People the world over have vowed to lose weight, spend less and get organized.
But driving safer? It may not be the most popular promise, but it could be one of the smartest. That’s because it’ll help you stay a lot safer, save some money and feel much less stressed behind the wheel.
Resolution #1: Stop texting and talking.
Anything that compromises your concentration while driving a two-ton machine is just a bad idea. We all know texting and chatting directly into a phone are big no-nos. But hands-free mobile phones are safe, right?
Actually, numerous studies have shown that using any kind of mobile phone while driving increases your chances of being in a crash. Having trouble avoiding the temptation to talk? Then check out the tips in “Deter Distraction.” And remember: Any call really can wait until you’re done driving.
Resolution #2: Get enough rest and take frequent breaks.
Drowsy driving has been proven to cause as much impairment as being drunk. This year, do yourself, your loved ones and everyone else on the road a favor by getting adequate shut-eye each night and by checking into a hotel during epic road trips. Also, plan to take a break at least every two hours during long drives. Stretch, walk and breathe in some fresh air before tackling the next leg of the trip.
Resolution #3: Leave five minutes early.
Considering the fact that speeding leads to 13,000 fatalities every year, why not give yourself a little buffer from now on? It will put you in a better mood because you won’t feel rushed or nervous about arriving late. And you’ll be less likely to do something risky like dash through a yellow light, come to a rolling stop or cut someone off—all bad things when it comes to safety and karma.
Resolution #4: Keep an emergency kit in the car.
Don’t learn about the importance of an emergency kit the hard way (stuck in a ditch, stalled out on the side of the road—you get the idea). Instead, put one together before trouble strikes by gathering these basics:
- Cell phone and car charger (make sure you have emergency numbers pre-programmed into your phone)
- Fire extinguisher
- Two roadside flares
- Quart of oil
- Small first aid kit
- Multipurpose tool or pocket knife
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tire inflator
- Duct tape
- Your car’s manual
- Pen and paper
- Help sign
For an extra level of assurance, review the complete list of recommended items in “Be Prepared.” You might also consider purchasing Road Service Coverage*. This affordable endorsement pays for reasonable towing and labor costs should your car break down.
Resolution # 5: Keep your tires in top shape.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association says that under-inflation is a tire’s number one enemy since it results in poor control that could lead to accidents. What’s more, under-inflated tires wear out faster and cause your car to burn more gas.
Keep your tires in good shape by regularly checking the pressure and adding air when necessary. Also inspect your tires for bulges, dry rot or anything that looks off. When driving, something as unsuspecting as a pothole can do major tire damage that can cause you to lose control.
Remember: Your other resolutions might make you slimmer and slightly richer—but these ones could literally save your life.
Bonus Resolution: Consider Getting a PCL Policy
It might be worth your while to consider a Personal Catastrophe Liability (PCL) policy. Also known as an umbrella policy, it adds an extra $1 to $5 million to both your auto and your homeowners liability limits should you get hit with a personal injury or property damage claim. And that sort of accusation can cause a lot of damage even if you don’t have assets anywhere close to that level.
“It is a misconception that you have to have a lot of money in order to be sued for a lot of money,” says Terry McConnell, vice president and manager of Personal Lines Underwriting at Erie Insurance. If you don’t have enough to cover a judgment, your paycheck may be squeezed to make up for shortfalls related to hospital bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, pain and suffering, and litigation.
A PCL policy is a cost-effective way to protect yourself against financial ruin. Compared to the average annual auto and homeowners premiums of $1,000 and $750, respectively, a $1 million PCL costs about $150 to $200 annually. “For most people, a $1 million policy is adequate and affordable,” says McConnell.
*Restrictions apply in North Carolina.