• by Montgomery Miller
  • August 7th, 2017

Some Simple Back-to-School Driving Tips

It’s that time of year again. The summer barbeques and trips to the waterpark will soon give way to cruising the crowded aisles for notebooks, paperclips, rulers and pens. The scramble will soon be on for that “cool” backpack and the lunch box to go with it. Along with the August heat and the lazy days poolside, those bright and friendly signs suddenly appear in the windows beckoning shoppers to escape the sweltering heat — the Back-to-School sales have arrived!

This convergence of commerce and crowds rushing to find the right combination of tops and bottoms, socks and shoes, fashion accessories and indestructible cell phone cases leads to a big surge in traffic. It’s not just your average commuter traffic, the kind where the experienced drivers weave in and out of lanes with ease and grace — oh no. This is the kind of traffic where frustrated drivers are competing for turn lanes and searching in near desperation for that elusive parking space less than a hundred yards from the mall entrance.

This is a dangerous time for people and their vehicles. In fact, according to AAA, now in the midst of launching their annual campaign to raise awareness and help reduce child and pedestrian fatalities, “Over the last decade, more than a quarter of child pedestrian injuries and fatalities in the U.S. have occurred between 3 and 7 p.m.” You’ll find great materials and tips on Back-to school safety at this AAA link.

While this is a startling and tragic statistic, we can all take some simple steps to reduce the chances of an accident or mishap. Let’s take a few minutes to consider some of the obvious, and perhaps less obvious, ways we can all contribute to a safer back-to-school season.

Go With a Plan
To begin with, it pays to have a plan. If you’re going to hit the mall or the shops downtown, make a list of what you’re planning to shop for and where you plan to shop for it. Think about the time of day and where you might want to park. Slow down, take a deep breath — you’ll get it all done. Don’t drive fatigued. Give yourself a good night’s rest before a big shopping day.

Be Calm
If you’ve had a rough day, an argument with your spouse, or a run in with the boss, take a break and skip the shopping until you’re in a more blissful space. Being irritated in a crowded parking lot can, at the very least, lead to emotional encounters with other irritated drivers. But it’s the distraction we need to be most concerned with. Cars are stopping and lurching, backing out of spaces, drivers are scanning the rows, people are loading trunks, texting friends and loved ones and generally not paying much attention to the need for caution. It’s as if the mall parking lot has been transformed into some kind of obstacle course for a cruel and insidious reality TV show.

Slow Down
It’s a fact that if you get into a wreck because you were in a hurry it will end up taking you longer to get to your destination — perhaps much longer. Take it easy, breath deep, put on some chill music, cut down on the caffeine, give yourself extra time and don’t leave it all to the last minute. Remember, kids and parents with young children are all living in a distracted world. They often will step out into the crosswalk or dart out from behind a parked car without so much as a glance in your direction. By taking it a little slower you’ll have more time to react to the sudden appearance of pedestrians or a distracted mom suddenly backing out of a space right in front of you.

Stop Looking at Your Phone
Aside from the fact that you might get a ticket, holding your phone in traffic or while navigating a crowded parking lot is just plain dangerous. If you are using your smart phone for mapping and directions then find a dash mount that works for you and use it. If you absolutely must spend every second chatting with friends, the kids or your spouse, then it’s time to invest in hands-free blue tooth technology. You’ll avoid a nasty ticket and you’ll be a safer driver for everyone else on the road.

Look Both Ways
Yes, it sounds so obvious but drivers often forget to check their blind spots carefully when backing up. Sometimes you get lucky and there’s nobody there. According to the National Safety Council, one out of four vehicle accidents can be blamed on poor backing techniques. Backing accidents cause 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year. The Texas Department of Insurance has a useful list of tips for safe backing here.

Turn the Music Down
We all love to crank it up at times, especially with a hot sound system and nobody around to tell us to turn it down. But remember, with the tunes cranked up you may not be able to hear a warning honk from another vehicle or a bicyclist yelling that you’re getting too close. When you’re out on the open road you can dial it up and the cows won’t complain. But while you’re cruising the urban jungle or that crowded mall parking lot in search of the perfect back-to-school nirvana, keep the volume down so you don’t miss important warnings from other drivers or pedestrians.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and be safe out there so everyone can get back to school or back to work safely.

About the Author

Montgomery “Monty” Miller is a writer and founder of Austin based GlobalSpeed AdGroup, a full service creative advertising agency. His father, a San Antonio native, was a film and television writer with a long career beginning in the 1950s “Golden Age of Television.” In the mid-90s Monty worked in Synergy Marketing for The Walt Disney Company and prior to moving to Austin in 2015 he served as Vice President of Marketing with Flight Sciences International, a consulting firm specializing in fuel conservation planning for airlines worldwide.

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