All cars made within the last ten years have airbags that are designed to protect the vehicle occupants in certain types of crashes. Together with seatbelts, airbags often prevent many serious injuries. We also have anti-lock brakes, which are designed to minimize loss of control during emergency braking, lane departure warnings if we veer out of the lane we are in, and other safety features which make our vehicles so much safer than vehicles were twenty, thirty or more years ago.
And yet, there are still motor vehicle crashes that do result in serious injury. Certainly, being an attentive driver is the most crucial step you can take to protect yourself on the roadways. But truth be told, being an attentive driver does not start when you get behind the wheel. It starts before you get into the car or truck. Did you know that airplane pilots carefully walk around their plane and go through a complete checklist to be sure everything is in proper condition before getting ready to take off? Did you know that interstate 18-wheeler truck drivers are required to do the same around the truck and trailer before leaving on a trip? Tires are to be checked, wheels are to be checked, brakes are to be checked.
But when we get into a car, we tend to take everything including its condition as being proper for granted. When was the last time you walked around your own car or SUV or truck to check its condition? Here are some tips on what and how to check for things on your vehicle. You may not have to do these each time you plan to use your vehicle, but certainly should check weekly, or if you have not used your vehicle in a week or more.
- Walk around your vehicle and check for any damage, especially to lights, glass, wheels, and tires. If you have a crack in your windshield, you should address that as quickly as you can. Most insurance companies will pay for a windshield repair or replacement if you have collision coverage, and there will be no deductible.
- If you have someone with you, check the brake lights, signal lights, and head and taillights to be sure they are operating. These are all safety features and should be repaired if not working properly.
- Be sure your hood and trunk or rear hatch are fully closed and latched before driving away.
- At least monthly, check your tires. We all enjoy the beautiful Florida weather. Much of the country can suffer through cold and snow, and here the sun is shining, and we are wearing shorts. But we also know that all of a sudden, it can start raining, and sometimes that rain can be torrential. Bad tires can be a recipe for disaster whenever you are on the road. During a rainstorm, your chances of disaster are increased tenfold. What is a bad tire? Walk around and check. If there are gouges or cuts in the sidewall, tires must be replaced. Can you find a penny or a nickel or a quarter? Use one of those to check the tread. Put the coin in the tire groove with the head of the figure (Abe Lincoln’s head on a penny) pointing to the center of the tire. If you can see his whole face, and the top of his head, it is time for new tires. Tire tread is what makes tires work in the rain. The tread drains the water away so that the rubber can actually meet the road. Without adequate tread, water remains between the rubber and the road surface, and the tires will have no grip and skid and you will have no control.
- Check your tire pressure. If there is not enough air in your tire, your car will not drive properly, your tire may heat up and suffer damage, or you may even ruin the tire and suffer a blowout. Checking is easy if you have a tire gauge.
If you cannot do these tests yourself, most mechanics, tire shops, or even dealers will do these safety checks free of charge. Protect yourself, your loved ones and those on the road with you and be sure your vehicle is safe. Let us all work together to keep our roadways safe.
For more information about vehicle safety, or about what may cause a motor vehicle crash, give us a call.