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Take action before you hit the road

Published On: Dec 27 2011 04:58:55 PM CST   Updated On: Jul 01 2013 01:02:53 PM CDT
green hybrid car driving down road

iStock/dlewis33

In January 2014, authorities say a New Mexico woman called in a fake report of a gunman near a convenience store to help a friend avoid a traffic ticket over a taillight.

Checking mirrors and seat belts every time you get in your car might seem overly cautious, but driving experts say that what you do before you turn on the ignition may mean the difference between life and death.

"So many accidents can be traced back to bad decisions before you even get behind the driver's seat," said Jeff Purner, a professional driving instructor for Porsche Cars North America.

Routine maintenance is critical to your safety. For example, under-inflated tires are the primary cause of tire failures and can adversely affect your car's handling and fuel mileage. Check your tires, including your spare, at least once a month.

You should check your wiper blades monthly as well. Worn blades impact visibility and create glare on the windshield, even when they are not in use.

What you bring with you into your car could be the most critical decision of your day. Cell phones are one of the most dangerous items to use in your car. Anytime you're talking, texting or using GPS applications, you're not paying attention to the road. Purner said that using cell phones while driving, especially to text message, is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Do yourself a favor, and turn your cell phone off, he said.

After switching off your cell phone, you should check and adjust your seat belt. The lap belt should rest low across your waist, and the shoulder strap should come over your shoulder and across your chest. Never put the shoulder strap under your armpit. Before turning on the ignition, adjust your rear-view and side-view mirrors. According to Purner, too many drivers set their mirrors to reflect the outside of their own car instead of the road.

"You already know where your car is; you should be concerned about where the other cars are so that you can avoid them," Purner said.

When positioning your hands on the steering wheel, hold the wheel at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock. In this position, you can turn the wheel the furthest without your hands crossing over. This hold also allows for a better "feel" and faster response time.

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