5 things drivers do for safety that are actually dangerous

slow1)      Driving Slowly

This is one of my largest pet peeves (since it can be very dangerous) and by “slowly” I mean below the speed limit.  I’d also like to add in – this means during normal driving conditions (when you can safely drive the speed limit).  Dry pavement, good visibility, etc, are times of “normal driving conditions” while heavy fog, traffic, bad weather are not.

The thought:  Driving slowly will give you more time to react if something happens while driving.  It will also help you maintain control of your car.  Besides, most highway safety boards say “driving slowly reduces your risk of an accident”, right?

The reality:  Driving slowly can be dangerous, especially on multi-lane roads and highways.  People always look at speeders but at least they’re the one who has to move from lane to lane to avoid the slower cars.  If a car is going below the speed limit then all other cars need to move to get past them – more cars switching lanes increases the chances of an accident.  Think of it this way, if you were driving 45 MpH in a 45 MpH zone and everyone else was driving 60 MpH you’d think they were being dangerous.  How is this any different when one car is driving 30 MpH in a 45 MpH zone and everyone else is driving the speed limit?

What you should do:  Drive the speed limit or at least close to it.  If you can’t then you should consider alternate routes on slower streets or even look into if you should be driving at all.  Most states have minimum speed limits on highways and can also pull over cars on side streets for driving too slowly (usually 10-15 MpH below the speed limit).

2)      Beeping in parking garages

The thought:  While driving in a parking garage there are a lot of tight turns (hairpin) and tight quarters so beeping your horn will let other cars know where you are so you don’t get into an accident.

The reality:  The acoustics in most parking garages are so good that if you beep your horn on the first level everyone else in the garage will hear it.  I’ve personally tested this in a 6 floor parking garage – someone beeped their horn on the first level and they could have easily been on the 5th level from my perspective.

What you should do:  Contrary to #1 SLOW DOWN.  As mentioned – you are in tight quarters with little visibility.  Driving slowly (usually posted speed limits are around 5-10 MpH, maybe 15) will help you react better.  You should also get rid of all distractions – put down the phone, turn off the radio, and keep your eyes on the road ahead of you.  Rolling down your window can also help you detect not so easily heard sounds which can let you know someone else is coming.

rain3)      Flashers during heavy rain

The thought:  Having your flashers (or hazard lights) on during heavy rain will let other drivers see you better.  People react sooner to flashing lights, right?

The reality:  First, in many states driving with your hazard lights on is illegal – you can get ticketed for this.  The issue is that hazard lights can be a serious distraction to other drivers – they don’t know if you’re tapping your brakes, if you are stalled, an emergency vehicle, road barriers, etc..  They might feel they need to move to a different lane to avoid you.  Also, with most vehicles, when your hazard lights are on it is impossible to tell if you have a blinker (directional) on.

What you can do:  Slow down and keep your distance from the cars in front of you.  While some states adopt the “2 second rule” (you are always at least 2 seconds behind the car in front of you) in bad weather, it’s recommended to be 4-5 seconds behind them.  Also try not to switch lanes unless you have to.

4)      Hi-beams in fog

The thought:  The brighter the light, the better I see, right?

The reality:  No.  To put it plainly, light reflects off of the water vapor in fog.  Low beams shine down so they are reflected down while high beams shine more parallel to the road and can reflect into you making he even harder for you to see.

What you can do:  The steps in #3 – drive slowly, keep your distance, etc.

5)      Lowering tire pressure to increase grip

The thought:  More surface area, better grip, right?

The reality:  Nope.  Just look at the math:  Pressure (as in how hard your tires press on the road) equals force (how hard your car is pressing down on the road) divided by area (the surface area of the tire where it touches the road:  P = F/A.  Since F will be pretty much constant, when A gets larger P gets smaller (which is larger – ½ or ¼?).  Plus, when you lower the pressure of your tires you can start to drive on areas of the tires that are not meant to be driven on and can also add stress to areas of the tires that shouldn’t have that stress.

What you can do:  Keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure (it’s usually on the tire itself).

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