Just like practicing defensive driving techniques, here are 7 things you should always do before driving your vehicle.  Most of these things will only take seconds (or can be done ahead of time), but will help protect your precious cargo (you and your passengers, of course!) when driving your vehicle.

1. Keep the Windows on your Vehicle Clean

We’ve all been through that experience where we’re driving out on windy country roads when we see a car coming at us from the right at an insane speed and- oh, wait; it was just a speck on the windshield! Keeping clean windows will help you to see the road better, and it will help to keep your brain from “misfiring” and identifying a speck of dirt as an incoming vehicle.

2. Do a Walk-Around

Before getting into your car, take a walk around it. Are the tires aired up? Are any tires flat or low on air pressure? Taking the time to check your tires, and look out for anything else that might be out of place, can help to keep you from finding out the hard way that your front right tire was heading for a blowout.  Also, when parking at night, make sure to park in a well-lit facility where your vehicle can be clearly seen by others.

3. Pull Over When Distracted

A fly is in the car, buzzing around your head. A song that reminds you of an ex comes on the radio and has you near tears. There is an itch on your back that you can’t reach. When you’re seriously distracted, pull over and take care of the problem. Don’t try to multi-task when you know that you’re going to be seriously distracted.

4. Plan ahead to Prevent Running out of Gas

Running out of gas is not a cool or fun activity, especially because you never know where it will happen which can be extremely dangerous.  Not to mention it’s not convenient and will probably make you frustrated and late to your destination! The best thing to do is not to never have less than one-third of a tank in your vehicle at all times. Plan ahead!

5. Lock your doors

Besides keeping any unwanted passengers from entering into your vehicle while stopped, locking your doors is an important safety feature in the event of an accident.  Locking your doors will ensure that the doors stay closed to prevent you and your passengers from ejecting from the vehicle and to prevent the roof from collapsing.  Since the doors play a primary role in the integrity of your vehicle’s structure, keeping the doors from opening in an accident will allow the roof to stay where it should be and also to keep the car body from getting twisted.

6.  Buckle up

Properly buckle any children passengers into child safety seats, and make sure your adult passengers and yourself are all buckled in.

Seatbelts is the most effective and imperative safety measure available on the vehicle, as it keeps you secured in your vehicle in a crash.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the leading cause of death for people age 4 and every age 11 through 27 in the U.S.  With 45 to 60 percent effectiveness, seat belts are the single most effective means of reducing the risk of death in a crash and have saved more than 250,000 lives since 1975 in the U.S. alone.

7. Be prepared

Always try to carry a cell phone with you in case you have an emergency and need to call for help.   Also, it is a good idea to carry an emergency kit containing such things as water, non-perishable food items, a flashlight, blanket, and a basic set of tools.

For some more tips, check out our Safety First Driving Tips and Safe Driving Slogans.