Safe driving guide: 11 tips to avoid accidents on the road

Updated May 13, 2024

People often wonder how they can save on their car insurance. It’s true that you can find savings by shopping around and adjusting things like coverages and deductibles. But the best way to avoid increases in your premium (and fines) is to avoid collisions and accidents when you get behind the wheel.

Safe driving can be a matter of life and death. According to Transport Canada, in 2021, 1,768 people died in motor vehicle accidents while 8,185 people were seriously injured.

Continue reading to learn some safe driving tips that’ll help you save some money and get you safely to your destination.

Man in grey shirt behind the wheel of a car, view from back seat

1. Maintain your vehicle

Make sure your vehicle is safe for the road. Check the oil, tire pressure, and the brakes. Additionally, watch for any warning lights on the dashboard, especially the engine light. When in doubt, take your car to a mechanic to have the vehicle checked — the last thing you want is your car to conk out on the highway.

2. Be aware of your surroundings

When you get behind the wheel, be alert for potential hazards:

  • Watch for cyclists, pedestrians, and children
  • Be aware of slower moving vehicles or vehicles that make frequent stops, like construction/maintenance vehicles or school buses
  • Reduce speed in construction and school zones
  • Keep your eyes active by checking your mirrors frequently
  • If it has snowed recently, wipe snow off your roof, trunk and hood before you set out
  • Look out for potholes

3. Be prepared

Make sure you have the necessary safety equipment in your vehicle. Your trunk should contain a first aid kit, a spare tire, a jack, flares, a blanket and a snow brush/ice scraper. A flat tire can happen, or weather can change for the worse at any time. Additionally, make sure your signal lights are working properly, especially the brake lights.

4. Distance is your friend

It’s important to maintain space between your car and other vehicles to reduce the chance of a collision. Avoid tailgating by keeping a three-second gap when following another vehicle. Increase this gap if driving conditions are less than ideal. On multi-lane roads, try to avoid having vehicles either side of you by staying in the slow lane, except to pass. Avoid unnecessary lane changes as this also increases the risk of collision.

If someone is tailgating you, change lanes and let them pass. Don’t slow down suddenly or tap your brakes as this could cause a collision.

5. Check your blind spot

It’s easy to forget to check your blind spot. Maybe you’re in a rush to get to your destination, traffic is light, or you had a bad day at the office. Regardless, always check your blind spot when changing lanes. And don’t forget to signal. Don’t assume that other drivers will guess your intentions. By the same token, avoid driving in the blind spot of other drivers.

6. Use caution at intersections and railway crossings

Slow down at intersections and obey traffic signs and signals. Avoid the temptation to run a yellow or red light as this increases the risk of a collision and serious injury. Remember that lots of municipalities use red light cameras to catch drivers running red lights. And if you do get caught, you will receive a fine in the mail.

In the same vein, always be alert for other drivers running red lights, even if you have the green light. And don’t forget about pedestrians and cyclists, especially at night and in rainy weather.

At railway crossings, watch for the red flashing lights that signal a train is coming. Don’t try to drive around the barrier as it lowers — you don’t know how close the train is and how fast it’s going — and trains can’t stop on a dime like a car.

At crossings without barriers or lights, you should exercise additional caution and look both ways before crossing the tracks.

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7. Watch your speed

Obey posted speed limits. Not only is speeding dangerous for you and other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, but speeding tickets issued by a police officer will lead to an increase in your car insurance premium and potential demerit points against your license. If you are constantly racking up speeding tickets, your insurance policy could be cancelled altogether.

Reducing your speed can also help you save on fuel. According to Natural Resources Canada, most vehicles are at their most efficient when travelling between 50 and 80 km/h. For example, at 100 km/h, your car uses 20% less fuel than at 120 km/h. On a 25 km trip, you would only save 2 minutes — is that really worth the 20% increase in fuel consumption?

8. Stay calm behind the wheel

It’s easy to get frustrated by poor behaviour from fellow drivers, like changing lanes without signalling, tailgating, and excessive speeding. Responding in kind or engaging in road rage can lead to accidents and potential violence, so stay calm and let the other motorist drive away.

9. Fasten your seatbelt

Seatbelts and safety seats for children are important mandatory safety features of your car. In 2021, 28.6% of driver fatalities involved people not wearing seatbelts. As a driver, you are responsible for your passengers buckling up. There are hefty fines for being pulled over for a seat belt infraction and your car insurance premium will suffer as a result.

10. Avoid distractions

Don’t be that person who’s putting on lipstick or brushing their hair while driving! As well, with all the technology in our lives, it can be tempting to want to look at your cell phone or similar device when you’re behind the wheel. Using an electronic device while driving is not only dangerous, but it can also bring heavy fines if you’re pulled over: in Ontario, a first offense carries a $615 fine, a 30-day driver’s license suspension and 6 demerit points.

If you have to take that call, pull over or take care of your tasks before or after your time behind the wheel.

11. Don’t drink and drive

Alcohol (and drugs for that matter) impair your ability to drive, even after one drink. Taking the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol endangers your life and the lives of others and exposes you to serious legal action.

Alcohol affects your ability to drive in many ways: it gives you a false sense of security, it diminishes your concentration, it slows your reaction time, it weakens your coordination, and it causes drowsiness.

You can be arrested if your blood alcohol concentration equals or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. In Quebec, the consequences of a first offence involve the immediate suspension of your license for 24 hours to 90 days and the immediate seizure and impoundment of your vehicle. In other provinces, there are also administrative penalties for even lower levels of blood alcohol.

If you have consumed alcohol or drugs and have any doubts about your ability to drive, err on the side of caution. Use a taxi, a ride-sharing service, or public transit. You can also have a friend or designated driver take you home or if you are visiting friends or relatives, you could spend the night at their place.

Commonly asked questions

If I get an automated ticket for running a red light, will my premium go up?

No, automated tickets do not affect your car insurance premium.

They also don’t add demerit points to your license and will not appear on your driving record. Just like with parking tickets, the reason for this is that there’s no way to confirm who was driving the vehicle at the time the camera recorded the infraction.

However, if you are pulled over by a police officer who gives you a ticket for failing to stop at a red light, it will impact your insurance, unless you successfully appeal the ticket.

Can I use my cell phone while I’m stopped at an intersection?

Many people erroneously think it’s okay to use their handheld devices when they are stopped at an intersection. Even though you’re not moving, you are still in the process of driving and need to be aware of other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.

A police officer can issue you a citation for using your cell phone at a red light, as it constitutes a distraction. In Quebec, for example, a first offence for distracted driving carries a fine of $300–$600.

Will a speeding ticket issued by a police officer appear on my driving record?

Yes, unless you successfully appeal it. In Ontario, the infraction will stay on your driving record for 3 years from the date of conviction, which is the date upon which you pay your fine and acknowledge the infraction.

Want to learn more? Visit our Car insurance resource centre for dozens of helpful articles to guide you through the complexities of car insurance. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized car insurance can be.

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