NASCAR'S Dale Jarrett Puts Safety in First Place
A 200-mph superstar, Dale Jarrett thrilled NASCAR fans for 20 years. Three victories in the Daytona 500 and his 1999 NASCAR championship put him in the ranks of the sport's 50 greatest drivers.
But winning wasn't the only thing he thought about when the green flag launched a 500-mile contest.
"The most important thing on my mind at the start of every race is safety," says Jarrett, who retired from racing in 2008. "The same thing applies whenever I'm driving the family car around my hometown of Hickory, N.C. Before I turn that ignition key, I make sure everybody's buckled into their seat belts.
"And while I'm at the wheel, I concentrate on what I'm doing. I pay attention. I don't talk on cell phones, or eat a sandwich, or start daydreaming. Instead, I keep my eyes moving. I watch the traffic up ahead carefully, and from time to time, I also take a quick look at what's going on behind me, and on either side. If something happens suddenly, I want to be ready to react and move to a place of safety."
Every trip matters
"I really believe that safety is the responsibility of all drivers, whether you're driving to the grocery store or taking a family road trip," he adds. "It's important for all motorists to exercise safe driving practices, and to realize that no one is accident-proof."
You can raise your odds of avoiding a traffic crash by heeding Jarrett's "Five Seeing Habits For Safe Driving." Drawn up by Jarrett and UPS traffic engineers, these tips have been endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Try to follow some other basic rules, too. Use seat belts, avoid cell-phone conversations, stay under the speed limit, and never drink while driving. All in all, these steps should help you cope with most situations in which unexpected traffic events can lead to accidents, Jarrett says.
Five seeing habits for safe driving
1. Aim high while you steer. Always look as far down the road as you can to spot traffic patterns and sudden changes. Says Jarrett: "The sooner you notice a problem developing, the more time you'll have to react."
2. Lock in on the big picture. Always follow at the right distance. Leave at least three car lengths for every 20 mph of speed between you and the vehicle ahead of you. Never tailgate. Look often at the vehicle ahead of you so you can react at once to sudden swerving or braking.
3. Keep your eyes moving. Don't stare mindlessly at the road ahead. Instead, scan the traffic flow all the time, looking for any changes in patterns or road conditions. Be alert for objects that have fallen onto the roadway.
4. Leave yourself an out. Be ready for any eventuality. Make sure you've got an "envelope of space" in front of you, and also on one side. That way, you always have a way out in the face of the unexpected. "This habit is something you learn very quickly out there on the racetrack," Jarrett says. "But it's just as important when driving in everyday traffic."
5. Make sure other drivers can see you. Before you set out, always make sure the turn signals, brake lights, and other communication devices on your vehicle work. Then use them--wherever and whenever you need to let other drivers and pedestrians know your next move.