Traffic accidents are consistently one of the top 5 causes of death in the United States. Although some accidents are unavoidable, the sad truth is that thousands of lives would be saved each year if drivers were aware of the physical, psychological, road, and weather conditions which increase accident risk and took defensive steps to insure safe driving.
There are between 450,000 and 500,000 traffic accidents reported annually in California alone. About 60% of these accidents involve property damage only, 39% involve injury to a passenger, driver, or pedestrian, and about 1% result in death. One person is killed every two and a half hours in California, and one person is injured every 2 minutes, as a result of a traffic collision.
Although drivers under 30 years of age account for only about 23% of licensed drivers, they comprise about 35% of all drivers in fatal and injury collisions. Teenage drivers have total accident rates which are 4 times that of adults. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers.
Faulty Driver Performance
As was discussed in Lesson 3, there are a number of physical conditions which can affect safe driving and physical abilities which are necessary for avoiding accidents. Physical conditions which can lead to accidents include poor vision, poor hearing, illness, and fatigue.
Good vision is important for safe driving and avoiding accidents. You need to have good visual acuity, peripheral vision, depth perception, and glare resistance and recovery. Good vision allows you to identify potential hazards and react more quickly. You should have your vision checked and wear prescription lenses as necessary to compensate for a visual deficiency. You also need to keep your view unobstructed by not hanging things from your mirrors or otherwise blocking your windows, and keeping your windows and mirrors clean. A number of accidents are caused by not checking blind spots. Make sure to turn your head before merging into a lane during a lane change or before making a turn.
Good hearing is also necessary for safe driving and avoiding accidents. Your hearing can warn you of danger such as the presence of vehicles in your blind spots. Make sure to have your hearing checked periodically. You should also keep your radio turned down and it is illegal to wear dual headphones while driving. Driving with at least one of your side windows open will also allow you to hear what is going on outside your vehicle better.
Illness can impair your ability to transmit visual and auditory information to the brain, impair the ability of the brain to act on it, impair your ability to rapidly take corrective action such as changing the direction and speed of your vehicle, and can cause you to fall asleep at the wheel.
Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications taken for illness, even common cold medications, can cause you to become drowsy while driving.
You should be very careful if you choose to drive when you are feeling ill. You are responsible for knowing the effects of the medications you take on your driving ability. If you are ill, you should be at home resting, not driving on the roadway, particularly if you are using medications which can cause drowsiness.
Physical and mental fatigue increase the likelihood of accidents by affecting your vision, judgment, and reaction time. Falling asleep is the primary collision factor in about 1% of fatal and injury collisions in California.
Driving when you are tired is just as dangerous as driving when you have been drinking alcohol. The more tired you are, the more dangerous it is. When you are tired, you are less alert. The body naturally wants to sleep at night. Most drivers are less alert at night, especially after midnight.
You increase your chances of being in a collision if you are tired or fatigued because you may not see hazards early enough, or react as quickly as is necessary.
If you are tired, the only safe cure is to get off the road and get some sleep. If you don't, you risk your life and the lives of others.
As was also discussed in Module 3, avoiding accidents requires that you focus on the task of driving. Some psychological factors which can lead to accidents include: (a) being emotionally distressed or tense, (b) being distracted by personal problems or environmental conditions inside and outside your vehicle, and (c) having inadequate training and practice.
Safe driving requires concentration. If you are preoccupied with your emotions, you will not be able to focus on the task of driving safely. Therefore, you should not drive if you are under severe tension, emotionally distressed (e.g., angry or upset), or otherwise preoccupied with your emotions or thoughts.
Heavy traffic, bad weather, and road work can cause you to become stressed, especially if you are in a hurry. Being late to work or to an appointment can also cause you to become stressed, and hence drive unsafely. If you allow yourself to become stressed, you may express your feelings inappropriately and cause an accident.
Conditions inside of your vehicle, such as distracting passengers, loud music, and doing other things while driving can also cause you to drive unsafely. Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention to avoid being involved in an accident.
Proper training through driver education and training and through practice on the road will help you to avoid accidents. You need to repeatedly practice correct responses to hazards while learning how to drive. Remember that only training and practice can overcome poor driving habits and attitudes which lead to accidents.
Alcohol & Drugs
Alcohol and/or drugs are the primary collision factor in about 9% of fatal and injury accidents in California. Alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications can impair your:
These impairments can result in an accident. You are risking a serious accident if you drive under the influence of alchohol or any drugs that impair your ability to safely operate a vehicle.
Alchohol and drugs will be discussed in detail in Lesson 11.
Faulty Driver Behavior
Some of the more common driver behaviors which lead to accidents include:
The six most common behaviors which cause accidents are:
Speed is indicated as the primary collision factor about 28% of fatal and injury collisions.
The faster that you drive, the less time you have to react to road hazards, the longer it takes for you to stop your vehicle, and the greater the impact and injuries will be if you have an accident.
The basic speed law in California says that no person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, traffic conditions, and the surface width of the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.
It is unsafe and illegal to drive faster than the posted speed limit. You should drive slower than the posted speed limit if road or weather conditions warrant doing so. However, driving too slowly can also be unsafe and cause an accident.
Warning speed limits on curves and freeway ramps should be obeyed at all times. These speed limits are posted to help you avoid accidents, even in ideal conditions. If the road or weather conditions are less than perfect, you should drive even slower than these recommended limits.
The key to avoiding accidents caused by unsafe speed is obvious: Slow down. Be aware of posted limits, road conditions, and the weather, and adjust your speed accordingly.
Failure to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle or pedestrian is the primary collision factor in about 20% of fatal and injury collisions in California.
The two major mistakes that drivers make regarding right-of-way are assuming that other drivers will give them the right-of-way and failure to yield the right-of-way to others.
You should never assume that another driver will yield the right-of-way to you, and you should never insist on taking the right-of-way, if it will help to avoid an accident. Remember that:
In either case, you should be prepared for other drivers to make mistakes.
If you are in a hurry, or otherwise emotionally distressed, it is easy to feel like you can demand the right-of-way from other drivers. This sort of unhealthy belief can lead to serious accidents.
Remember that you do not have the right-of-way at a YIELD sign or when entering a roadway from a side street, freeway on-ramp, driveway, or from being parked on the side of the roadway. You should yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and pedestrians already using the traffic lane.
In addition to other vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles also have a right to use the roadway. Be sure to look for them before making turns or lane changes. Common courtesy and a non-assuming attitude are the keys to avoiding accidents caused by right-of-way violations
Making an illegal or otherwise improper turn is the primary collision factor in about 9% of fatal and injury collisions in California. Illegal left, right, and U-turns are dangerous.
When signs and road marking prohibit these turns, it is for your safety. Failure to obey these signs and road markings can result in a serious accident.
Do not attempt to make a right, left, or U turn when your view, or the view of other drivers and pedestrians is obstructed, such as by parked cars, a hill or turn in the road, or by bushes or trees.
You must use your turn signal before making a turn. Your turn signals let other drivers know what your intentions are. You should also be aware of other drivers’ signals and choose an appropriate course of action should they not follow through with their turn.
You need a large enough gap in traffic to be able to get up to speed before you make a right or left turn. Make sure that you have a large enough gap:
When you turn left, yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the same road coming from the opposite direction that are close enough to pose a hazard. Turn only when you can see that it is safe and make sure to look for motorcyclists and bicyclists.
When making left turns on divided highways or roadways with several lanes, watch out for vehicles coming in any lane that you must cross.
Believe it or not, driving on the wrong side of the road is a major cause of accidents. Driving on the wrong side of the road is the primary collision factor in about 4% of fatal and injury collisions in California.
Driving on the wrong side of the road results most often in head-on crashes, which are the most dangerous type of all accidents. The force of both vehicles must be dissipated instantly, which results in the most damage to you and your vehicle. You should be very careful to avoid these types of accidents.
The most common mistakes that lead to head-on collisions from driving on the wrong side of the road are turning right or left into oncoming traffic, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and unsafe passing.
You should be a able to determine whether you are on the wrong side of the road by the color of the lines painted on the pavement. If there is a yellow line on your right or if there is not one on your left, you are on the wrong side of the road.
Look for WRONG WAY and DO NOT ENTER signs when making left and right turns into traffic. These signs warn you that you are driving towards oncoming traffic.
One place where people often drive on the wrong side of the road is on one-way streets. Before you turn onto a street, you should look for ONE WAY traffic signs which warn you of the direction that traffic on the road travels.
When you turn on a road, you should also look for the way that parked cars are facing and to see whether there is a yellow line in the middle of the road. If all lanes are divided by white lines, you should be especially careful to ensure that traffic is traveling in the direction that you think. Be especially careful when driving in metropolitan areas that you are unfamiliar with.
Passing other vehicles on two-lane roads is another situation in which you will find yourself driving on the wrong side of the road. Before attempting to pass, you need to make sure that:
Passing several cars at one time is particularly dangerous.
Given the choice between two or more lanes of travel in your direction on an undivided highway, it is safest to choose the lane that is not right next to oncoming traffic. If a drunk or fatigued driver swerves into oncoming traffic, you will have more time to react if you are not driving in the lane closest to oncoming traffic.
To avoid accidents by driving on the wrong side of the road, you need to be aware of signs and pavement markings, and make sure that you have adequate space to pass safely.
is indicated as the primary collision factor in about 3% of all fatal and injury accidents in California.
If you are following another vehicle too closely (tailgating) you are not able to see hazards ahead of you as easily, and have less time to stop or slow down before you will rear-end the driver ahead of you in an emergency situation.
Tailgating is particularly hazardous on freeways because vehicles are usually traveling faster and other drivers slow down needlessly to look at broken-down vehicles and other scenes, which is called rubbernecking. Rubbernecking and tailgating are a dangerous mix which lead to rear-end accidents.
You need enough space in front of your vehicle to be able to stop safely. You should always keep a minimum of a 3-second gap in front of your vehicle. To do so, pick a fixed object on the roadway such as a sign or pavement marking and count the seconds from when the vehicle ahead of you passes the object to when you reach the object. If it is not at least 3 seconds, you need to slow down and increase your following distance.
In some situations you should have an even larger gap of space in front of your vehicle, because a 3-second gap is not large enough for you to be able to stop safely. When following a motor cycle or large truck, for example, you should give yourself at least a 4- second cushion of space in front of your vehicle.
You should also give yourself more than a 3-second cushion of space in front of your vehicle if the road surface or weather is poor, and when you are near a place where pedestrians or vehicles may enter the road such as near schools, playgrounds, business districts, and shopping centers.
It is rarely a bad idea to give yourself even more than 3- or 4- second gap of space in front of your vehicle. For example, when you are stuck in freeway traffic, you will find that you need to completely stop your vehicle less often if you keep an even larger cushion of space in front of your vehicle. This saves wear on both your brakes and your clutch
Unsafe passing is the primary collision factor in about 1% of fatal and injury accidents in California.
When you pass another vehicle on a two-lane road, you must drive in the lane of oncoming traffic. As was indicated earlier, this is extremely dangerous because it can result in deadly head-on collisions.
You must determine whether it is both safe and legal to pass the vehicle ahead of you before attempting to do so. Do not attempt to pass another driver when your view of the upcoming roadway is obstructed, and do not take unnecessary risks. If you are not sure whether you have enough time to pass the vehicle ahead of you before oncoming traffic is near, do not attempt to pass.
If possible, wait for a designated passing lane or for the slower-moving vehicle ahead of you to use a turn-out area.
If you are being passed, be courteous to the driver passing you. Do not speed up in your lane when you are being passed or swerve your vehicle to annoy the passer. Drive near the right edge of your roadway to assist the other driver and either maintain a constant speed, or slow down slightly.
Accidents are particularly likely if you pass a vehicle ahead of you that you find annoying, such as when a slow moving vehicle refuses to use a turn-out lane or speeds up during passing lanes.
Do not let your emotions cause you to do something unsafe such as suddenly pulling into oncoming traffic or attempting an unsafe maneuver. Think and plan before you attempt to pass another vehicle. You are not going to get to your destination any faster if you are killed or injured.
Fewer things are more annoying than having a driver in front of you hog the road. Road hogs take two different forms:
Failing to keep to the right or hogging the road can lead to aggressive and dangerous behavior on the part of other drivers who are stuck driving behind you.
If another driver wants to pass you, be courteous and let them do so. Do not speed up during passing lanes, and use turn-out lanes so that others may pass you safely.
If a slow-moving vehicle in front of you refuses to pull into a turnout lane or otherwise will not let you pass, try to control your anger. Do not honk your horn or pull close to the other vehicle’s back bumper, or otherwise submit to road rage. Pull back and give the driver a lot of space.
If you are driving too close to the left or right side of your lane, other drivers traveling in your direction will not feel like they have enough room or otherwise feel safe passing you. If you are swerving from side to side in your lane, drivers may pull partially into the oncoming traffic lane in an attempt to pass you, which can cause a dangerous head-on collision.
Try to drive in the center of your lane. This gives you a side-to-side space cushion which allows you more time to react to hazards such as swerving vehicles. If you cannot keep a stable position within your lane, you probably should not be driving.
If you encounter a driver who is driving from side-to-side or hugging a lane divider line, give the driver a lot of space. The person may be drunk or otherwise preoccupied.
If you take your eyes off the road or lose your concentration for just a second, you could find yourself involved in an accident. One second not looking at the road means one fewer second that you have to react to emergency situations. One second, at only 30 mph means you traveled “blind” for about 45 feet!
To avoid being distracted while driving, do not play your radio too loudly or take your eyes off the road when changing CDs or radio stations. Prepare for parking and bridge tolls before the trip by having the money in an easily accessible place.
Plan your trips and review maps before pulling out of the driveway, not while driving. Never stop on a freeway or other roadway if you are lost or to read directions. Exit the freeway or pull to the side of the roadway, park, and study the map again. Another option is to have a passenger do the navigating for you while you are driving.
Cellular phone use while driving also has been shown to increase your risk of a traffic accident. In general, minimize cellular phone use while driving, and never take your eyes off the road.
As was indicated earlier, if you are angry, upset, or preoccupied with personal problems, you cannot give driving safely your full attention. Do not drive if you are emotionally distressed.
Other passengers, particularly children and pets, can distract you from driving. If you are going to have a conversation with passengers, do not take your eyes off the road. Allow them to perform tasks such as adjusting the radio or temperature in the vehicle, or reading a map or directions.
Sometimes passengers will point out things on the side of the road that they want you to look at. Recognize that this means you must take your eyes off the roadway ahead and can result in a rear-end collision. If you want to look at sights, pull off the road in a safe place.
Because children can become bored and restless during long road trips, they can be very distracting. If you need to address children passengers, it is best to pull off the roadway. Do not turn your head around to discipline children while driving. Try to fend off their boredom by carrying books, games, or tapes in your vehicle to keep children occupied during long trips.
Having pets in a car can also be distracting. They may jump on your lap or under your feet, which can result in an accident. If you need to transport an animal, use a carrying cage or have a passenger hold the pet.
Do not slow down needlessly to look at broken down vehicles, controlled accident scenes, or road construction (i.e., rubbernecking). If you are looking to the side of the road, you are not paying attention to vehicles in front of and behind you. Rubbernecking takes your attention away from driving and is a major cause of accidents, particularly on freeways.
In heavy traffic, it is easy to "zone out" and start thinking about all sorts of things besides driving. If you find yourself zoning-out, do something different, such as rolling down the window or changing the radio station, to keep yourself focused on driving. Remember to continually scan the roadway and your mirrors.
Sometimes while driving you may drop something, lose a contact lens, be stung by a bee, be distracted by children, or be bothered in some other way. Some people panic when these things occur. They become more concerned with the problem than their driving and often run off the road or into another car. Don’t let this happen to you. If you have a problem or there is a distraction, pull over to the side of the road immediately and then take care of the problem.
Poor Visual Search
When you drive, you should keep your eyes moving and look for potential hazards all around your vehicle.
Do not focus on the back of the car ahead of you. Look for the stoplights of vehicles ahead of you, vehicles that may attempt to merge, and pedestrians who may enter the roadway. Make sure to be aware of traffic signs which warn you of upcoming road conditions.
Don’t just assume that a signal light will still be green by the time you reach it. Signal lights which have been green for a long time are called “stale greens” and are likely to change soon. Be aware of how long a light has been green so that you are ready to react if the light turns yellow before you arrive at the intersection.
When slowing down, merging, changing lanes, passing, or making a turn, it is particularly important to be aware of where vehicles, pedestrians, and objects are around your vehicle. Check your mirrors and blind spots before attempting any of these maneuvers. If you cannot see the roadway ahead because of a large vehicle, such as a truck or SUV, make sure to give yourself additional space in front of your vehicle so you are able to react in an emergency situation. You may want to change lanes so that you can see what is going on ahead of you.
Poor Decision Making
Making a poor decision while driving can also result in an accident. Poor decisions can be a result of:
It is your responsibility to know and follow the rules of the road. If you get into an accident because you fail to yield to other vehicles and pedestrians at a YIELD sign, for example, you will be found at fault for the accident. Ignorance is not an excuse for failing to obey vehicle laws.
Drivers take unnecessary risks while driving and make poor decisions for a number of different reasons. Drivers who are in a hurry or who are showing off are particularly likely to make poor driving decisions which result in an accident. Remember that accidents as a result of making poor decisions are 100% avoidable.
Slamming on your brakes is not the best reaction for every driving emergency. A panic stop, under most conditions, should be the last resort because you risk locking up all four wheels and losing steering control (i.e., skidding). In many situations you can steer around an obstacle more easily than trying to stop before you reach it, even if your vehicle is equipped with ABS brakes.
Accidents happen because drivers do not expect them and do not know how to react properly. The best ways to avoid an accident are to anticipate it and be ready to respond; know the handling characteristics and limitations of your car; and above all don't panic.
Learning the appropriate ways to react to different emergency situations in the split second you have to make a decision is the key to becoming a safe driver.
A significant number of accidents are caused by vehicle equipment failure such as:
To help avoid accidents caused by mechanical failure, you should keep your vehicle in good working condition and perform routine maintenance.
Even properly maintained vehicles will occasionally experience mechanical failure. You should know how to react to avoid an accident when it happens to you. The first thing to remember is to not panic. You will be able to think more clearly and respond appropriately if you do not panic.
Stuck Gas Pedal
If your gas pedal is stuck down, you should:
Turning the ignition switch completely off while moving is never the correct response to an emergency situation. It may lock the steering wheel and you will be unable to steer the vehicle. Never turn your ignition off while your vehicle is still moving, no matter what sort of emergency situation you are experiencing.
If you have a tire blowout or lose a wheel while driving, you should:
Brake Pressure Failure
If your brakes suddenly give out while driving, you should:
If your brakes get wet and do not work (such as after you travel through a big puddle), dry them by lightly pressing the gas pedal and brake pedal at the same time so that the vehicle drives against the pressure of the brakes. Do this only until the brakes begin working.
Cooling System Failure
If your vehicle's engine is running hot, you should:
Driving up hills or mountains while using your air conditioning puts extra strain on your engine and may cause your vehicle to overheat. Use your air conditioning sparingly when driving up steep roads.
If both of your headlights go out while driving at night, you should:
Do not try driving at night with only your parking lights working or with no lights working. It is extremely dangerous, even for only short periods. Also, do not attempt to use your high-beam headlights and keep driving, because you will not be able to dim them for other vehicles on the roadway.
If your hood suddenly flies up while you are driving, you should:
If you accidentally run one or more of your tires off of the pavement and onto the shoulder of the roadway, do not quickly turn the steering wheel back towards the roadway. This can cause you to hook the edge of the pavement and skid or flip your vehicle. You should ease your foot off of the gas pedal and brake gently. Slowly steer your vehicle back onto the pavement.
If a vehicle is approaching you head on when you are in the proper lane for traveling in your direction, you should:
Do not pull into the left (oncoming) lane, because the other driver may realize their error and swerve back into the proper lane.
Remember that hitting anything else is usually better than a head-on collision with another vehicle.
If your vehicle goes into water such as a lake or river, you should:
If the vehicle sinks quickly, you should climb into the back seat, because an air pocket should form there. Get out as quickly as possible through a window.
If you cannot get out through the window because your electric windows have shorted, open the door slowly. Although it may be hard to do so at first, as water enters the vehicle, the pressure will equalize and you should be able to open the door.
If your engine stalls while you are driving, you should:
If you see smoke or flames coming from your engine while you are driving, you should:
If you have a fire extinguisher and the fire is within the passenger compartment or bed of the vehicle, you can try to put the fire out once you are stopped.
General Safety Rules in a Emergency
Many accidents happen because a driver didn’t see a stalled car until it was too late to stop. When your car breaks down on the road, make sure that other drivers can see it.
Prevention is the best safeguard for breakdowns. Frequently check the fuel gauge, oil and other fluid levels, tire tread and pressure, engine drive belts, hoses and the radiator. Be sure the car’s stoplights, headlights, turn signals and four-way emergency flashers operate properly.
If you are having car trouble and have to stop:
Turn on your emergency flashers to warn other drivers that your vehicle is broken down. If your car does not have emergency flashers, your turn signals may be used instead.
If it is safe, raise the hood of your vehicle to signal to others that your are broken down.
Give other drivers plenty of warning. If you have them, place emergency flares or reflective triangles 200 to 300 feet behind your vehicle. This allows other drivers time to change lanes, if necessary. Be very careful when using flares because they may cause fires if used near flammables such as gasoline.
If you don't have emergency flares, stay in your vehicle until help arrives. Use a cellular phone to call for help if you have one. Be careful for your safety and stay off the roadway. Don't even attempt to change a tire if it means you will be present in a traffic lane.
Freeway Emergency Breakdowns
Breaking down on a busy freeway can be a frightening and dangerous situation. As freeway traffic patterns and the hazards they present constantly vary, it is impossible to predict all situations. Therefore, it is important that the drivers continually monitor and evaluate the situation, taking the steps which will best protect the driver, passengers, and other freeway users.
At the first sign of a vehicle problem or malfunction, exit the freeway. If you are unable to exit, try to drive safely onto the far right shoulder, as far off the road as possible. If you can’t reach the right shoulder, park as close to the center divider as you can.
Whenever your vehicle is disabled on the roadway, use your vehicle's hazard warning lights. Be sure you know where your vehicle’s hazard light switch is located and how to use it. Warning lights should also be used when the vehicle is in the center divider or on the right shoulder, especially if parked within five feet of the roadway.
If your car has a flat tire, it is better to safely drive off the freeway than try to salvage a tire that may already be beyond repair. Avoid making any repairs on the freeway. If you must do so, have someone keep an eye on traffic to warn you of approaching danger. Never turn your back on freeway traffic.
If stopped in the center divider, it is generally safest to remain in your vehicle until a law enforcement officer arrives. Keep your seatbelt fastened, headrest properly positioned, and car doors locked. Do not get out and walk around the car or attempt to cross the freeway to reach the outside shoulder.
If your vehicle is stopped in a particularly dangerous spot and traffic permits, exit the vehicle and find a safe location to wait for help. Such conditions may include a breakdown or an accident that has occurred in fog or smoke.
If your disabled vehicle is on any part of the roadway, use emergency flares, or battery-operated or reflectorized warning devices. Exit the vehicle to place these devices only when safe.
The furthest should be placed at least 300 feet behind the car. Only persons familiar with them should use flares. They should not be placed near flammable liquids or materials. Placing any warning device in traffic can be dangerous and extreme caution must be exercised.
If your vehicle is stopped in a traffic lane, keep its wheels turned to follow the direction of the lane ahead of you. Vehicles stopped on the right or left shoulders should usually have the wheels pointed straight ahead.
Roll down the window so you can tie a handkerchief or other cloth onto the radio antenna or the door handle closest to traffic without exiting the vehicle. Display an emergency sign, if available. If safe to exit the vehicle do so, and raise the car’s hood as a signal you need help. When exiting the vehicle do so on the side away from traffic.
If your vehicle will be left unattended, take your keys. Set the parking brake or block the wheels, and turn the engine off. These steps are generally advisable even when waiting in a vehicle. To further secure your vehicle, place the gearshift in "park" if it has an automatic transmission or leave the vehicle in gear if it has a manual transmission.
Emergency Call Boxes
In California and many other states, freeway call boxes are located at intervals on the right shoulder of the freeway. The telephone is found in a bright yellow box. A blue "Call Box" sign is mounted above the yellow box. The numerals on the blue sign indicate the freeway’s route and call box location.
Use a call box only if it can be reached without crossing traffic lanes, on/off ramps or transition roads. Walk only on the shoulder area as far away from traffic as possible. Always face traffic while using a call box. See and be seen by oncoming traffic.
Open the call box, lift the receiver, and push the button to initiate your call for assistance. No money is needed to use it. Wait for the ring. You will hear equipment automatically dialing and then ringing the switchboard. In California, the California Highway Patrol operator will answer the call. If circuits are busy, a recording will advise you to stay on the line. Don’t hang up. Waiting calls are taken in order. If you hear a busy signal without the recording, hang up and try again.
When the operator answers, be prepared to give the call box identification numbers (on the sign above the box), the nature of your trouble, and your vehicle’s location. Upon request, the operator will phone your automobile club, a family member, friend, insurance company or other service for emergency assistance.
Once your call is completed, make sure the receiver is properly replaced to leave the circuit free for other callers.
If your car is in a particularly dangerous spot, it may be safer to stay near the call box or go to another area, such as behind a guardrail near your vehicle.
If it is safe, wait with your vehicle. Remain inside with your safety belt fastened, with the headrest properly positioned and doors locked until help arrives.
If a friend or relative comes to help, make sure they park 100 to 200 feet in front of the disabled vehicle to leave room for the tow truck. Do not stand between two vehicles at any time. Wait in the other vehicle with safety belts fastened and head rests properly positioned. Make sure the wheels of the vehicle are pointed straight ahead. When the tow truck arrives, wait in it, not in your vehicle.
Certain roadways and portions of the road are more dangerous than others. When driving in these areas, you are at increased risk for being involved in an accident. You should be aware of these conditions and adjust your driving to appropriately mitigate the increased risk.
As was indicated earlier, most accidents in urban areas occur at intersections. Because of the danger presented by intersections, it is very important that you approach them with caution and make an extra effort to be aware of what is happening in and around the intersection
It is important that you scan for potential hazards at intersections such as pedestrians, bicycles, persons running red lights, and persons starting left-hand turns. Look for traffic signals, signs, and potential hazards as you approach the intersection.
Accidents at intersections are most frequently caused by drivers disobeying stop signs and red lights, or otherwise violating the right-of- way of other drivers, such as by turning left in front of an approaching vehicle.
It is dangerous to pass another vehicle where someone is likely to enter or cross the road. Such places include intersections, crossroads, railroad crossings, and shopping center entrances.
If you pass in an intersection, your view of people, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, or trains is blocked by the vehicle you are passing. Also, a driver turning onto the road into the left lane won’t expect to find you in his or her lane. He or she may not even look your way.
It is dangerous, although not explicitly illegal, to change lanes in an intersection. You could be cited for making an unsafe lane change if, in the opinion of the law enforcement officer, your lane change was hazardous for conditions.
You should scan for traffic controls and prohibitive signs as you approach intersections, so that you are ready to respond before you reach the intersection. You should always obey the signs and signals at controlled intersections, but do not assume that other drivers will do so.
Common traffic controls found at intersections include:
Right-of-way rules help people drive safely and in an orderly manner. These rules go along with courtesy and common sense. Bicycles, scooters, and pedestrians must obey right-of-way rules too.
Never insist on taking the right-of-way. If another driver does not yield to you when he or she should, forget it. Let the other driver go first. You will help prevent accidents and make driving more pleasant. Do not insist on your right-of-way if it will help to avoid an accident.
You also should not excessively yield your right-of-way, or insist on always letting others go ahead of you. If another driver expects you to take your legal turn, you may delay traffic by stopping or slowing unnecessarily to allow another driver to go ahead of you. It can cause traffic delays and cause other drivers to become angry.
At intersections controlled by signals, do not enter the intersection on a green light until all vehicles and pedestrians are out of the intersection. You should not enter an intersection on a red light, except when making a permitted left or right turn.
You should not enter an intersection on a yellow light (solid or arrow), unless it is unsafe for you to stop. If you can’t stop safely, look out for vehicles that may enter the intersection when the light changes.
At intersections without signal lights, STOP, or YIELD signs, slow down and be ready to stop. Yield to vehicles already in the intersection or just entering it. Also yield to vehicles which arrive before you or to the vehicle on your right if it reaches the intersection at the same time as your vehicle.
At a “T” intersection, vehicles on the through road have the right-ofway. If you can not see clearly 100 ft in both directions when approaching an uncontrolled intersection (a blind intersection), you should not be driving faster than 15 MPH so that you will have time to stop if a vehicle pulls out suddenly.
If your view of an uncontrolled intersection is obstructed by parked cars, trees, bushes, buildings, or other objects, you should stop before entering the intersection and slowly inch forward until you can see if there is cross-traffic before proceeding through the intersection.
Narrow, undivided 2-lane rural highways with 55 MPH speed limits can also be particularly hazardous. Because vehicles are traveling in opposite directions at high speeds without a barrier or median, dangerous head-on collisions are more likely to occur.
Some of these highways have mandatory daylight headlight requirements to make your vehicle more visible to other traffic. You must turn your headlights on when driving through one of these zones, regardless of the time of day.
You should also use your headlights on small country or mountain roads, even on sunny days. This will help other drivers see you and help to avoid a head-on collision. Don’t forget to turn them off when you park.
Hills and curves create situations that are hazardous by:
Because you cannot tell what is on the other side of a steep hill or sharp curve, you must be going slowly enough to be able to stop. When approaching a curve in the road or hill which blocks your view of the road ahead, slow down so you can stop, if necessary. A vehicle may be stopped or a pedestrian may be crossing the roadway that you can’t see until you are around the curve or over the hill.
You must be able to see at least one-third of a mile ahead to pass safely. Any time your view is blocked by a hill or curve, you should assume that there is an oncoming car just out of sight. This means you should only pass if a hill or curve ahead is more than one-third of a mile away. You must not drive on the left side of a roadway when coming to a curve or the top of a hill where you can’t see far enough ahead to be sure it is safe to pass.
On curves there is a strong outward pull on your vehicle.
You should cautiously approach curves, particularly when the road may be slippery due to rain, mud, snow, wet leaves, or gravel. You should obey warning speed limits on curves and freeway ramps. If one is not posted, you should judge how sharp the curve is and adjust your speed before you enter the curve. Braking on a curve may cause you to skid.
One of the likeliest places to be involved in a property-damage only accident is in a parking lot. Accidents are common in parking lots because:
Post office parking lots usually have the highest incidence of accidents, because they have the quickest turnover with cars parked often for less than 5 minutes.
Some drivers seem to suspend their good judgment when looking for a parking space. They consider the traffic signs and road markings such as speed limits and STOP signs to be optional in parking lots because they think on private property they are not subject to enforcement. Others drivers ignore the traffic lanes and cut diagonally across the lot. However, you can be cited for driving unsafely in public parking lots by law enforcement, just like on public roadways. Remember to obey the rules of the road when driving in parking lots.
Pedestrians are also at high risk in parking lots because they must walk in the traffic lanes. Pay extra attention for pedestrians, particularly small children, when driving in parking lots and pulling out of parking spaces.
The best way to avoid an accident in a parking lot is to be aware of everything all around your vehicle. Scan for cars that might be cutting diagonally across the lot and for pedestrians who may dart out from between cars. Drive slower and obey all the usual vehicle laws, signs, and pavement markings when driving in a parking lot.
Urban roadways are more dangerous than open roadways for a number of reasons:
Driving alongside other vehicles in urban traffic can be dangerous. Do not drive alongside other vehicles or in the blind spots of their drivers (to the rear sides of other vehicles). You should also avoid driving in the lane closest to opposing traffic when lanes are undivided.
Parked vehicles in urban areas can create a situation which is hazardous because they:
Certain natural conditions make the roadways more dangerous than at other times. These conditions include:
You need to know what to do when you encounter these conditions to avoid an accident. Driving at night is also more dangerous than driving during the day because your vision is more limited. You should also know what to do if an earthquake occurs while you are driving.
When driving in bad weather, you should remember that the faster the speed, the less control you have over your vehicle. Rather than just following the posted speed limit, you should consider how the road conditions may affect the safe operation of your vehicle.
For example, if the posted speed limit is 35 MPH, you should not drive this speed if you are traveling towards a curve on a downhill icy road. Many new drivers do not slow to safe speeds for road conditions, which is one reason why they have more out-of-control accidents than do experienced drivers.
Make sure that your vehicle's windows and lights are clean and working before driving in bad weather. Check that the windshield wipers and defroster are properly working and that you have adequate tread on your tires.
You should carry emergency equipment when driving in bad weather such as:
Carry a cellular phone for emergency situations, if you have one. Carry tire chains when you know you will be driving in the snow or when you think it might snow.
The best advice for fog is to avoid driving in it altogether. Serious pile-up accidents involving multiple vehicles frequently occur in severe fog. You should consider postponing your trip until the fog clears.
If you must drive in the fog, then slow down and turn your low beam headlights on (and fog lights, if you have them). The light from high beam headlights will reflect back and cause serious glare, so you should not use them in the fog. Never drive with just your fog or parking lights on, whether or not there is fog.
You should increase the space cushion (following distance) in front of your vehicle and be prepared to stop within the space you can see in front of your vehicle. Avoid crossing or passing lanes of traffic unless absolutely necessary.
Use your windshield wipers and defroster for best vision. If visibility is poor, roll down your window and turn off your radio so you can listen for vehicles you cannot see.
You should watch for slow moving vehicles ahead and check your rear-view mirror for vehicles approaching from the rear. Only use your brakes when you need to; do not repeatedly flash your brake lights for no reason because it will confuse other drivers behind you.
If the fog becomes so thick that you can barely see, pull completely off the road. Get off at an exit or rest stop, if possible, and wait for conditions to improve. Do not continue driving until you can see better. Turn off you lights, or another driver may see your taillights pull in behind you thinking you are on the roadway.
If your vehicle stalls in the fog, you should:
Certain parts of California are prone to have large dust storms which limit your visibility similar to fog. If you can avoid driving in a dust storm, stay off the road. If you must drive, use the methods prescribed for driving in fog.
If smoke from a large fire such as a wildfire obstructs your ability to see the road ahead and be seen by other drivers, use the methods prescribed for driving in fog. If you can avoid driving through smoky areas, do so.
Wet Weather - General
Regardless of your driving experience, the odds are greater that you will have a collision in wet weather. A hard rain can limit visibility so much you can’t see the edge of the road, traffic signs, or other cars. If you must drive under such conditions, it’s helpful to have the knowledge and skills to cope.
Wet, snow covered, or icy road surfaces create a situation which is hazardous. If possible, do not drive when the roadway is wet, snow-covered, or icy. Wait until the weather is better, or at least until the road has been snow-plowed.
Keep your windshield and windows clean. It is important to clean the inside of your windows at least once a week – more often if you smoke.
Use the defrosters to keep front and rear windshields clear. On a cold day, move the heat control to "hot" and let the engine warm up before turning on the defrosters and blowers. This will prevent moisture from collecting on the inside of the glass. If the windshield or windows get foggy, open a window slightly and turn the defroster fan to a higher speed. Use the air conditioner to reduce humidity.
Although tinted windows have been promoted to reduce glare from the sun and make air conditioning more efficient, they also reduce visibility in inclement weather. Consider options to tinted windows such as sunglasses and sun visors to improve visibility.
Make sure you are able to see and be seen. When driving on wet streets, mud and dirt splash on the headlights, reducing effectiveness by up to 90 percent. Stop periodically during a long trip to clean your headlights, taillights, and windshield. Keep low beam headlights on at all times in wet conditions, especially on dark or overcast days.
When visibility is so limited that you can’t see the edge of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance, it’s time to pull off and wait for the rain or snow to ease up. It is best to stop at a rest area or exit the freeway and go to a protected area. If the roadside is your only option, pull off the road as far as you can, preferably past the end of a guardrail. Other drivers frequently strike vehicles parked at the side of the road. Respect the limitations of reduced visibility and turn headlights off and emergency flashers on to alert other drivers.
If you must drive during inclement weather, there are precautions that you should take to avoid skidding. The number one rule for driving in bad weather is to slow down, particularly when approaching turns, sharp curves, and intersections. You should give yourself an extra-large space cushion around your vehicle, particularly in front. Avoid making quick maneuvers such as sudden turns, braking, or acceleration; do these things gradually and slowly to avoid skidding.
When driving in wet weather conditions on roads or highways, you may need to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Steering is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 miles per hour because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In wet weather sudden braking often leads to skids.
Your car’s grip on the road depends on a small area of contact where the tires meet the road surface, called the tire’s footprint . The amount of water on the road, your speed and the condition of your tires affect footprint traction. Good tread allows water to escape from under the tires. Proper inflation also increases traction. Low tire pressure allows the tread to squeeze together, reducing the tire’s ability to wipe or channel away water. Tires specifically designed for wet weather traction allow more water to escape, keeping the footprint in contact with the road surface.
Stopping on a slippery surface requires more distance. Focus your attention as far ahead as possible – at least 20 to 30 seconds. The best way to stop on a slippery surface is to use threshold or controlled braking and shifting. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, the best way to threshold or control braking is the heel-and-toe method. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use your toes to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. Stop the pressure just short of locking the wheels. If your heel leaves the floor, the ball of your foot pushes the pedal and the wheels lock up because you’re controlling the brake with your thigh muscles, which are incapable of finer control.
Under the stress of trying to stop quickly, drivers almost inevitably overreact and lock the wheels. If this happens, use heel-and-toe action to release brake pressure one or two degrees then immediately reapply it with slightly less pressure.
If you have anti-lock brakes you should also use the heel-and-toe method. In addition, do not remove your foot from the brake pedal or pump the pedal. If you apply too much brake pressure and the wheels lock momentarily, you might feel the brake pedal pulse back against your foot. Pumping the pedal works against the antilock system by providing false information to the sensors.
While driving in the rain, you should:
Use your low-beam headlights whenever it is raining. To improve visibility, you may have to stop to wipe mud or snow off of your windshield, headlights, and taillights.
Slow down at the first sign of rain, drizzle, or snow on the road. This is when many road pavements are most slippery because oil and dust have not been washed off the roadway. In other words, the roadway is usually the most slippery when it just starts to rain and it has not rained for some time . If the road is slippery, it will not give your tires the traction they need to make quick stops, and maneuver turns and corners. You must drive more slowly than you would on a dry road.
If it starts to rain on a hot day, pavement can be slippery for the first few minutes. Heat causes the oil in the asphalt to come to the surface. It makes the road more slippery until the oil is washed away.
If the roadway is wet, you should travel at least 5 to 10 MPH slower than you normally would. In a very heavy rainstorm, you may not be able to see more than 100 feet ahead. When you cannot see any farther than that, you cannot safely drive faster than 30 MPH.
Choose a speed consistent with the amount of water on the road. At 30 miles per hour or less, properly inflated tires with good tread will maintain contact. Even a brand-new tire will lose some footprint contact at 35 miles per hour. At 50 miles per hour, water may separate the tire from the road and cause hydroplaning.
Hydroplaning is when your tires lose contact with the road and are riding on a thin sheet of water. You have no traction while hydroplaning. It can occur at 50 mph or less in heavy rain, and is more likely to happen if your speed is high, your tires lack tread depth, and your vehicle is light. A slight gust of wind could throw your vehicle into a skid. To regain control, you need to take your foot off the accelerator, but do not brake.
You should slow down whenever there is a lot of water on the road to avoid hydroplaning. Look for signs of hydroplaning such as standing water, raindrops that bubble on the road or a sloshing sound from your tires. This is your opportunity to slow down and avoid hard braking or turning sharply. Drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you and increase the distance between you and the forward vehicle.
If it begins to rain so hard while you are driving that you cannot see very far in front of your vehicle, slow down and get off the roadway as soon as possible. Be careful of other drivers who have also reduced their speed or who are exiting the roadway as well. Keep your parking or hazard lights on when parked on the side of the road.
Snow & Ice
Sometimes a road that is normally safe becomes dangerous when slippery. Ice and packed snow on the road can cause your vehicle to skid, especially if you are driving fast or traveling downhill.
You should always use your low beams on frosty mornings when other drivers' windows may be icy or foggy. Do not use your high beams in a snow storm because they will reflect off of the falling snow and blind you.
To drive safely in snow or ice you should:
If you will be driving in an area where it has snowed or may snow, carry chains in case you find yourself in conditions where you can't drive without them. Make sure you carry the correct number of chains and that they will fit your drive wheels (which is your front wheels in a front-wheel drive vehicle, your rear wheels in a rear-wheel drive vehicle, and all wheels in an all-wheel drive vehicle).
Learn how to put the chains on your vehicle before you need to use them. Check the weather before you leave.
When driving on roadways where snow chains are required, temporary special speed limits may be posted which you must obey. These speed limits range from 25 to 40 MPH.
When driving on packed snow, you should drive at least 50% slower than you normally would. If there is ice on the road, you should slow to a crawl.
Some road surfaces are more slippery than others when wet. These roads often have warning signs. Here are some clues to help you spot slippery roads:
In California, we also have a special problem with “ black ice .” Black ice is very difficult to see on the roadway and appears more like a wet spot than a patch of ice.
Even when you see no apparent ice on the roadway, black ice may be present. Black ice is likely to form on shady parts of the roadway such as the back sides of turns or hills. Slow down and be especially careful when the weather is cold enough to form black ice.
Black ice typically refers to a thin coating of glazed ice on a surface, often a roadway. While not truly black , it is transparent , allowing the usually-black asphalt / Macadam roadway to be seen through it, hence the term. It also is unusually slick compared to other forms of ice on roadways.
It is usually deposited by extremly cold rain droplets, mist , or fog . The process of freezing is slowed down due to latent heat given off in sublimation , allowing the rain droplets to flow and merge togeher on the surface forming a film before freezing into clear ice.
Nevertheless, because it contains relatively little entrapped
air in the form of bubbles , black ice is transparent and thus very difficult to see (as compared to snow , frozen slush , rime ice , or other typical forms of ice on roadways). In addition, it often has a matte appearance rather than the expected gloss; and often is interleaved with wet pavement, which is identical in appearance. For this reason it is especially hazardous when driving or walking because it is both hard to see and extremely slick.
Black ice may form even when the ambient temperature is several degrees above the freezing point of water . This occurs typically (and treacherously) when terrain contours and/or prevailing winds cause a local steep differential of atmospheric pressure and/or temperature, or when the atmosphere has warmed up after a prolonged cold spell that leaves the temperature of the ground and roadway well below the freezing point.
To help avoid skidding on slippery surfaces, you should:
If you go into a skid, ease off the gas pedal, stop braking, and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the vehicle to go. If you can't control your vehicle on a slippery surface, try to find something to stop you. Try to get a wheel on dry pavement or on the shoulder of the road. You may have to slowly edge into a snow bank or some bushes to stop.
Stuck in Snow or Mud
Every time the outside temperature drops 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the air pressure inside your tires goes down about one or two pounds per square inch. You should check your tire pressure frequently during cold weather and add the necessary air to keep them at recommended levels of inflation at all times. Never reduce tire pressure in an attempt to increase traction on snow or ice. It does not work and your tires will be so seriously under-inflated that driving will damage them.
You can avoid getting stuck in snow or mud if you carry chains in your vehicle and put them on the tires before driving in snow or mud.
If you encounter muddy or slushy conditions, you need steady pulling and moderate power when traction is poor. The best remedy when wheels are stuck in snow, mud, or a soft shoulder is to apply power slowly. Keep your front wheels pointed straight ahead so the vehicle can move in a straight line. If you can’t go forward, try backing out, steering in the vehicle’s tracks.
If one of the drive wheels becomes stuck, the centrifugal forces created by rapidly spinning your tires can cause an explosion by literally tearing the tire apart. Never exceed the 35 mph indicated speedometer speed or stand near the spinning tire. (If only one tire is spinning, the actual speed of the tire is twice the speedometer reading!).
To recover when you are stuck in mud or snow:
shift to a lower gear and keep the front wheels straight (if you have a manual transmission, use second gear, not first)
gently step on the gas pedal
avoid spinning the wheels while driving forward as far as possible
shift to reverse and slowly back up as far as possible again without spinning the wheels
shift to low gear again and drive forward
repeat this forward-backward rocking motion until the car rolls free; or, if in deep mud or snow, put boards or tree branches under the tires to provide traction -- never do this while wheels are spinning. If all else fails, call a tow truck
Deep Water on the Road
If you encounter deep water on the roadway, you should drive around it or take another route, if possible. Never drive through water that is deep enough to reach the bottom of your vehicle. If you're not sure, don't try it.
If you must drive through water on the roadway, avoid letting water splash into the engine compartment by driving slowly. Water may stop your engine completely and leave you stranded in a the middle of the water.
Do not pass through strong currents are that are high enough to reach the bottom of your vehicle because they can carry the vehicle away. Despite its' weight, a car WILL float for a short time!
Test your brakes after driving through deep water, and dry them by the procedure outlined earlier, if necessary.
Strong winds can blow your vehicle around, especially on bridges, when driving in the mountains, and on wide-open roads. Large vehicles, such as motorhomes, and vehicles towing trailers are especially vulnerable to being blown off course by the wind. When driving in strong winds, slow down.
Be ready for strong gusts which may blown your vehicle partially into another lane. Make sure to hold both hands on the steering wheel and be especially alert.
When strong winds are paired with rain or snow, it is especially dangerous. Rain and snow make the roadway slippery, which makes it easier for the wind to blow your vehicle around the roadway and harder for you to recover. Make sure to drive even more slowly whenever rain and snow are paired with high winds. Winds can also blow dust, sand, and other debris which can limit your visibility.
When driving at night you should be careful and drive more slowly because you cannot see as far. Therefore, you will have less time to stop for a hazard.
You should only drive as fast as permits you to stop within the distance lighted by your headlights (overdriving your headlights) . Remember, at night, your headlights cannot follow the curves, hills, and dips in the road.
There are a lot of dark/blind spots in what you can see with your headlights at night, both high and low beams. You should reduce your speed as needed. Bad weather, unexpected actions by other drivers, and fatigue can also affect your driving and what you can see.
You must turn your headlights on 30 minutes after sunset and leave them on until 30 minutes before sunrise . You must also turn them on any time you can't see at least 1,000 feet ahead , or anytime that your windshield wipers are turned on. You should even use your headlights during the daytime if it is difficult to see.
Remember that it is always illegal to drive with only your parking lights on.
Use your high beams whenever possible, as long as it is not illegal or unsafe (e.g., use them on open country when other cars are not near or on dark city streets when no other traffic would be affected by your high beams).
Do not blind other drivers with your high beam headlights. Dim your lights by switching to low beams before you are 500 feet from a vehicle coming towards you. If you are following another vehicle, change to low beams when you get closer than 300 feet .
Don't look directly into oncoming headlights. When another driver does not turn off his or her high beams, look towards the right edge of your lane. Watch the oncoming car out of the corner of your eye. Do not try to get back at the other driver by using your own high beams or even flashing them. If you do, both of you may be blinded.
When leaving a brightly lit place, drive slowly until your eyes adjust to the darkness.
You should look carefully for motorcycles at night. They are harder to see because they only have one headlight. Drive as far to the right as possible if a vehicle with one headlight is approaching you. It could be a bicycle or motorcycle, but it could also be a car or truck with a burnt-out headlight.
Experiencing an earthquake while in a moving vehicle has been compared to driving on four flat tires.
If an earthquake occurs while you are driving:
The purpose of insurance is to insure that you will be able to pay (financially responsible) for injuries and damages if you are involved in an accident. California has a compulsory financial responsibility law which requires that every driver and every owner of a motor vehicle maintain financial responsibility at all times.
There are four forms of financial responsibility:
You must carry written evidence of insurance or other financial responsibility for your vehicle whenever you drive. There are minimum amounts of insurance that you must have. You must present your evidence of financial responsibility to other persons with whom your are involved in an accident and at the request of law enforcement.
There are at least four different types of insurance:
You should understand the differences between them for when it is time for you to purchase insurance for your own vehicle.
Collision insurance deals with damage to your vehicle in the event of a collision. This type of insurance is normally subject to a deductible, meaning that you have to pay a certain amount for damage to your vehicle before your insurance company will pay. Collision insurance policies are limited by various terms indicated in the policy.
Comprehensive insurance deals with theft of your vehicle or damage to your vehicle caused by factors other than a collision such as a rock hitting your windshield. Comprehensive policies are also normally subject to
Liability insurance addresses your responsibility to others for injury, death, and property damage. This is the type of insurance that you are required to have by law. Liability policies are also limited by terms in the policy.
Uninsured motorist insurance addresses medical expenses that you or your passengers may incur when in an accident that is not your fault and is caused by another driver who does not have insurance.
Your financial responsibility for accidents may be addressed:
Before you purchase insurance, make sure that the agent/broker and insurer you select are licensed by the California Department of Insurance. Call 1-800-927-HELP to determine the license status and obtain additional information.
If you do not have enough insurance (i.e., you are underinsured) and are involved in an accident, other persons involved could bring a judgment against your assets. In other words, they can sue you for damages not covered by your insurance policy.
Most drivers choose to have an automobile liability policy as proof of financial responsibility. If you have an accident not covered by your insurance, your license will be suspended. If the driver is not identified, the owner of the motor vehicle will have his or her license suspended.
Your license will be suspended for failing to pay for property damage in excess of $750 or for damages resulting from injury or death which resulted from a motor vehicle, if a certified copy of a judgment is received from a small claims court.
As the owner of a vehicle, you are responsible for damages in the event of an accident in which someone else is driving if they have your express or implied permission to drive the vehicle. The person signing a minor's license application assumes liability for damages caused by the minor regardless of whose vehicle he or she is driving.
Many lawsuits resulting from accidents settle for much more m oney than the minimum amounts set by the financial responsibility law. You may have to pay the extra money if your insurance does not pay it all.
Your license can be suspended for failing to have or provide proof of insurance . It is illegal to drive without being financially responsible. If you don't have evidence of financial responsibility to show law enforcement when you are stopped for a citation or after an accident, you may have to pay a fine of up to $500 plus penalty assessments, and your vehicle may be impounded.
If you do not have acceptable financial responsibility and you have an accident, you may lose your license for up to 4 years. Presenting false evidence of financial responsibility, including an expired or canceled insurance policy, bond, certificate of selfinsurance, or assignment of deposit letter is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $750 and 30 days of jail time.
The evidence of financial responsibility that you present to DMV to register your vehicle or in the event of an accident or other traffic stop is reviewed. DMV may ask the insurance company or other entity to verify that you do indeed have coverage, particularly at the time of an accident. If you did not actually have the proper insurance coverage, your driving privilege will be suspended for 1 year. To get your license back, you will need to provide evidence of financial responsibility and maintain it for the next 3 years.
If you are under 18 years of age, your parents must sign your license application. Your parents, or any other persons who sign for your driver license, accept liability up to $35,000 for any one accident that you are involved in . This assumption of your liability may be voided when the person who signed for your license notifies DMV to have your license canceled. Your parent's or guardian's liability also ceases when you reach age 18.
If you are involved in an accident, you may be liable for civil damages. If the accident involved a law violation, then you may also be fined. Your parents are responsible if you are under 18 and drive without a license. You may not even drive minibikes, scooters, or mopeds on public property (roads or sidewalks) without a driver license.
A vehicle cannot be registered or have its registration renewed without evidence of financial responsibility.
Recall from Lesson 6 that the DMV keeps a public record of all at-fault accidents and assigns point counts to these occurrences for the purpose of alerting drivers when they are in danger of being classified as a Negligent Operator of a motor vehicle. If you obtain too many points on your record, your license may be suspended or revoked.
You will now answer 5 questions to test what you learned during this lesson. You must answer all questions correctly to receive completion credit for this lesson. You may answer the questions as many times as necessary to get them right.
You should review the lesson material if you don't do well on the quiz.
*Check with your California insurance agent for eligibility details. Every licensed California Driver must have auto insurance to drive a vehicle in California. Proof of insurance must be provided to the California DMV when you obtain your drivers license (not your learners permit).