Chapter 3: Your Driving
Good driving is based on practice and being alert at the wheel. When driving, you must make sure that nothing interferes with your ability to see the road, react to situations or operate your vehicle properly. You must look down the road, to the sides and behind your vehicle and be alert for unexpected events. Be alert to what is going on around you and do not take your eyes off the road for more than a few seconds at the time. Do not have objects inside your vehicle that might interfere with your ability to drive safely. This might include objects that obstruct your view of the road or mirrors.
Bad Driving Habits: Good drivers develop habits that focus their full attention on driving. Some drivers can develop bad habits that can be very dangerous when driving.
Some bad habits that take your attention away from driving are:
- Driving ill, upset or angry.
- Driving while eating or drinking.
- Driving while adjusting the radio or changing CDs/tapes.
- Driving while calling, answering or talking on a mobile phone.
- Reading while driving.
Getting Ready to Drive
Before you start your engine:
- Make sure all windows are clean. Remove anything that blocks your view of the road.
- Adjust the seat so you can reach all controls.
- Adjust the inside and outside rearview mirrors. You should not have to lean forward or backward to use them.
- Lock all car doors.
- Put on your safety belts. Ask all passengers to do the same.
- Make sure your car is in park or neutral gear before starting the engine.
Never move your car until you have looked in front, behind and to the side for pedestrians and oncoming traffic. Then, signal and pull into traffic when safe.
Defensive driving means doing all you can to prevent crashes. As a defensive driver, you will "give" a little. You will change your driving to fit the weather conditions, the way you feel, and the actions of other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Follow these steps to avoid crashes:
- Look for possible danger. Think about what might happen. If there are children playing by the road, plan what you will do if one runs or rides into the street.
- Understand what can be done to prevent a crash. See the defensive driving tips which follow as well as Handling Emergencies.
- Act in time. Once you have seen a dangerous situation, act right away to prevent a crash.
Use these defensive driving tips if you see that you are about to be involved in a crash:
- It is better to swerve right instead of toward oncoming traffic to prevent a crash.
- Hitting a row of bushes is better than hitting a tree, post or solid object.
- Hitting a vehicle moving in the same direction as you are is better than hitting a vehicle head-on.
- It is better to drive off the road than skid off when avoiding a crash.
- It is better to hit something that is not moving instead of a vehicle moving toward you.
When You Back Up
Check behind your vehicle before you get in. Children or small objects cannot be seen from the driver's seat. Place your right arm on the back of the seat and turn around so that you can look directly through the rear window. Do not depend on your rearview or side mirrors as you cannot see directly behind your vehicle. Back slowly, your vehicle is much harder to steer while you are backing. Whenever possible use a person outside the vehicle to help you back up.
Avoiding Rear-end Collisions
Many crashes happen because one vehicle runs into the back of another one. Here are some things you can do to lower the risk of someone running into the rear of your vehicle.
- Check your brake lights often to make sure they are clean and working properly.
- Know what is going on behind you. Use your rearview mirrors.
- Signal well in advance for turns, stops and lane changes.
- Slow down gradually. Avoid any sudden actions.
- Drive with the flow of traffic (within the speed limit). Driving too slowly can be as dangerous as driving too fast.
- To avoid striking the vehicle in front of you, keep at least two seconds following distance. This is done by following the instructions found under the section, Minimum Safe Following Distances.
Basic Driver Improvement
Any driver can take a basic driver improvement course. The course teaches ways of keeping crashes from happening. One driver can sign up, or a group can ask for a class. Consult your yellow pages under, Driving Instruction, for the location of the schools.
The driver and front seat passenger must wear seat belts. This seat belt law applies to passenger cars manufactured beginning with the 1968 model year, and trucks beginning with the 1972 model year.
It is unlawful for any person to operate a vehicle in this state unless every passenger of the vehicle under the age of 18 is restrained by a safety belt or by a child restraint device, regardless of seating position.
If the passenger is 18 years of age or older and fails to wear a seat belt when required by law, the passenger will be charged with the violation.
The law exempts the following from the seat belt requirements:
- Any person certified by a physician as having a medical condition that causes the seat belt use to be inappropriate or dangerous.
- Employee of a newspaper home delivery service while delivering newspapers on home delivery routes.
- School buses.
- Buses used for transportation of persons for compensation.
- Farm equipment.
- Trucks of a net weight of more than 5,000 pounds.
- Motorcycle, moped or bicycle.
In a crash, you are far more likely to be killed if you are not wearing a safety belt. Wearing shoulder belts and lap belts make your chances of living through a crash twice as good.
In a crash, safety belts:
- Keep you from being thrown from the vehicle. The risk of death is five times greater if you are thrown from a vehicle in a crash.
- Keep you from being thrown against parts of your vehicle, such as the steering wheel or windshield.
- Keep you from being thrown against others in the vehicle.
- Keep the driver behind the wheel, where he or she can control the vehicle.
SAFETY BELTS SAVE LIVES!
Wear a lap belt around your hips, not your stomach. Fasten the belt snugly. Only wear a shoulder belt with a lap belt. Don't just use your safety belt for long trips or high-speed highways.
More than half of the crashes that cause injury or death happen:
- at speeds less than 40 mph, and
- within 25 miles of home.
ALL CHILDREN 5 YEARS OLD OR YOUNGER MUST USE A RESTRAINT DEVICE WHEN RIDING IN A MOTOR VEHICLE.
The number one killer of young children in the United States is traffic crashes in which children were not restrained at all. Over 90 percent of the deaths and 80 percent of the injuries in car crashes could be prevented by using crash-tested child restraints.
Children should be secure in the rear seat. Never secure a child in the front passenger side, especially if your vehicle has an air bag.
The law requires every driver to properly secure children five years of age or younger in child restraint devices riding in a passenger car, van, or pick-up truck, regardless of whether the vehicle is registered in this state. Infant carriers or children's car seats must be used for children three years old and younger. For children aged 4 through 5 years, a separate carrier, an integrated child seat or a seat belt may be used. All infant carriers and car seats must be crash-tested and approved by the U.S. Government.
Children being carried or riding bicycles should wear properly fitted bicycle helmets.
What is the Best Child Seat?
- The one that fits your child.
- The one that fits your vehicle.
- The one that you will use correctly every time.
For more information on the best child seat, please visit: http://www.fhp.state.fl.us/html/CPS and obtain information on occupant Protection and Child Passenger Safety News.
Leaving Children Unattended or Unsupervised in Motor Vehicles
Do not leave children unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle, and never leave a child unattended for any period of time if the motor of the vehicle is running or if the health of the child is in danger.
WARNING: WHEN IT'S HOT OUTSIDE, DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN UNATTENDED!
On a hot summer day, the interior of a car can get dangerously hot. One study found that with the windows up and the temperature outside at 94 degrees, the inside of a car could be 122 degrees in just half an hour, or 132 degrees after an hour.
Speed causes many crashes. More drivers are convicted of speeding than any other offense. To avoid being fined or involved in a crash, obey the speed limits.
Speed is very important in a collision. If you double the speed of a car, you increase its force of impact four times. If you triple the speed, the impact is nine times as great.
70 Does Not Always Mean 70
Remember that speed limits show the fastest speed you may drive under good conditions. You are responsible for adjusting your driving speed to the road conditions. For example, if the weather is bad or there is a lot of traffic, you must drive more slowly than the posted speed. The safe speed is the one that allows you to have complete control of your vehicle.
Florida "Standard" Speed Limits
|Municipal Speed Areas||30|
|Business or Residential Areas||30|
|Rural Interstate Limited||70|
|Limited Access Highways||70|
|All Other Roads and Highways||55*|
*The 55 MPH maximum speed limit is still in effect in Florida except where otherwise posted. Speed limits are 70 MPH on some rural interstate highways. Speed limits may be changed on other multi-lane highways. Drivers should not assume because the area appears to be rural, the limit is 70 MPH. Observe and obey the posted speed signs as there may be frequent changes from area to area along the selected roads and highways.
Driving Too Slowly is also Against the Law
Drive with the flow of traffic (within the speed limit). You should not drive so slowly that you block other vehicles moving at normal, safe speeds. You can be issued a ticket for driving too slowly.
Following Officer's and Fireman's Instructions
If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer, pull off immediately to the extreme right, clear of traffic when possible. Turn off your engine. Reduce your headlights to the parking light position at night. Sit calmly and follow the instructions of the officer. You must follow any lawful order or direction of (1) any police officer or (2) any fireman at the scene of a fire who is directing traffic. If a police officer is directing traffic where there are signal lights, obey the officer — not the signals.
More crashes happen at intersections than any other place. Be very careful when approaching any intersection or driveway.
- Look both ways and be ready to brake or stop.
- Drive at the slowest speed just before entering the intersection, not while crossing.
- Do not pass or change lanes.
- Be aware of vehicles behind you. Will they be able to stop if necessary?
If you are stopped, look for bicyclists and pedestrians who may be crossing the intersection from either direction.
Who has the right-of-way in Florida? The answer is no one! The law only says who must yield (give up) the right-of-way. Every driver, motorcyclist, moped rider, bicyclist and pedestrian must do everything possible to avoid a crash.
You must yield the right-of-way to all other traffic and pedestrians at stop signs. Move forward only when the road is clear. At four-way stops, the first vehicle to stop should move forward first. If two vehicles reach the intersection at the same time, the driver on the left yields to the driver on the right.
An open intersection is one without traffic control signs or signals. When you enter one, you must yield the right-of-way if:
- A vehicle is already in the intersection.
- You enter or cross a state highway from a secondary road.
- You enter a paved road from an unpaved road.
- You plan to make a left turn and a vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction.
When two cars enter an open intersection at the same time, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right.
Roundabouts are a new type of intersection, which improves traffic flow and reduces traffic crashes. Most roundabouts do not require stopping, which allows vehicles to move continuously through intersections at the same low speed. Roundabouts are designed to move all traffic through a counterclockwise direction. Vehicles approaching the roundabout yield to circulating traffic; however, drivers must obey all signs to determine the correct right-of-way in the roundabout.
Safety Rules for Pedestrians
- Look to the left and the right before stepping off any curb.
- Cross only at intersections or designated crosswalks. Drivers are always more alert for pedestrians when they approach intersections.
- Cross with the green light or "WALK" signal. Make sure you have enough time to cross. Although the motorist must yield, the motorist may not see you in time.
- While walking along a highway, always walk on the shoulder on the left side, facing traffic. Wear light colored clothing or use a flashlight to make you more visible to drivers at night.
It is the motorist's responsibility to do everything possible to avoid colliding with any pedestrians. Bicyclists, skaters and skateboarders in a crosswalk or driveway are considered pedestrians. Turning motorists must yield to pedestrians crossing the street or driveway at any marked mid-block crossing, driveway or intersections without traffic signals.
In Florida, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle. Bicyclists using a public roadway are considered operators of motor vehicles and are responsible for observing traffic laws. With few exceptions, there is only one road and it is up to motorists and bicyclists to treat each other with care and respect. Adherence to the law is the foundation of respect.
The primary traveling aids for a person who is blind are often either a white cane or a trained guide dog. Independent travel involves some risk that can be greatly reduced when you, the driver, are aware of the use and meaning of a white cane or guide dog.
Drivers must always yield the right-of-way to persons who are blind. When a pedestrian is crossing a street or highway guided by a dog or carrying a white cane (or a white cane with a red tip), vehicles must come to a complete stop.
On a two-way street or highway, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a stopped school bus which is picking up or dropping off children. You must remain stopped until all children are clear of the roadway and the bus signal has been withdrawn. Violation of this law is considered a moving violation and is subject to a mandatory hearing.
If the highway is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide, you do not have to stop if you are moving in the opposite direction of the bus. Painted lines or pavement markings are not considered to be barriers. If you are moving in the same direction as the bus, you must always stop — and not go forward until the bus stop signal has been withdrawn.
BOTH CARS MUST STOP!
Crossing guards are posted in areas where it is unsafe for children to cross alone. When you see a guard, reduce your speed as you near a school and children are in the area. Watch for school zone posted speed and stop if necessary at the marked stop lined but never in the cross walk. Obey signals from any crossing guard. It is the driver's responsibility to do everything possible to avoid colliding with pedestrians. Remember, children are unpredictable. Do your part to make every crossing a safe crossing.
All drivers should yield the right-of-way to public transit bus traveling in the same direction which has signaled and in reentering the traffic flow from a specifically designated pullout bay.
Pedestrians and drivers must yield the right-of-way to funeral processions. When the first vehicle in the funeral procession lawfully enters an intersection, other vehicles in the procession must have their headlights on as a signal to other drivers not to drive between or interfere with the procession while it is in motion unless directed to do so by a police officer.
Driveways form an intersection with sidewalks. Motorists must yield to bicyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalk.
Pedestrians and drivers must yield the right-of-way to law enforcement cars, fire engines and other emergency vehicles using sirens and/or flashing lights. Pull over to the closest edge of the roadway right away and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. Do not block intersections.
When driving on interstate highways or other highways with two or more lanes traveling in the direction of the emergency vehicle, and except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer, drivers approaching a law enforcement or other authorized emergency vehicle parked on a roadway with their emergency lights activated, will be required to leave the lane closest to the emergency vehicle, as soon as it is safe to do so.
When approaching a law enforcement or other authorized emergency vehicle parked on a two-lane roadway with their emergency lights activated, and except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer, drivers will be required to slow to a speed that is 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit when the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or greater; or travel at 5 miles per hour when the posted speed limit is 20 miles per hour or less.
Turning a corner may seem to be a simple operation, but many traffic crashes are caused by drivers who do not turn correctly.
There are nine steps in making a good turn:
- Make up your mind about your turn before you get to the turning point. Never make "last minute" turns.
- If you must change lanes, look behind and to both sides to see where other vehicles are located before making your turn.
- Move into the correct lane as you near the intersection. The correct lane for the right turn is the lane next to the right edge of the roadway. On a two-lane road with traffic in both directions, an approach for a left turn should be made in the part of the right half of the roadway nearest the center line.
- Give a turn signal for at least the last 100 feet before you make your turn. Let other drivers know what you are going to do.
- Slow down to a safe turning speed.
- When you are slowing to make a right turn, the bicyclist you passed may be catching up to you. Search over your shoulder before turning. Yield to bicyclists and pedestrians.
- Yield to pedestrians who may be crossing your path when turning left. Always scan for pedestrians before starting the turn.
- Make the turn, staying in the proper lane. Yield the right-of-way to vehicles (including bicycles) coming from the opposite direction.
- Finish your turn in the proper lane. A right turn should be from the right lane into the right lane of the roadway entered. A left turn may be completed in any lane lawfully available, or safe, for the desired direction of travel. See diagrams for making left turns from or into one-way streets.
If you reach an intersection where you wish to make a right or left turn and are not in the proper lane, you should drive to the next intersection. Then make the turn from the proper lane.
Study these diagrams showing lanes to use in making turns.
Left and Right Turns
Left from one-way into 2-way
Left from one-way into one-way roads
Left from two-way onto two-ways roads
Left from two way onto one-way roads
Bike Lanes at Intersections
Slow down and look for bicyclists. Signal your turn prior to crossing through the bike lane at the dashed striping. Yield to any bicyclist. Complete the turn from the designated right turn lane.
If there is no right turn lane, after checking to make sure that no bicyclists are present, you may enter the bike lane at the intersection or driveway.
Turnabout (Three-Point Turn)
Sometimes you will need to turn your car around in a very small space. Use a three-point turn only if the road is too narrow for a U-turn and you can't go around the block. To make a three-point turn:
- Move as far right as possible, check traffic, and signal a left turn.
- Turn the steering wheel sharply to the left and move forward slowly. Stop at the curb, or edge of roadway.
- Shift to reverse, turn your wheels sharply to the right, check traffic, and back your vehicle to the right curb, or edge of roadway.
You can now move in the opposite direction. Check traffic, and move forward. Never make a three-point turn or a U-turn on a curve, a hill, or when a sign indicates that making a u-turn is prohibited.
Turn Signals and Emergency Signals
You must use hand signals or directional signals to show that you are about to turn.
It is against the law to use your directional signals to tell drivers behind you that they can pass. Four-way emergency flashers should only be used while your vehicle is legally stopped or disabled on the highway or shoulder.
slow or stop
Always drive on the right side of a two-lane highway except when passing. If the road has four or more lanes with two-way traffic, drive in the right lanes except when overtaking and passing.
Left lanes on some interstate roads are reserved for car pool vehicles with two or more occupants in the car — watch for diamond signs in the median. The center lane of a three-lane or five-lane highway is used only for turning left.
If you see red reflectors facing you on the lane lines, you are on the wrong side of the road. Get into the proper lane immediately! If you see red reflectors on the lines on the edge of the road, you are on the wrong freeway ramp. Pull over immediately! Red reflectors always mean you are facing traffic the wrong way and could have a head-on collision.
Blind spots are areas near the left and right rear corners of your vehicle that you cannot see in your rearview mirrors. Before you move sideways to change lanes on an expressway or to pass on any road, turn your head to make sure these areas are clear.
Areas bordered by X's are blind spots for a car with an outside mirror on the left side only.
On the roads with more than one lane in each direction, do not drive in someone else's blind spot. Speed up or drop back so the other driver can see you.
- Stay a safe distance behind the vehicle you want to pass. The closer you get to the vehicle you want to pass, the less you can see ahead. This is especially true when passing trucks, trailers, and other large vehicles.
- Before you pull out to pass, check your blind spots and make sure that you have plenty of time and room to pass.
- On a two-lane road, tap your horn, or at night blink your headlights to let the other driver know you are passing.
- Give your signal before you move into the left lane.
- Do not return to the right side of the road until you can see the vehicle you passed in your rearview mirror.
- You must return to the right side of the road before coming within 200 feet of any vehicle coming from the opposite direction.
- Passing on the right is only legal when there are two or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction or the vehicle you are passing is making a left turn. Pulling off the pavement to pass on the right is against the law.
- The driver of the car behind passed must not increase speed until the pass is complete.
- Help other drivers pass you safely. Move to the right side of your lane to give them more room and a better view of the road ahead.
When You May Not Pass
You may not pass on a two-lane road with traffic moving in opposite directions under these conditions:
- Where you see a "DO NOT PASS" or "NO PASSING ZONE" sign.
- Where a solid yellow line is painted on your side of the center line.
- On hills or curves.
- At intersections.
- Within 100 feet of a bridge, viaduct, tunnel, or railroad crossing.
Violators may be arrested or issued a ticket.
Minimum Safe Following Distances
Leave plenty of space between you and the car ahead. If it stops quickly, you will need time to see the danger and stop.
Using the Two-Second Rule
At any speed, you can use the two-second rule to see if you are far enough behind the car in front of you:
- Watch the vehicle ahead pass some fixed point — an overpass, sign, fence corner, or other marker.
- Count off the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot in the road ("one thousand and one, one thousand and two...").
- If you reach the mark before you finish counting, you are following too closely. Slow down and check your following distance again.
The two-second rule applies to any speed in good weather and road conditions. If road or weather conditions are not good, double your following distance. You should also double your following distance when driving a mobile home or towing a trailer.
When parking on a public road, move as far away from traffic as possible. If there is a roadside shoulder, pull as far onto it as you can. If there is a curb, pull close to it — you must not park more than one foot away.
Always park on the right side of the roadway, unless it is a one-way street.
Make sure your vehicle cannot move. Set the parking brake and shift to park with an automatic transmission or reverse with a manual transmission. Turn off the engine and lock the vehicle. Florida law requires that you take the keys out of your vehicle before leaving it. Always check traffic behind you before getting out, or get out on the curb side.
Before you leave any parked position, look over your shoulder to the rear to make sure the way is clear. Give the proper turn signal if driving from a curb and yield to other traffic.
Parking on Hills
When parking on hills:
- Turn your wheels so that if your car starts to move by itself it will roll away from traffic or into the curb. Study the diagram provided.
- Set the parking brake.
- Put automatic gear shift in park. Shift manual gears to reverse (downhill) or first (uphill).
The rear markers represent the REAR corners of the parking space. The forward markers represent the approximate CENTER of the parking space. When properly parked, the vehicle should be centered inside the space with no part of the vehicle extending out into the traffic lane.
Where Parking is not Allowed
- On the roadway side of another parked vehicle (double parking).
- On crosswalks.
- On sidewalks.
- In front of driveways.
- By curbs painted yellow or where "No Parking" signs are posted.
- Within intersections.
- Within 15 feet of a fire hydrant.
- Within 20 feet of an intersection.
- Within 20 feet of the entrance to a fire, ambulance or rescue squad station.
- Within 50 feet of a railroad crossing.
- On the hard surface of a highway where parking spaces are not marked.
- On any bridge or overpass or in any tunnel.
- Within 30 feet of a rural mail box on a state highway between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Within 30 feet of any flashing signal, stop sign or traffic signal.
- In such a way that you block or create a hazard for other vehicles.
Parking lights must be used at night on any vehicle parked on a roadway or shoulder outside of cities and towns.
Driving with parking lights only (in place of headlights) is against the law.
Parking Privilege for Disabled
Disabled persons do not have to pay parking fees on any public street, highway, or metered space. Their vehicles must display a valid parking placard from the rearview mirror or on the front dash. These may be obtained from a tag agent or tax collector's office and must be renewed every four years.
Disabled persons must park in spaces reserved for the disabled when possible. These spaces are marked by the wheelchair symbol and "Parking by Disabled Permit Only" signs. Vehicles illegally parked in spaces reserved for the handicapped will be ticketed and may be towed.
- Proof of Eligibility: Statement from a physician licensed in the United States, the Division of Blind Services of the Department of Education, or the Veterans Administration to the effect that applicant is a severely physically disabled individual with permanent mobility problems which substantially impair his or her ability to ambulate or is certified as legally blind.
- Contact your local County Tax Collector or Tag Agent.
- Complete HSMV 83039 "Application for a disabled person's parking permit."
- Provide Proof of Eligibility — Doctor's Statement.
- Pay $1.50.
- Pay $15.00 for temporary disabled person parking permit.
- Present valid Florida driver license or identification card.
Expressways — also called interstate highways, freeways, and turnpikes — are multiple-lane roads with no stop signs, traffic lights, or railroad crossings. For these reasons, expressways can give you a fast, safe way to get where you need to go.
Pedestrians, hitchhikers, bicycles, animal-drawn vehicles or motor-driven cycles and motor scooters with 150 cubic centimeter displacement or less are not allowed on expressways.
Entering and Leaving Expressways
Vehicles can enter and leave expressways only at certain points. Because expressway traffic is usually moving at or close to the maximum speed allowed, you need to know how to enter and exit safely.
All expressway entrances have three basic parts: an entrance ramp, an acceleration lane, and a merging area. Follow these guidelines to enter an expressway safely:
- On the entrance ramp, begin checking for an opening in traffic. Signal for your turn.
- As the ramp straightens into the acceleration lane, speed up. Try to adjust your speed so that you can move into the traffic when you reach the end of the acceleration lane.
- Merge into traffic when you can do so safely. You must yield right-of-way to traffic on the expressway. You cannot always count on other drivers moving over to give you room to enter, but do not stop on an acceleration lane unless traffic is too heavy and there is no space for you to enter safely.
When leaving an expressway:
- Get into the exit lane. Posted signs will tell you which one. Most expressway exits are from the right lane.
- Signal your intention to leave the expressway by using your turn signals.
- Slow down as soon as you are off the expressway. Check the posted safe speed for the exit ramp.
- Do not make last-minute turns into an exit. If you go past your exit, you must go to the next one.
- Plan your trip. Know just where you will get on and get off.
- Drive in the right lane and pass on the left. If there are three lanes, use the right lane for lower speed driving, the left for passing. If you stay in the right lane, watch for cars entering the expressway. Adjust your speed or move into the center lane so they can enter safely.
- Never stop on the pavement, shoulder, or connecting ramp of an expressway except in an emergency. If your vehicle breaks down, it may be parked on the side of the expressway (completely off the pavement) for no more than six hours. Raise your hood and tie a white cloth to your antenna or left door handle to show you need help.
- Never back up on an expressway entrance ramp or exit ramp. The only exception to this would be if you are trying to enter an express way through an exit. In this case, you would see a "WRONG WAY" or "DO NOT ENTER" sign. Then you must back up or turn around.
- Do not cross, drive on or park on the median strip.
- Do not follow too closely. Rear end collisions are the greatest danger on expressways. Always leave room for emergency stops.
- Stop driving when you feel tired. On long trips the hum of the engine and your lack of movement can make you feel sleepy. Stop for a cup of coffee, a short walk, or a nap. Do not risk failing asleep at the wheel.
- Stay out of other drivers' blind spots.
- Beware of turnpike hypnosis. Continuous expressway driving can become monotonous. Avoid staring. Get into the habit of shifting your eyes left and right and using rearview mirrors.
You will need to drive with extra care at night. You cannot see as far ahead or to the side, and glare from oncoming cars can reduce your vision even more. Follow these guidelines for driving at night:
- Use your headlights (low beam or high beam) between the hours of sunset and sunrise.
- Low beam headlamps are only effective for speeds up to 20-25 mph. You must use special care when driving faster than these speeds, since you are unable to detect pedestrians, bicyclists and others.
- High beam headlights can reveal objects up to a distance of at least 450 feet and are most effective for speeds faster than 25 mph.
- Don't use high-beam headlights within 500 feet of oncoming vehicles.
- If you are behind other vehicles, use low beams when you are within 300 feet of the vehicle ahead.
- When leaving a brightly lit place, drive slowly until your eyes grow used to darkness.
- If a vehicle comes toward you with high beams, flash your lights to high beam and back to low beam once.
- Don't look directly at oncoming headlights. Instead, watch the right edge of your lane. Look quickly to be sure of the other vehicle's position every few seconds.
- Drive as far to the right as you can if a vehicle with one light comes toward you.
Wild and domestic animals may move unpredictably towards or across the travel path of an approaching motor vehicle. When an animal is seen in the road or on the road shoulder, you should slow down and, if necessary, yield the right-of-way. Be especially careful in rural areas at night. Often an animal's eyes shining in the headlight beams will be seen first.
Use reasonable care when approaching a person who is riding or leading an animal upon the roadway or shoulder of the road. Horses have poor side vision and are easily frightened by loud noises or sudden movements.
Fog or Smoke
It is best not to drive in fog or smoke. If you must, slow down, turn on your low beam headlights, and be ready for a fast stop. Use windshield wipers in heavy fog. If the fog or smoke becomes so thick that you cannot see well enough to keep driving, pull all the way off the pavement and stop. Turn on your emergency flashers.
The first few drops of rain mean danger. Roads are most slippery just after the rain begins, because oil dropped from cars has not been washed away. Slow down and plan for at least two times the normal stopping distance.
In a heavy rain, your tires can ride on a thin film of water, like skis. This is called hydroplaning. When your tires are not touching the road, you can easily lose control and skid. Keep your tires on the road by slowing down when it rains, and by having tires with the right air pressure and good tread.
Brakes often become wet after driving through deep water or driving in heavy rain. They may pull to one side or the other, or they may not hold at all. If this happens, slow down and gently push on the brake pedal until your brakes are working again.
You must turn on your low beam (dim) headlights when driving at any time between sunset and sunrise including the twilight hours between sunset and sunrise including the twilight hours between sunset and full night or between full night and sunrise. You must also use these lights during any rain, smoke or fog. Parking lights do not meet requirements of this law.
When you are driving, things can happen very quickly. You may have only a fraction of a second to make the right move. Follow these guidelines for handling emergencies.
- If possible, park where the disabled vehicle can be seen for 200 feet in each direction.
- Move the vehicle so all four wheels are off the pavement.
- Turn on your emergency flashers.
- Get all passengers out on the side away from traffic.
- Tie a white cloth on the left door handle or antenna.
- Raise the hood.
- Do not use brakes.
- Concentrate on steering.
- Slow down gradually.
- Brake softly when the car is under control.
- Pull completely off the pavement.
- Test brakes lightly after driving through deep water.
- Brakes may pull to one side or may not hold at all.
- Dry brakes by driving slowly in low gear and applying brakes.
Right Wheels off Pavement
- Take your foot off the gas pedal.
- Hold the wheel firmly and steer in a straight line.
- Brake lightly.
- Wait until the road is clear.
- Turn back on the pavement sharply at slow speed.
Car or Motorcycle Approaching in your Lane
- Sound your horn.
- Brake sharply.
- Steer for the side of the road or the ditch.
Jammed Gas Pedal
- Keep your eyes on the road.
- Tap the gas pedal with your foot.
- Try to pry the pedal up with the toe of your shoe.
- Shift into neutral.
- Turn off the ignition. (Do not turn the key to lock, or your steering will lock.)
- Use your brakes.
- Pump the brake pedal hard and fast.
- Shift to a lower gear.
- Apply the parking brake slowly, so you do not skid.
- Rub your tires on the curb to slow your vehicle, or pull off the road into an open space.
- Take your foot off the gas pedal.
- Do not use your brakes, if possible.
- Pump the brakes gently if you are about to hit something.
- Steer the car into the direction of the skid to straighten the vehicle out. Then steer in the direction you wish to go.
- If the fire is small and you have a portable extinguisher, you should attempt to extinguish the fire.
- If you cannot extinguish the fire and it continues to get larger, get away from the vehicle, due to the presence of toxic fumes and the possibility of explosion.
- Never apply water to a gasoline or diesel fire.
Sharing the Road with a Truck
Whether you are sharing the road with a car, truck, bus, or other large vehicle, it's important for safety's sake to obey traffic laws, abide by the rules of the road, and drive defensively.
Are there any special rules for sharing the road with a truck?
Yes! Here are some suggestions from professional truck drivers:
- Side Blind Spots. Trucks and buses have much larger blind spots on both sides than do passenger cars. If a commercial driver needs to swerve or change lanes for any reason, contact with the car in such a spot can occur.
- Rear Blind Spots. Unlike passenger cars, trucks and buses have deep blind spots directly behind them. Tailgating greatly increases your chances of a rear-end collision with a commercial vehicle.
- Unsafe Passing. Another No Zone is just in front of trucks and buses. When passing a bus or truck, be sure you can see the cab in your rear view mirror before pulling in front.
- Wide Right Turns. Truck and bus drivers sometimes need to swing wide to the left in order to safely negotiate a right turn. They cannot see cars directly behind or beside them. Cutting in between the commercial vehicle and the curb or shoulder to the right increases the possibility of a crash.
- Backing Up. When a truck is backing up, it sometimes must block the street to maneuver its trailer accurately. Never cross behind a truck that is preparing to back up or is in the process of doing so. Remember, most trailers are eight and a half feet wide and can completely hide objects that suddenly come between them and loading areas. Automobile drivers attempting to pass behind a truck enter a blind spot for both drivers.
- When passing a truck, first check to your front and rear, and move into the passing lane only if it is clear and you are in a legal passing zone. Let the truck driver know you are passing by blinking your headlights, especially at night. The driver will make it easier for you by staying to the far side of the lane.
- On a level highway, it takes only three to five seconds longer to pass a truck than a car. On an upgrade, a truck often loses speed, so it is easier to pass than a car. On a downgrade, the truck's momentum will cause it to go faster, so you may need to increase your speed.
- Complete your pass as quickly as possible, and don't stay alongside the other vehicle.
- If the driver blinks his lights after you pass, it's a signal that it is clear to pull back in. Be sure to move back only when you can see the front of the truck in your rearview mirror. After you pass a truck, maintain your speed.
- When a truck passes you, you can help the truck driver by keeping to the far side of your lane. You'll make it easier for the truck driver if you reduce speed slightly. In any event, do not speed up while the truck is passing. After passing, the truck driver will signal to let you know that the truck will be returning to your lane.
- When you meet a truck coming from the opposite direction, keep as far as possible to the side to avoid a sideswipe accident and to reduce the wind turbulence between the two vehicles. Remember that the turbulence pushes the vehicles apart. It does not suck them together.
Following a Truck
- In general, trucks take slightly longer than cars to stop because of their size. However, at highway speeds or on wet roads, trucks may have better traction and stability allowing them to stop more quickly. A car following too closely may not be able to stop quickly enough to avoid rear-ending the truck.
- If you are following a truck, stay out of its "blind spot" to the rear. Avoid following too closely, and position your vehicle so the truck driver can see it in his side mirrors. Then you will have a good view of the road ahead, and the truck driver can give you plenty of warning for a stop or a turn. You will have more time — to react and make a safe stop.
- When you follow a truck at night, always dim your headlights. Bright lights from a vehicle behind will blind the truck driver when they reflect off the truck's large side mirrors.
- If you are stopped behind a truck on an upgrade, leave space in case the truck drifts back slightly when it starts to move. Also, keep to the left in your lane so the driver can see that you're stopped behind the truck.
Sharing the Road with a Bicycle
- Allow three feet of clearance when passing a cyclist. Reduce your speed if the roadway is narrow.
- After parallel parking, check for cyclists before opening the driver's side door.
- At night, avoid using high-beam headlights when a cyclist is approaching. The cyclist could be temporarily blinded.
- Do not follow a cyclist closely. If you are too close and the cyclist must lay down their bike down on the road in an emergency, you could run them over.
Sharing the Road with a Motorcycle
- When you follow a motorcycle, remember that motorcycles have the ability of stopping much more quickly than other vehicles in emergencies. Following too closely endangers your life and that of the motorcyclist. Do not follow a motorcyclist closely.
- Watch for motorcycles before turning and yield right of way.
- Include motorcycles in your visual search pattern.
- Do not share the lane with a motorcycle. The motorcyclist needs the room to maneuver safely and is entitled to the entire lane.
- When your automobile is being passed by a motorcycle, you should maintain your lane position and speed. Allow the motorcycle to complete the maneuver and assume proper lane position as quickly as possible.
- Do not follow the motorcycle closely. Motorcycles can stop in a shorter distance than a car.
- In traffic, especially in inclement weather or under certain road conditions, motorcycles operate differently than other vehicles:
- Wind gusts can move a motorcycle across an entire lane.
- Wet or icy roads impair a motorcyclist's ability to brake and maneuver.
- Potholes or railroad tracks, often require motorcyclists to change positions within their lane.
- Gravel roads decrease traction and may cause a rider to slow down or brake where a car would not.