Unless you live deep in a city or metropolitan area, driving is almost an essential part of daily life. You take a car to drive to work, drop your kids off at school, go to appointments, do the shopping, and do various other activities outside of your home.

To drive safely, you not only need to remember certain driving rules but also need to take care of your vehicle. We will discuss specific ways to drive well and also maintain your car to be safe on the road.

Tip #1: Always Keep Your Registration and License Updated

Be mindful of when your driver’s license and car registration expire. You could get a ticket or fine if you get pulled over and have an outdated registration or driver’s license.

The good news is that getting a new license or registration is super easy nowadays. Most BMVs in the United States have kiosks at supermarkets and big box stores where you can print a new registration and purchase a new license, among other routine transactions. You can pay with any major credit card or cash, and they remain open 24 hours a day.

Tip #2: Keep a Regular Maintenance Schedule

It’s good to get your oil changed, tires rotated, engine inspected, and other necessary maintenance steps done regularly. Many garages offer maintenance packages where you can complete multiple maintenance tasks in one visit while you wait comfortably in a customer lounge.

Most mechanics recommend changing your oil every three to six months or when your oil life is 20 percent or lower. Going to a regular car wash is another way to help keep your car clean and free of rust or debris.

Many garages will place a helpful sticker on your windshield detailing when you should get your oil changed again. You can also set reminders on your phone to make your next appointment.

Tip #3: Be Weather-Smart

Heavy rain or snow can be dangerous to drive in, and having the right equipment can make a huge difference.

When you need to drive in inclement weather, especially snow, pack an emergency kit with the following items:

  • Jumper cables
  • Ice scraper
  • Bag of cat litter
  • Water and food
  • Blankets
  • First-aid kit
  • Snow shovel
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Cell phone charger and extra battery
  • Flashlight

Remember that the road is most slippery when the rain starts to fall, so exercise caution at the beginning of a rainfall.

If it rains so heavily that you cannot see the road, pull over if it’s safe. Otherwise, turn on your windshield wipers to maximum capacity and drive slowly. Whatever you do, be mindful of your surrounding conditions and act accordingly.

Tip #4: Watch Your Engine Heat

Driving for a long time, especially in the summer heat, can sometimes drive up your engine’s heat. If you see your engine heat creeping past the halfway mark on your temperature gauge, you can try turning on the heat. This will use up slight excess heat and put less strain on your engine. 

However, pulling over and stopping the engine is safer if you see steam coming from under your hood. Put up your car hood to let excess heat escape, and wait a while.

Usually, an overheard engine means there’s something wrong with your car’s cooling system. Check your radiator and hoses for any leaking coolant. You might need a coolant top-off if there isn’t a leak.

Tip #5: Steer Into a Skid

People who live in areas with ice and snow know this hard-and-fast rule, but it’s good to have a reminder.

Sometimes, vehicles skid on icy rows in an event called fishtailing. The back of the car will slip to one side or another, knocking your car off course. In the event of fishtailing, turn your steering wheel in the direction that your vehicle is skidding.

For example, if the back of your car slides to the right, you need to turn your steering wheel right. This should turn your vehicle in the right direction and get you back on track.

Above all else, do not slam on your brakes, as this could worsen the fishtail. Instead, try letting off the gas entirely and only lightly pump the brakes.

Tip #6: Keep an Eye on Your Tires’ Air Pressure

Tire pressure greatly affects your car’s fuel economy and overall performance. Under-inflated tires can make it harder to speed up and use up much more fuel, while over-inflated tires risk bursting on the road. Most tires run well at 35 to 37 PSI (pounds per square inch). 

Remember that car tires heat up when you drive, thus expanding their PSI. If your tires’ PSI is around 33, driving is still safe in residential areas or briefly on the highway since they’ll expand with driving. Otherwise, it’s good to stop at a gas station air pump or buy your own air pump.

Tip #6: Always Wear a Seatbelt

Wearing a seatbelt is often the first rule driving instructors and other teachers drill into their students, and for a good reason. Seatbelts are the first measure to prevent you and your passengers from getting injured or even killed. You might even get pulled over and fined for not wearing a seatbelt in some states.

When wearing a seat belt, ensure it’s fastened tightly across the upper thighs and against your chest and shoulder.

Tip #7: Avoid Driving While Fatigued or Intoxicated

Driving requires all your focus and attention, so avoid driving if you’re tired or recently partook in drugs or alcohol.

This is especially important if you’re driving long distances or at nighttime. If you’re driving more than two or three hours, take a brief break, whether pulling over at a gas station or just to the side of the road. Get out and do some stretches or breathe in the fresh air.

Driving while intoxicated is especially dangerous since your judgment is impaired, and you can hurt yourself or others. If you get pulled over with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or greater, you could face arrest.

Tip #8: Be Mindful of the Speed Limit

Speed limits may be annoying, especially when you’re just trying to get somewhere, but they exist for a reason, so follow them as best you can.

While going five or ten miles over the speed limit is tempting, watch out for police cars. Speeding tickets can cost a lot and may result in court appearances or even suspension of driving privileges.

Tip #9: Always Stay Calm and Drive Defensively

We’ve all been in a situation where another driver cuts us off or doesn’t indicate a turn. It can be easy to get frustrated or make crude gestures at the other driver, but doing so can lead to more aggravated driving.

The key is to drive defensively, not aggressively. You want to keep using accident-preventing techniques and drive safely rather than trying to engage with other drivers.

Tip #10: Turn Off All Lights and Wipers When Exiting Your Car

After a long drive or day, we can forget to turn certain things off before exiting our car, like windshield wipers or the headlights. Unfortunately, not doing so can quickly drain the battery and make it difficult to start your vehicle the next time you need to travel.

Take a few seconds after turning your car off to ensure you’ve turned off the headlights and windshield wipers.

Tip #11: Do Not Multitask

We are all guilty of doing this at some point on the road, but using electronic devices or fiddling with drinks while driving can cause trouble. If you must handle an electronic device or take a drink from a closed travel container, only do so at a stoplight or when the vehicle is parked.

This also means not adjusting your mirrors or seat while driving since this can affect your perception and concentration. Changing your car’s climate control while driving is okay as long as you concentrate on the road.

Final Thoughts

Driving and maintaining a vehicle can be a lot of work. However, keeping an emergency kit in your car and reminders about license and registration updates can make the process much smoother and safer.