Every year, over 35,000 people are killed in car crashes in the U.S. alone. With these 72 tips, many of those deaths can be avoided.
Whether you’re just dropping the kids off at school or you have a 2-hour daily commute, you’ll find tips that apply to your driving situation. Read on to learn everything from car seat safety guidelines to defensive driving techniques to critical vehicle maintenance safety tips that can save you money and perhaps even save your life!
Child Car Seat Safety Tips
1. A 2017 study found 325 children under the age of 5 were saved by car seats. Always use a car seat to keep young children safe. Check out the NHTSA’s recommendations to find the right car seat for your young passenger.
2. Did you know infants and young toddlers have a higher risk of head and spinal cord injuries in a forward-facing seat? Keep infants and toddlers in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible (not just 2 years old) for better head support. Even if your child’s feet touch the back of the seat, there’s no reason to worry. Kids are extremely flexible and will remain comfortable without risking leg injury.
3. Not every car seat fits every car. Many stores will let you try a car seat before you buy to ensure a safe and snug fit.
4. Car seats must be installed using the seat belt or lower anchors to ensure security. If you can move the seat more than an inch, it’s not installed tightly enough.
5. Forward-facing car seats should be installed using the tether along with the seat belt or lower anchors/latch if this is available in your vehicle.
6. Car seat harnesses should offer 5 points of protection and fit over both shoulders, hips, and buckle at the crotch.
7. Read your car seat’s label for proper installation instructions and harness details to make sure they haven’t outgrown it.
8. The center of the vehicle is 43% safer than the sides for children.
9. Never buy a used car seat unless you can verify that it has not expired and has never been involved in a crash.
10. Children can move to a booster seat once they’ve reached the height and weight limits of their forward-facing car seat. This is usually around 4 years old.
11. Keep kids in a booster seat until they’re old enough and big enough for a regular seat belt to protect them properly (usually between 8-12 years old).
12. All kids under the age of 13 should sit in the back seat for safety and always use an age-appropriate restraint.
13. According to the NHTSA, after you install your child’s car seat, you should have it inspected by a trained technician. Go to their website and enter your zip code to find a qualified inspection station near you.
14. Register your car seat so that you’ll be notified of any car seat recalls. You can do this by using the registration card that came with your car seat or using the car seat manufacturer’s online registration form.
15. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an active air bag.
16. Children are prone to serious injury when riding in the back of a pickup truck. Keep them safe in the back of the cab.
17. Make sure your rear-facing car seat is at the right angle so the child’s head doesn’t fall forward. Check the instructions for the correct angle and adjust if necessary.
18. The car seat harness chest clip should be at the center of your child’s chest and at the same height as your child’s armpits.
19. Always look twice before backing up and train your kids to look out for vehicles in the parking lot. Thousands of children are injured each year because a driver didn’t see them while backing up.
20. On average, 38 children are victims of hot cars every year. Protect your kids by taking them with you and never leave a sleeping baby or child in the car. If you’re a new (sleepy) parent still getting used to having a child in your car, attach a note to your steering wheel to remind you to get baby.
21. According to the AAP, booster seats can accommodate children weighing as much as 65+ lbs. Keep your kids in a booster seat until the regular seat belt fits properly.
22. Does your child sleep in the car seat? You might want to reconsider. A May 2019 study from Pediatrics found that of infant deaths occurring in sitting devices, 62.9% happened in car seats. Over half of these deaths happened inside the home under supervision.
23. Remove bulky clothing and jackets from children in car seats during winter. These can cause the straps to be too loose to retrain your child in the event of a crash. Instead, dress them in thinner layers and wrap a blanket over the harness straps if necessary.
24. Avoid snacking in the car. Consuming food or drink in a car seat can cause choking or force you to pull over and be in harm’s way.
25. Buckle up, no matter how short the drive.
26. Avoid those boo-boos! Look out for little hands and fingers before you roll up windows or close doors.
27. Travel vest car seats can offer extra safety and security for children with special needs.
28. Pregnant women can benefit from maternity seat belt adjusters which are designed to safely redirect the seat belt away from the belly.
29. Get familiar with your state’s specific child car seat rules and best practices so that you can make informed decisions when driving with your kids.
30. Carpooling? Make sure ALL kids have their seat belts on with the right fit.
31. Toddlers love exploring. Just be sure to let them know the trunk is off limits. Always keep car and trunk doors locked to avoid a dangerous situation.
Teen Driver Safety Tips
32. Car crashes are the leading cause of teen death in the U.S. As driver’s ed classes become a thing of the past, take an active role in helping your teen learn the rules of the road so they’re prepared to drive alone.
33. Understand your state’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) requirements and enforce these important guidelines for your teen.
34. Talk to your teen about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (or riding with someone else under the influence). Your openness could save a life.
35. Texting and driving can increase a teen’s risk by 23x! Talk to them about driving distracted and make a plan to keep cell phones out of sight while driving.
36. Don’t play with your phone or radio while driving. Figure out the playlist before you ever leave home to avoid distractions.
37. Set consequences for distracted driving. If your teen breaks the rules, consider taking away driving or cell phone privileges to reinforce the seriousness of driving distracted.
38. Always fasten seatbelts and keep both hands on the wheel – no matter how far you’re going and regardless of how many times you’ve driven there before.
39. Avoid driving at night as much as possible to limit risk.
40. Alcohol and drugs aren’t the only dangers to teen drivers. If they are tired, upset, or otherwise physically or emotionally impaired, teach them to call you for help.
41. Some manufacturers have developed specific teen safety features, such as regulating vehicle top speed, restricting audio volume, monitoring seat belt usage, remote tracking, and more.
42. Children and teens learn from watching those around them. Set a good example by striving to follow your own rules while driving.
43. Reward your teen for keeping the gas tank full. Not only will this protect them from a breakdown, but it will also improve engine performance and longevity.
Distracted Driving Tips
44. Text messaging takes drivers eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds and can cause you to be up to 23x more likely to be in a car crash. Don’t text and drive.
45. Put the phone down! Studies estimate drivers using cell phones miss up to 50% of what’s going on around them.
46. Drivers using cell phones are 4x as likely to be in a crash. About 1 in 4 accidents involves cell phone use. Stash your phone in your glove box or purse so you won’t be tempted to access it.
47. Hands-free doesn’t equal risk-free. Your brain is still distracted with a hands-free device, so keep your focus on the road and wait on that call or have a passenger call for you.
48. If you feel drowsy, don’t try to get there faster. Instead, pull off the road for a cat nap or coffee. Drowsiness can increase the risk of a crash nearly 4x.
49. We all know not to drink and drive. But eating and driving isn’t recommended, either. Having that breakfast bar in the car can cause you to be just as distracted as text messaging or scanning the radio. Not to mention the risk of a spill that can cause you to swerve or crash!
50. Download a playlist or podcast before you leave the driveway so you won’t be distracted searching for the perfect thing to listen to on your commute.
51. Don’t treat your car like a dressing room. Take care of hair and makeup before you leave home.
52. Take everything off the dash when driving. Reaching for falling objects like hats or glasses can easily distract you and put you at risk.
53. Pets are cute and furry… but they can also be distracting. Keep them secured in the back of the vehicle with a restraint or inside a crate whenever possible. Check out our 10 tips for traveling safely with your dog!
Defensive Driving Tips
54. We’ve covered distractions, but the key to safe driving is FOCUS. Keep your eyes on the road and scan far ahead, check your mirrors frequently, and stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
55. Trust no one. (Just kidding… kind of.) If you’re already following all the traffic laws and staying focused, the biggest danger on the road is everyone else. People make mistakes. Defensive driving means watching out for other drivers and anticipating their next move so that you can make appropriate adjustments in time to avoid a collision.
56. Follow the 3-4 second rule. Maintain a safe distance (3-4 seconds behind the car in front of you) so that you can have ample time to brake in the event of a quick stop.
57. Follow the speed limit. The faster you’re going, the more difficult it will be to react quickly and control your vehicle if something goes wrong.
58. When in doubt, wait it out. If you come to a place where you’re uncertain who has the right of way, err on the safe side and yield to the other motorist. Yes, we know this can be difficult, but it’s a heck of a lot better than dealing with a wreck.
59. Always have your escape route planned out. Limit your risks by making sure your vehicle is easily visible and look for places to direct your car if the path in front of you suddenly becomes blocked.
60. Stay cool, calm, and collected – even when things get heated. Road rage has led to murder in all 50 states, so don’t try to get even on the road. Not only could it get you killed, but it puts other innocent drivers at risk.
Upkeep & Maintenance Tips
61. Inspect your car tires before going on extended trips or when there’s rain, ice, and snow that make driving more dangerous. Be sure your tires pass the penny test and are properly inflated. Also look for wear, cracks, and other issues that may mean it’s time for a tire rotation or replacement.
62. A dead battery can leave you stranded on the side of the road. Check your battery terminals or use the FIXD app to monitor battery life so you’ll know when it’s time for replacing.
63. Are your car’s electricals up to date? A faulty electrical system can cause your vehicle to stall or lead to a check engine light.
64. If you see a check engine light, don’t ignore it. Depending on the severity of the issue, it may not be safe to drive (or you could be doing $1000s in damage to the engine). Take your car in for a checkup or simply use the FIXD Sensor at home to diagnose a check engine light and find out instantly how serious the problem is.
65. If your wipers can’t cleanly wipe water away without leaving streaks on your windshield, replace them right away. The last thing you need is to get caught in a torrential downpour without properly functioning windshield wipers.
66. Dirty or broken headlights, taillights, and turn signals make it hard for you to drive safely. Do regular walkarounds of your vehicle to ensure all lights are working properly. If you notice your headlights aren’t as bright as they used to be, they might need a deep clean. Check out our article on how to restore your headlights.
67. Check your hoses and belts for wear and tear, especially during extreme temperature shifts that cause rubber to become brittle.
68. Regularly check your fluids and follow your manufacturer’s recommended intervals for oil changes. Old or low oil or transmission fluid can lead to a multitude of serious engine problems and put you at risk on the road.
69. Be sure to find a trusted repair shop for maintenance to ensure it gets done right the first time and doesn’t lead to more problems down the road.’
70. If you plan to change your oil yourself or do any type of DIY repairs and maintenance, always wear proper protective gear and have someone nearby who can assist you when working under your vehicle or in the event of an emergency.
71. Top off the antifreeze before cold weather hits to avoid heating and engine problems.
72. To make monitoring your tire, wiper, battery, and overall car health and safety easier, use the FIXD Sensor and app. FIXD monitors your car for over 7000 potential problems in real time and alerts you whenever it’s time for routine maintenance and replacements. It also translates the check engine light into plain English right on your phone and makes the perfect vehicle health monitor for the whole family. Compatible with all iOS and Android devices. Click here to learn more!
Stay Tuned & Share These Vehicle Safety Tips!
There you have it! 72 car safety tips for drivers of all ages and all stages. Check back for more tips as we keep this post up to date with new information. Have someone in your life who would find these tips valuable? Do them a favor and hit those share buttons below!
Wife, mom, Content Manager & Senior Copywriter at FIXD. From the garage to the gym, I love helping people learn and grow. Dream car: ‘69 Acapulco Blue Mustang.