Have you ever considered the value of a good driving education – even when you’re not driving? Sure, learning safe driving skills is required if you’re looking to get a driver’s license – but it’s important to realize how vital driver safety can be even when you’re not the one behind the wheel.
Drive safety and defensive driving isn’t just important to those who have direct control of their vehicle – as a passenger, you have the power to determine your safety on the road as well. With the increasing abundance of taxis, ridesharing services, and other alternate modes of transportation, defensive driving is more important than ever to passengers.
Wear Your Seat Belt!
That might seem like a blatantly obvious statement to us, but to others – especially teens – it’s not so clear-cut. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, teens historically have the lowest rate of seat belt use in the United States. In fact, in 2012 only 54% of high school students reported wearing a seat belt when riding with another driver.
It’s no joke: wearing your seat belt as a passenger (and a driver, for that matter) is an ensured, proven method of safety in a car. Not only does it prevent injury or death in the event of an accident, but it can potentially prevent an accident from escalating and involving more cars.
Don’t risk it – buckle up for the sake of yourself and others on the road.
Be a Defensive Driving “Wingman”
Typically, the term “wingman” is reserved for fighter pilots and socially incompetent bar buddies, but it can be equally apropos when you’re on the road. A person with extensive driver safety knowledge is just as valuable in the passenger seat as they are behind the wheel. They’ll not only be able to spot erratic drivers and other potential accidents-in-the-making, but can also spot trouble areas and other unexpected circumstances mid-transit. Whenever I’m a passenger, I make sure to keep my head on a swivel to watch out for anything that might potentially hinder our commute or put us in a dangerous position.
Uber Isn’t Infallible
Driver safety as a passenger is especially relevant in this day and age of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Just because these professionals are paid to drive doesn’t mean they’re good drivers – I’m sure we all have at least one horror story involving taxi cabs, after all. And while drivers for ridesharing services are typically familiar with their assigned region, certain areas (such as bustling cities) can be tricky to navigate, with enough one-way streets and busy crosswalks to fluster even the most experienced downtown daredevil.
Unfortunately, there’s yet to be any concrete data for accident rates of ridesharing services, but there’s plenty of data out there for taxis. The city of New York releases reports on collision data annually, and in 2013 there were a total of 203,390 reported traffic accidents – and 20,634 involved taxis. That’s about 10% of all accidents in the city of New York.
While those numbers aren’t necessarily a good gauge of rideshare safety, they nonetheless highlight the fact that we all need to be aware of the dangers of driving, even from the passenger’s seat. Always be aware of your surroundings, and if need be, keep your favorite navigation app open on your phone to get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in the streets. Apps like Waze and Google Maps are quick to inform you of any slowdowns or traffic in the area, giving you a heads-up to stay alert before it’s too late.
Of course, this isn’t an invitation to be a ruthless backseat driver – nobody likes those types of people – but it’s an opportunity to ensure that everybody has a safe, comfortable driving experience.