The roads are dangerous—that’s a fact of life. It’s easy to forget because we drive so often, but anytime thousands of strangers driving heavy vehicles at high speeds get together on the same roadways, wrecks are going to happen. Some of those wrecks are going to be dangerous. It’s a risk that we have to live with, but there are ways for smart drivers to minimize that risk. At Butler Law Firm, we’ve litigated many car wreck cases, and can provide some pointers for staying safe out there.
First, pay attention. Even if you obey all the rules of the road, there’s no guarantee that other drivers will do the same. In fact, it’s a pretty good bet that some won’t. So keep an open eye for drivers who aren’t as careful and capable as you are. For instance, if you’re merging into the middle lane of a highway with three lanes per side, be careful even if the middle lane is open—make sure there’s no car in the furthest lane that intends to merge into the middle lane at the same time you do.
Second, drive a safe car. Some cars will protect you if you’re involved in a collision, while others will put you in danger. Too often, car manufacturers don’t tell consumers about dangerous defects in their cars. For instance, most people know that the Ford Pinto had a fuel tank that was dangerously close to the rear bumper, which could result in a fire if the car was rear-ended. But fewer people know that certain Jeep SUVs from the 2000s have the same problem—a fuel tank placed next to the rear bumper—and Chrysler (which owns Jeep) refused to warn its customers about it. Before you buy a car, research the make and model to make sure it is safe, using Google or other search engines as well as checking its safety ratings on www.IIHS.org. The bottom line is this: when it comes to collisions, a car should keep you safe, not put you in danger.
Third, keep your car and its components in good repair. If your car breaks down and you’re forced to stop on the side of the road, your car has put you in a dangerous position. So keep an eye on maintenance. Keep your tires inflated properly—not only will it improve your fuel mileage, but some people believe that underinflated tires are more likely to blow out on the roadway. Make sure your car is steering, accelerating, and braking properly. When it comes to getting you to your destination safely, your car should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Fourth, buy good insurance. If you’re injured in a wreck, you may need extended medical care and you may be out of work for longer than you’d like. When that happens, you’ll need help. Even if the other driver was at fault and his or her insurance company should cover your bills, issues can arise—first, the insurance company may refuse to pay even though it should, and second, the other driver may carry very little insurance or none at all. To protect yourself, carry significant uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, and consider an excess policy. If you’re in a wreck, you’ll be glad you did.