FUNDAMENTALS OF NAVIGATING THE FLORIDA ROADWAYS
As season approaches and our Florida roadways become much busier, it helps to be reminded of the proper safety measure and driving etiquette necessary to keep drivers, passengers, and pedestrians safe. Here are some tips to keep in mind when contemplating the everyday hazards of driving not only here in Florida, but on roadways all across the United States.
Many people, particularly out-of-state drivers, do not now that it is the law here in Florida that driving with your flashing hazard lights on is prohibited. See Florida Statute 316.2397(7)(a). Hazard lights may only be used when lawfully stopped or disabled upon the highway. Also in Florida, it is required that all drivers have their headlights on from sunset (including the twilight hours just before dark and just before sunrise) to sunrise. See Florida Statute 316.217(1)(a). Likewise, in Florida, headlights must be on when driving while it is raining. See Florida Statute 316.217(1)(b). This allows the driver to navigate safely and allows others to see you better, and earlier.
One of the most dangerous moves a driver can make is to merge into an adjoining lane without checking their blind spots. Before changing lanes, there are three actions a driver should take, in the following order: (1) check your side mirror; (2) look over your shoulder and check for vehicles through your back windows; and (3) make sure you check your rearview mirror before moving over and be certain you can see the headlights of the vehicle you are moving in front of. Staying on the subject of merging, when merging onto the highway from an onramp, try to match your speed with the highway traffic in the right lane, so you can merge smoothly and safely behind another vehicle unless the lane is clear. Going too slow will impede the traffic on the highway, and going too fast may cause an accident.
I drive I-95 and the Florida Turnpike to work every day and see people tailgating on a daily basis. This is a very bad habit to get into. It can cause accidents and, sometimes worse…road rage. First, if the car in front has to brake suddenly, you are going to rear-rend that vehicle. Secondly, tailgating often enrages the vehicle in front of you, resulting in a tit-for-tat situation whereby the front driver starts brake-checking, the original tailgater moves ahead of that vehicle and starts brake-checking. This often leads to stories of road violence that you see on the local news. Try to avoid this action or rehabilitate your driving skills if you find you are a tailgater. Sticking with the highway theme, weaving in and out of traffic is inherently dangerous. If you do this while driving too fast, you may hit the person in front of you, and if the person you are passing is not paying attention, that driver may hit you and could potentially lead to a multi-car accident.
Whether in town, in city, or on the highways, always use your turn signals before you reach the area where you will be changing direction. Oftentimes, drivers slow down considerably and suddenly to make an immediate right and some will be rear-ended as a result. Let people know in what direction you will be going. Be on the offense and defense while driving. When approaching a yellow light, slow down and prepare to stop. You may think you can make it through before the light changes to red, and sometimes you can. However, not all lights are timed equally and if you don’t make it and a driver jumps on the green, this could lead to major accidents. Also, even if you are driving legally and within the general bounds of safety, always adjust your habits to allow for road conditions such as weather or road construction.
Finally, and more prevalent as the days go by, is the use of cell phones while driving. Please make sure your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are on the road while driving and NEVER text or read your phones while driving. In this new age, distracted driving has become the leading cause of traffic accidents and it can lead to deadly consequences that devastate families.
That said, be safe out there and enjoy the good weather to come!