your surroundings whenever you are driving to make sure you are aware of what is happening around you. Checking your mirrors frequently will help with scanning. Lastly, Mia recommended that a driver should try to predict what the other drivers around you will do, which helps you make the best decision in sharing the road with them.

How will those defensive driving skills help me in my driving test?

These skills help you become a safer and defensive driver for the rest of your life rather than simply being able to pass your test.

What is your favorite food?

Everything, but most recently, tacos from Cholita Linda (yum! Gonna try them myself!)

What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

Mia loves to bake sweets and cook vegetarian meals because good food = fuel.

What is your favorite TV show and or movie?

Her Favorite T.V show is “The Big Bang Theory” and “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Recently, Mia recommended the documentary, “What the Health” on Netflix. “I think everyone should see this documentary and decide for their own,” she said.

What is your favorite holiday or favorite season in the year?

Christmas because this is the happiest time of the year!

What kind of music do you like?

Everything! Coldplay, Sam Smith, Adele, Arcade Fire

I enjoyed my time learning from Mia, and we had lots of fun as I talked to her throughout the lesson! I am becoming a better (and safer) driver with this excellent instruction, and I would recommend Mia to any of my friends.

Learn more about DriversEd.com:

 

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Classroom instruction vs. online drivers education: What you need to know

Classroom instruction vs. online drivers education: Which is right for your teen?With no set nationwide regulations for drivers education, it can be difficult locating the right resources to help you decide what type of drivers education is best for your teen. We’ve prepared a short guide to inform you about the country’s two most common types of drivers education courses: Classroom instruction and online drivers ed.

What is classroom instruction?
Classroom instruction requires students to attend classes in person for a specified number of hours depending on the state’s requirements. In-car instruction is often included as part of the curriculum. This is the traditional form of drivers education that is still offered today through school districts that have opted to include the training in their high school curriculum. However, not all school districts do, though a private driving school would serve as a good second option.

What is online drivers ed?
In online drivers ed, students read through material and complete course activities on their own time and their own device (computer, tablet, or in some cases, even a smartphone). This type of drivers ed has seen huge growth over the last 10 years due to the convenience of new technology.

What are the pros and cons of classroom instruction?
While classroom instruction can provide your child with a one-on-one learning experience within the comfort of their own school, not all regions have that opportunity. There is also a greater chance for interaction with instructors and peers in this setting. On the other hand, class schedules are predetermined. Also, in some states, missing a class may result in having to retake the course. And if your local high school does not offer drivers ed as part of its curriculum, the cost to enroll in a private driving school course can be expensive.

What are the pros and cons of online drivers ed?
Should your teen enroll in an online program, the opportunity for in-person interaction between students and instructors is extremely limited. However, if your teen is affected by distracting students or perhaps, having limited breaks, this isn’t an issue and an online program may work best. For families who place high priority on convenience, online drivers ed allows students to complete courses at their own pace, on the device of their choosing, and without having to drive to a school or dress up, even. Online driving programs must be approved by state agencies, just like classroom driving schools.

How can DriversEd.com help?
At DriversEd.com, teens can take advantage of the convenience of our online driving programs while also utilizing other services we offer, such as in-car driving lessons (in CA, GA and TX), as well as our vast library of practice tests that students may use as many times as necessary. Our interactive online drivers ed course is full of graphics and easy-to-understand content to ensure students retain knowledge. It teaches the basics of driving as well as defensive driving techniques to maximize the safety of novice drivers behind the wheel.

Learn more about DriversEd.com:

 

 

 

 

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Surprise! 4 unexpected driving situations and how to handle them

Even the safest drivers will encounter surprising situations on the road now and then. But newer drivers have encountered fewer surprises, which can make them scarier, not to mention more dangerous.

When driving, watch for deer or wildlife crossing signs, which are placed in areas where animals are known to congregate.During any surprise on the road, the most important thing to do is remain calm so that you can rationally think through the safest method of dealing with the situation. In addition to that, certain steps can be taken to manage specific scenarios.

Here are four of the more common surprises you might encounter and the safest way to handle them.

1. Low visibility from blinding sun, oncoming headlights, or fog
Impaired visibility while driving can occur in many situations. Don’t panic and slam on the breaks if you round a corner into glaring sun. Instead, break moderately to slow down to a safer speed and point your eyes down and to the right to follow the white line painted on the side of the road. That’s why it’s there. In foggy situations, turn off your brights and use your regular headlines instead. Bright light will reflect off the fog, further reducing visibility.

2. Rain, sleet, hail, or snow
You will definitely encounter inclement weather while driving, the type depending on where you live. In all situations where water, ice, or snow is covering the road, traction is reduced making sliding, skidding, or spinning out more likely. Drive at slower speeds during poor weather, even if other drivers aren’t.

Rainy conditions are the slickest during the first ½ hour of showers, as the dirt and oil sitting on the asphalt mixes with the water, creating a slick surface. Sleet and hail are inherently icy, so slow down or avoid driving altogether. If driving in the snow, try to stay in the tire treads of the car ahead of you and avoid changing lanes where crunchy snow can build up and reduce traction.

If visibility is poor, turn down music and open a window, which allows you to hear dangers like honking or skidding vehicles, and also helps reduce condensation inside your windshield, which can occur when exterior conditions are significantly cooler than inside your vehicle.

3. Skidding or hydroplaning from standing water or black ice
If you see standing water, slow down to a safer speed. Approaching standing water or black ice (ice that has frozen with no bubbles, making it invisible or appear black like the asphalt) at too high a speed will cause your tires to lose traction and skid across the surface.

If you do find yourself hydroplaning, take your foot off the gas and continue driving in a straight line (you won’t have the ability to steer anyway and turning the wheel could initiate an out-of-control spin). Do not apply the break, which will only encourage more sliding. Instead, slowly decelerate until you have regained traction.

4. Deer or other wildlife crossing the road
Hitting an animal while driving fast, especially a large one such as a deer, can be disastrous for both the animal and the driver. The first line of defense is to turn on your brights so that you can widen your view of the road. This will sometimes reflect off an animal’s eyes, making them more visible. Watch for deer or wildlife crossing signs, which are placed in areas where animals are known to congregate. Deer tend to travel in small herds, so if you see one near the road, assume others are nearby.

If you encounter an animal in the road, ideally, you should try to slow down and then veer around it. But if you only have time to pick one, slow down. Veering at too high a speed could result in hitting other objects like trees or parked cars, or flipping your vehicle. And hitting a deer head on at a high speed might send it crashing through your windshield. Overall, it’s smarter to reduce your speeds at night, particularly in rural areas.

Stay alert, stay calm, stay safe
Keeping general safety in mind is always smart, such as not speeding, wearing your seat belt, and minimizing distractions (no texting!). But when unexpected situations present themselves, keep a cool head and stay calm. You’ll stay safer and be better prepared for future surprises on the road.

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