How do you like to begin the new year? Are you a goal-getter who makes resolutions each year and keeps them all the way through December 31? Or, perhaps, do you begin with good intentions but find yourself derailed midway through March? Maybe you’re utterly realistic (or content with yourself as you are) and don’t make resolutions at all.

Regardless of how you feel about New Year’s Resolutions, it can be helpful to see the beginning of a calendar year as a fresh start, a time to evaluate and make changes to improve your life or the lives of others.

Not sure where to begin? We suggest one resolution that everyone can keep: Become an All-Star Driver in 2017!

Beat the Odds of a Car Accident

Think about it: the average American spends 17,600 minutes driving each year. That’s more than 45 minutes in your car each day. Driving is an everyday activity for the majority of Arkansans. Our state is more rural with fewer methods of public transportation.

Your odds of being killed in a car wreck are 1 in 113, compared to a 1 in 358 chance of being killed by firearm or 1 in 1,183 odds of drowning. That doesn’t mean you should throw away your car keys and never drive again. But it does mean that no matter how many times you get behind the wheel, you should never go on “autopilot.”

You can take small, tangible steps toward becoming a better driver, helping keep yourself and others safe on the road. And you can start today!

5 Ways to Become a Better Driver Today

Choose one of the following tips to put into practice the next time you get behind the wheel. Write a reminder on a brightly-colored Post-It note and post it in the car where you’ll see it.

  1. Keep Your Hands on the Wheel at the Correct Positions.

    When most of us learned to drive, we were told to hold the steering wheel at “10 and 2,” referencing the numbers on a clock. Apparently, we’ve been doing it wrong. This hand position puts you at risk for hand, wrist, and even head injuries when your airbag deploys in a car wreck. Instead, the official guidelines recommend keeping your hands lower, at “9 and 3.”And don’t think about “hooking” the wheel, with your hand under the wheel and your palm facing you, or “palming” it, when you keep your palm resting against the wheel without closing your fingers around it. These positions don’t give you good control of the steering wheel. They also set you up for injury in the event of a collision.

  2. Drive the Speed Limit.

    This is one safe driving tip that truly requires no special skills or training. Whether you’re going significantly slower or faster, you are always at a greater risk for accidents when you drive at a different speed than the cars around you. And although it may feel like you’re getting there more quickly, speeding really doesn’t save you much time, particularly when you factor in traffic and traffic lights. Don’t believe it? Try this interactive tool from DefensiveDriving.com to see for yourself: Does Speeding Save Time? Once you consider how much time and money you’ll waste if you’re pulled over and issued a speeding ticket, driving the posted speed limit just makes sense.

  3. Learn to Merge Correctly.

    This is a tough one for many people. When we see that a lane of traffic is ending, most of us fall into one of two categories. We either become the “rule followers,” who merge as soon as they see the sign, falling in line long before the lanes actually narrow, or the “line jumpers,” who wait until the last possible second to merge from the narrowing lane. According to experts, neither style of merging is correct and both, in fact, cause major traffic jams.

    Instead, you should “zipper merge,” which is explained in The Urge to Merge by the New York Times as well as Lifehacker’s article The Right Way to Merge. There’s no guarantee that all of your fellow drivers will cooperate, but you can do your part to reduce traffic jams. Feel free to share this article on social media as a subtle nudge to your friends who could use a lesson on merging.

  4. Eliminate Distractions.

    When it comes to distracted driving, texting gets the most attention because it involves both mental and physical distractions. However, when you commit to being a focused driver, you’ll need to think twice about other common car distractions. Refrain from eating, changing the radio station/adjusting music settings, using your GPS or map app, and talking to other passengers. You’re operating a 2-ton machine; give it your full attention. You may be surprised by how quickly your driving improves!

  5. Don’t Drive If You’re Not Alert.

    This is where you expect to see the standard warning against drinking alcohol and driving. Drunk driving IS a serious danger. Alcohol is involved in 1 out of every 3 traffic fatalities in the United States. But there are other factors that keep you from being alert when you drive. Did you know that driving after pulling an-all nighter is just as risky as driving while drunk?

    That’s right, according to an Australian study on driving and sleep impairment. Once you’ve been awake for 18 hours, your driving impairment is similar to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 percent; stay awake for 24 hours straight, and your impairment compares to a BAC of .10 percent, well over the legally drunk level of .08 percent. Certain medications and even severe illness can also impair your driving.

What to Do When Another Driver Causes Your Wreck

While these strategies can help you become a better, safer driver, you can’t always prevent an accident. If you were the victim of a car wreck in Arkansas and have injuries, Taylor King Law is here to help. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to everyone who calls us at 1-800-CAR WRECK. If you have a case, we’ll handle everything from requesting medical records to negotiating with the insurance company. Hiring an experienced Arkansas personal injury lawyer can help you protect your legal rights to compensation.

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