It’s the middle of summer and long car drives and vacations have many people on the road, spurring Texas Department of Transportation to share driving tips as part of its “Be Safe, be smart” campaign.
One of the tips the state department mentioned is that people must obey posted speed limits, as well as drive a safe speed for traffic, road and weather conditions.
Laura Lopez, public information officer for TxDOT in the San Antonio region, said in conditions such as bad weather, people need to be extra cautious.
“You definitely want to keep your distance when it is rainy, because the distance of stopping between wet and dry are totally different,” Lopez said. “And you want to look up those weather forecasts, especially if you’re going to be doing any traveling.”
Construction can also pose a risk. According to Lopez, she said there are 3,000 active work zones all over Texas roadways.
“If you’re going to do any type of holiday or any summer traveling, you just want to make sure you take all the precautions,” she said.
That includes not driving while drowsy or under the influence of something that causes drowsiness.
She also said that during the longer drives of 100 miles or more, travelers should stop and stretch their legs for 15 to 20 minutes.
Lopez said TxDOT’s role is to educate the public in what the driver is to expect and to be cautious of the environment, whether there is a crash, construction or aggressive driving.
“We tend to see a lot of people tailgating,” Lopez said. “Try not to be frustrated behind the wheel, especially if you’re not by yourself in the car. We want to make sure you get to your destination safely.”
TxDOT advises that drivers should not drive aggressively, nor engage those who do. They should keep their emotions in check, and not tailgate or flash their lights at another driver.
If drivers do encounter an aggressive driver, the department said to give angry drivers plenty of room and avoid eye contact. If the driver is concerned for his or her safety, then call 911.
“You don’t want to make matters worse by triggering a confrontation,” Lopez said. “Don’t make any inappropriate hand or facial gestures. Avoid taking your focus off of your own driving.”
If a driver suspects they are being followed, especially if they are alone, they can make their way onto a safe lane or pull into public area such as a gas station.
There is a penalty for aggressive driving; those who do it will be fined $200 for each moving violation associated with aggressive driving.
If the road rage escalates, it could be a criminal offense.
Other driver safety tips included in “Be Smart, Drive Smart” include:
• Always obey posted speed limits and drive a safe speed for traffic, road and weather conditions.
• Be extra cautious driving through road construction or maintenance work zones.
• When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle, tow truck or TxDOT vehicle with amber or blue flashing lights on the side of the road, move over a lane. If moving over is not possible, slow to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when you approach a stopped vehicle.
• Keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you.
• Drive with your lights on so you are more visible to oncoming traffic.
• Watch for motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Take precautions to prevent drowsy driving, especially when traveling long distances.
• Never drink alcohol or take sedating medications before driving.
• Get plenty of rest before your trip.
• Schedule breaks every two hours or 100 miles. Rest for 15 to 20 minutes during each stop.
• Avoid driving between midnight and 6 a.m.
• Take advantage of the state’s Safety Rest Areas and Travel Information Centers.
• For long trips, travel with a companion who can help you stay alert and share the driving.
Be patient and avoid driving aggressively or engaging with those who do.
• Plan ahead to allow time for delays. Traffic congestion can be a problem almost anywhere.
• Don't tailgate or flash your lights at another driver.
• Remember, the left lane is for passing only. If you're in the left lane and someone wants to pass, move over and let the driver by.
• Keep your emotions in check and focus on your own driving.
• If you encounter an aggressive driver, don’t engage. Give angry drivers plenty of room, avoid eye contact and if you're concerned for your safety, call 9-1-1.
TxDOT has a website where drivers can check the road conditions in their area prior to getting on the road, at drivetexas.org.
For more on tips and other information, visit TxDOT at www.txdot.gov/.