If you are the owner of a car, there is much to consider before, during, and after the drive. While behind the wheel, “defensive driving” is the operative phrase, a mindset that’s designed to keep you and others safe. But in the grand scheme of driving, there are some questions we must ask ourselves on occasion, including whether driving remains a viable option.
No. 1: Can I Drive?
Not every individual in possession of a driver’s license should, in fact, be driving. We know that those under the influence of alcohol or drugs should never operate a motor vehicle. Even a person on certain prescription drugs must be aware that certain medicines can impair driving. These include some antidepressants, sleep aids, cold and allergy medications, and opioids. If your physician supplies you with a prescription, make sure it doesn’t impact your driving abilities. For over-the-counter aids, consult your pharmacist. If there is no alternative, then arrange for other transportation while medicated.
For elderly drivers, the decision to hand over the keys may be a difficult one to make alone. Concerns about personal mobility are strong, but the overarching point is always safety. Some of the more obvious signs of trouble involve difficulty making decisions in heavy traffic. Others include making sudden lane changes, driving slower than the posted limit, and getting lost. Increased “close calls” and “near misses” are also a worry. Accepting cognitive and physical decline is not easy. A loved one can help you through this transition.
No. 2: Do I Need to Drive?
We are in the habit of slipping behind the wheel of our vehicles and going where we want and when we want. That level of freedom is something we cherish as a society and is imbued in us since we were young. But is it always the right approach?
Combining trips is a wise decision, one that saves time and fuel. If you need to run to the grocery store, perhaps stopping first to retrieve your suit from the cleaners and picking up your children at school is a better plan. Not only will you save fuel, but it means less wear and tear on your vehicle.
Moreover, do you need to drive? A short walk is good for the mind and body, an ideal option for trips under one mile. Provided you don’t have to lug home heavy items, then consider it. If you’re visiting another city, taking the bus or train may be a better option. You won’t have to worry about parking and paying for it once you arrive. Furthermore, consider when you drive. These night driving accident statistics should cause pause. Lastly, if you rarely drive at all, do you need a car?
No. 3: Is My Car Safe?
You shouldn’t rely on the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to determine whether your vehicle is drivable. Those once per year inspections are great, but what happens between those times is significantly important.
At least once per month, check your tires to ensure that they are properly inflated. Low tire pressure is dangerous as it may impact handling and control. Tires also wear out faster when they are not inflated to the levels listed in your owner’s manual. Additionally, rotate your tires regularly to ensure even wear and extend longevity.
Tires alone won’t keep you safe. Indeed, there are other factors that may make your vehicle not safe to drive. Regular brake checks are essential too. Further, ensure that all exterior lighting is working. A clean emissions system is not only environmentally responsible, but it will safeguard no fumes back up inside the cabin. A working horn and a car that adheres to a maintenance schedule are additional factors. Finally, if your vehicle is under recall, get those “due items” accomplished as soon as possible.
No. 4: Is My Car Eco-Friendly?
“Green living” represents a way of thinking, one that considers our impact on the environment. Curbing climate change on a national or global level is a start, but ultimately it is an individual decision.
To begin, consider your current ride. Have you kept up with your jurisdiction’s smog control requirements? If so, you are meeting the minimum standards for clean driving. While behind the wheel, you can curb emissions by not idling while parked. Also, avoiding traffic jams whenever possible, will reduce bumper-to-bumper idling. Use your GPS to find a better route.
If you are in the market for a new vehicle, you don’t have to purchase a hybrid or a fully electric vehicle to make a difference. Sometimes the decision is as simple as opting for any vehicle that is low-emissions certified. These include LEV and SULEV models (low emissions and super low emissions, respectively). The latter has emissions levels that are 90 percent lower than the average gas-powered vehicle. Hybrids and certain gas-only models qualify. Details are found in the owner’s manual, on a label underneath the hood, or included with the vehicle’s Monroney.
All in all, the decision of whether to drive and what you drive rests with you. Likewise, your approach to driving will most certainly make a difference locally as well as globally.