Careful drivers avoid accidents

Drive like your life depends on it

Above-average drivers know it’s those other drivers you have to worry about. Now is a good time to remind yourself about good driving habits so when you encounter bad drivers — or bad driving conditions — you might be less likely to have an accident.

  • Put the phone away. According to the latest figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), distracted driving — which most often means using a cell phone while behind the wheel — claimed over 3,500 lives in 2021. That’s a jump of over 12 percent from 2020. In 2021, over 360,000 people were injured in accidents caused by distracted driving, which cost an estimated $98 billion. The message? Keep the phone out of reach, your hands on the wheel, and your eyes on the road.
  • Minimize other distractions, too. According to the NHTSA report, smartphones aren’t the only reason that 5 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2021 involved distracted drivers. Other causes of inattentive driving include eating while driving, talking to passengers, fiddling with the cabin’s climate controls, or adjusting other vehicle controls while in motion.
  • Teens are especially subject to allowing their attention to lapse when it should be at its sharpest. And if you’re a teen driver (thanks for reading!) or the parent of one, we have more tips on how to stay focused on driving.

Upping your safe driving game is about more than eliminating distractions, though.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Adjust for conditions. According to the Department of Transportation, about 21 percent of vehicle accidents are weather-related. Weather-related crashes kill more people annually than large-scale weather disasters do. Good drivers adapt when there’s wind, rain, sleet, or snow. Give yourself more time to get to your destination and if conditions warrant, call or send a message before you leave, letting whoever is expecting you know that you may be a little late.
  • Stay aware and awake. If you’re tired, consider pulling off and getting some rest or asking someone else to take a turn in the driver’s seat. A 2022 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that one in 25 drivers reported having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days.
  • Watch for deer. Inattentive drivers aren’t the only dangers to watch for.  Our guide to steering clear of deer can help minimize your chances of hitting one.
  • All Good Kids Like Milk. That’s a mnemonic created by Harold Smith of the Smith System Driver Improvement Institute to help drivers remember the five key points of safe driving.
    • Aim high. Look ahead at least 1–1½ blocks in urban areas or ¼ mile at high speeds. Aiming high in steering keeps you on a straighter path and your focus on the entire road, rather than just the area immediately in front of you.
    • Get the big picture. Pay attention to the movements of others and anticipate the worst. Drivers may not stop where or when expected. Assess the potential risks all around you.
    • Keep your eyes moving. Check your mirrors every 3–5 seconds. Reduce highway hypnosis and fixed stares by looking ahead, behind, side-to-side, and at the dashboard instrument panel.
    • Leave yourself an out. Build in a space cushion. Anticipate potential hazards and plan your escape route in case the worst happens. Don't let yourself get boxed in.
    • Make sure they see you. Make sure your headlights, taillights, and marker lights are always in working order so other drivers know when you're turning or braking and so you can use your headlights and flashers when necessary. Never assume other drivers can see you.


    The information included here was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions, or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice and should be confirmed with alternative sources.

    Sources: The Weather Channel; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention