Is Your Car Safe to Drive?
The first car accident in the U.S. happened in Ohio City, Ohio, in 1891. It involved a single-cylinder gas-powered automobile and a tree root. The driver hit the root, lost control of the car, and crashed into a hitching post for horses. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but it brings up a good question: Was the accident caused by the driver, or was it because the car wasn’t engineered to handle such obstacles? We’ll never know. The good news is that automobiles these days are vastly improved machines compared to their early predecessors, and car manufacturers are continually seeking ways to improve vehicle safety.
With every passing year and every new model rolled out, car manufacturers unveil impressive and sometimes jaw-dropping technologies that make driving a safer thing to do. Thing is, not everyone can afford to drop $50K on a new luxury ride equipped with all the bells, whistles, and safety features science can dream up. Does that mean you’re stuck driving a potentially unsafe car? Not at all. In fact, there are lots of practical things you can do to make your car safer on the road, and not a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Brakes & Restraints
The ability to stop your car in time to avoid crashing and not getting thrown around like rag doll in the process are the two most fundamental concerns when operating a vehicle that weighs thirty times more than you. To that end, getting your vehicle brake system checked regularly is important—but don’t just blindly trust that everything’s working fine if you’ve had a checkup lately. Be attentive to the way your brakes perform, and if you hear grinding or squealing sounds, or if the brake pedal is getting softer when you press on it, or you smell something burning, get to an automotive service center to have things checked out.
Your next step is to make sure your seatbelts are functional, and that you use them. If your shoulder harness is uncomfortable and cuts into your neck, don’t put yourself at risk of harm by throwing your arm over the strap. This can put you at risk if you get into an accident. Instead, spend a few dollars on a seatbelt shoulder pad. If you’re feeling particularly frisky, spring for sheepskin. Whatever keeps you comfortable and safe. If you drive an older vehicle that is only equipped with lap belts, or one that has none at all, you can have new seatbelts installed.
Check Your Tires
Next to fully functioning brakes and safety restraints, think tires. Tires are what keep your car in balance, in motion, and off the asphalt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that in 2017, 738 people died in tire-related crashes. If that doesn’t terrify you into checking your air pressure on a monthly basis—and more frequently during cold winter months—or replacing your tires when they get bald, what will? Beyond the air pressure and a tread depth test that anyone can perform, getting your tires rotated every 5,000 to 7,500 miles will not only make them last longer but having them looked at by a pro can also alert you to any issues you may not be able to see by just glancing at your tires.
Good Drivers vs. Bad Drivers
Last but not least, being a better driver can do amazing things in the arena of general safety. Adherence to posted speed limits and traffic signals, and having a good understanding of how defensive and offensive driving work, are all critical to the goal of “arriving alive”—but if the ability to stop quickly to avoid a hazard is made impossible because of bald tires or faulty brakes, even the greatest driver in the world won’t be able to rescue themselves from the ultimate bad-day maker.
If just staying safe isn’t enough of a motivator for you, maybe saving money is. Did you know that driving a rolling hazard can significantly increase your chances of getting into an accident, which can send your insurance rates through the roof? For example, driving on bald tires is a safety hazard to everyone on board. Tire tread is directly related to your vehicle’s ability to channel water away from tires when roadways are wet, thereby preventing hydroplaning and skidding. The same holds true for snow. Bald tires also impact a car’s ability to stop and make turns safely. In most states, driving with a low tread depth (less than 2/32” in depth) could get you a ticket.
Ultimately, owning a finely tuned and well-functioning vehicle is more than just a status thing. It’s a safety thing. The better maintained it is, the better off you’ll be. While pumping air, checking oil, and even tightening the screws on a wonky rearview mirror are all minor fixes most of us can handle, there comes a time when it’s necessary to hand the keys to the pros. However, finding a reputable pro to work on your ride can sometimes be a hassle—this is where Openbay can help. Openbay is an online marketplace to help you find a reputable and affordable automotive mechanic to perform necessary car maintenance. Go here to find someone that fits this description in your area. Thank us later.