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Seven Tips to Be a Better Defensive Driver

Motor vehicle accidents and fatalities rose in Texas, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with accidents involving alcohol and speeding.

While the facts are troubling, there are things you can do to keep you and your family safer. Here are seven tips to keep in mind:

1. Make Sure Passengers Are Secure

Securing everyone in your car before you start the engine is an important habit. In Texas, any child under the age of 8 must be in a federally-approved car seat when a vehicle is in motion. The only exception is if the child is more than 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

Furthermore, all passengers must use seat belts. Fines starting at $250 can be issued if seat belts are not in use.

You should also take the time to secure pets in appropriate carriers. This will help keep both your pets and your human passengers safer if an accident occurs.

2. Be Aware of Your Speed

Speeding can cause accidents that may lead to serious injuries and even death. However, driving too slowly may also trigger crashes. Stay aware of the speed limits wherever you go and adhere to them.

3. Avoid Distractions

Distracted driving continues to be a major problem in Texas. While there is no statewide ban on mobile devices while driving, Texas has made it illegal for bus drivers and novice drivers to use them. In addition, some municipalities prohibit texting while operating a motor vehicle.

Make it a point to focus on the road when you get in the driver’s seat. Put off other distracting activities, whether they involve answering a text, sipping your coffee or glancing at a map, until you are fully stopped.

4. Remain Alert at All Times

Driving requires careful decisions and constant awareness of everything around you. This means you can’t take anything for granted. A vehicle may pop in front of you without notice, potentially putting you and your passengers in danger. So you need to look around you on a continual basis.

Look in your mirrors frequently and scan the road ahead as you drive. Stay alert for hazards and slowing traffic.

5. Don’t Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

In 2012, NHTSA reports, 1,296 people were killed in Texas accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers. That was an increase of 80 from the previous year. These deaths were preventable. People who get behind the wheel after drinking or using drugs, put their own lives in danger and risk the lives of everyone else on the road. Even some prescription drugs can cause symptoms that make driving hazardous. Make it a point to be completely sober and drug-free every time you put the keys in your ignition.

If you see someone driving recklessly or weaving across lanes,  pull off the road and call the police. That driver could be under the influence and endangering others on the road.

6. Be Visible

Many factors go into car accidents. Sometimes a driver does not notice another car until it is too late. Using your turn signal, turning on your headlights and keeping away from others’ blind spots are all keys to being seen. Don’t forget to make sure your brake lights and headlights are working.

7. Be Sensitive to Road Conditions

You may be very familiar with a certain road, but that doesn’t mean you should always drive on it in the same way. In inclement weather, you need to slow down. Even light rain can create a slippery surface and lead to accidents.