Spring on the Road

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Safe driving techniques have changed

Driving today is different than it might have been when many motorists first earned their drivers' licenses. As a result, safe driving techniques have changed. Learning these changes and adjusting driving habits can keep motorists and their passengers safe.

• Watch the clock. Older guidelines indicated keeping hands on the steering wheel at the positions of 10 and 2 if you were imagining it as a clock. New information indicates this can be dangerous to the arms and hands should the air bag deploy in a crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AAA now say you should grip the wheel at the 9 and 3 positions, which safely allows drivers to maintain control of their vehicles.

• Change your turns. Air bag safety also comes into play when making turns. Rather than the formerly taught way of hand-over-hand turning, drivers should push with one hand and pull with the other to steer the wheel — safely keeping their hands away from the plastic casing and the possible release of heat and pressure from an exploding air bag.

• Use hazard lights only when real hazards are encountered. Some people are very generous in their use of hazard lights, turning them on when double-parking, in bad weather or when they are carrying a heavy load. Various states and areas have specific laws governing the use of hazard lights, including when and when not to use them. Hazard lights may inadvertently put drivers in danger because they can override turning signals. Some other drivers have become so accustomed to seeing hazard lights that they may not take them seriously. Esurance suggests checking local laws to determine which situations warrant using hazard lights.

• Don't block the "fast lane." The far-left lane has long been considered the passing lane. Although some police departments have become more lenient in allowing drivers to actually stay in the left lane, it's still courteous to use it as infrequently as possible. When you do find yourself in the left lane, recognize that you should maintain highway speed or accelerate slightly to get around the car you need to pass. Driving slowly in the left lane can compromise your own safety and that of your passengers and fellow drivers.

• Anticipate road conditions. There are differences between driving on rural roads, paved roads and heavily trafficked highways, especially during inclement weather or when encountering adverse conditions. There's no magic speed or technique that is ideal all of the time. Drivers need to learn to adapt to the conditions to facilitate safe passage. Keep in mind that it can be difficult to stop on gravel, wet roadways or those covered with leaves.

• Avoid the big rush. Always try to leave extra time to reach a destination. This way you will not have to speed or make tricky maneuvers to get to an appointment on time. Rushing around can lead to distractions or unsafe practices. Reduce your accident risk by building extra time into your trip.

Driving rules are not static, and drivers should stay current on practices that are safe and those that are no longer correct to use on the roadways.