driving danger zones
and how to safely navigate them
Most drivers can sense trouble spots on the road — you know, those places where traffic tightens and knuckles whiten. The question is, how do you handle them? We gathered some useful tips to help you cruise past danger zones and avoid accidents or costly citations.
The danger you know: commonly tricky driving areas
When you think of problematic driving areas, these zones are likely the first that come to mind.
Most people know a "School Zone" sign signals that it's time to slow (way, way) down. The speed limit around schools is typically 15–25 mph.
Drivers should also keep their eyes peeled and be ready to brake at any moment — especially during the afternoons. According to a 2011 report from the Colorado State Patrol, most traffic accidents involving young children on foot occur between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
If you're a parent picking up or dropping off your child, these tips can help boost your school-zone safety:
- Leave a few minutes early so you're never in a rush.
- Park next to the school, not across the street.
- Stick to the drop-off/pick-up zones designated for cars. Steer clear of the school buses' space.
- And lastly: don't use a car at all. If it's possible, walk with your child instead.
Road work sites
Road construction is integral to keeping our streets safe in the long run. But in the short term, it can be inconvenient and even dangerous. According to the U.S Department of Transportation, road work zones factored into more than 87,000 car accidents and 37,000 injuries in 2010.
Because road work often funnels cars into a single-file line, drivers can be tempted to tailgate or merge at the very last second. Try to avoid this. Rear-end collisions are far and away the most common crash type in these areas. It takes some discipline, but keep a safe distance from other cars just like you would in free-flowing traffic. Be especially careful during daytime hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m.), the period when roughly 70 percent of fatal crashes between 2003 and 2007 happened around work sites.
While you want to avoid hitting critters of any kind, some animal collisions can be especially costly. Colliding with a deer, for instance, can mean serious damage or injury for drivers and passengers (and, of course, the deer). Be extra careful during November if you live in a region populated by deer. Citing data from 2008, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that insurance claims for deer-related collisions tripled in that month compared with January–September data.
To help steer clear of animals on the road, lower your speed (especially at dusk and dawn), keep your guard up in rural areas — "Animal Crossing" sign or not — and flash your lights and honk your horn to scare off and warn any creatures in your path.
Lesser-known danger zones
You probably don't sweat these seemingly tame driving areas too much. But navigating them can pose difficulties and costly claims if you let your guard down.
You're off the road, so the risk of an accident is pretty much gone, right? Alas, that misleading sense of relaxation likely makes parking lots so dangerous. According to the IIHS, a whopping 52 percent of all back-over injuries — backing into a pedestrian or cyclist — take place in nonresidential parking lots.
The next time you hit the mall or grocery store, don't forget your usual good driving habits. Go slowly, use turn signals, and obey traffic lanes.
Driveways (yes, driveways)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 39 percent of back-over fatalities happen in driveways (or apartment/condo parking lots). Just because you're on your home turf doesn't mean you can let your guard down.
Always adjust mirrors as needed before backing out of a driveway — but don't rely on them alone. Turn your head and look behind you while in reverse, and keep the windows down to listen for animals, kids, etc. If your view is obstructed, softly tap the horn to let pedestrians know you're pulling out.
Less danger + more safety = car insurance savings
By staying aware and using the tips above, you can better navigate even the most irksome driving areas. And the longer you go without an accident or car insurance claim, the less you probably pay for your car insurance policy — and there's no danger of getting tired of that.
Learn more about driving behind school buses and other right-of-way situations.
Dangers of summer driving
Increased road construction, among other things, can put motorists in hot water during summer. We'll help you stay safe.
Visit our safety pod for more comprehensive info on safe driving.