Driving can get you where you need to and take you on fantastic adventures – but it’s only fun if you arrive at your destination safe and sound! Nina Near and Far encourages local exploration,day trips, and short trips – and so often these ways of exploring involve driving so when Allstate Canada reached out and asked if I would be part of the Allstate Takes Action campaign to promote safe driving in Ottawa, it was an absolute yes.

When it comes to driving safety I have always been interested in the cognitive perspectives. One of the earliest courses that I took during my undergraduate degree was Cognitive Psychology. The topic of driving came up a lot. What does driving have to do with cognitive psychology? Well, driving requires you to know the rules, pay attention, follow conventions, be aware of your surroundings, and make decisions quickly. These are all cognitive functions and so a major area of research in cognitive psychology is driving. 

The data from Allstate Canada’s 2018 Safe Driving Study identified Ottawa as one of the top 10 communities with the highest frequencies of collisionsRear-end collisions are the most common. I’ve teamed up with Allstate Canada to offer some safe driving tips (honestly, learned a lot from this myself) and where possible the science that goes with it.

Ottawa Safe Driving Tips

Stay Focused

Limit distractions – this includes (but is not limited to) not fumbling with the radio, eating food, or texting or talking on the phone while driving. One of the things that I learned about distracted driving in school is that even hands freephone conversations are distracting. Chatting with someone in the passenger seat is different from chatting with someone on the phone. Passenngers will usually moderate the conversation based on what’s happening on the road. Whereas someone on the phone will not, therefore you’ll end up trying to pay attention to them when really you need your full attention on the road.

Know the Best Days to Drive

One of the best ways to practice safe driving is to simply not be on the roads when driving conditions are typically unsafe. Did you know that Sunday is the safest day to drive? This is the day with the lowest number of collisions reported, so this is a great day to schedule fun winter activities or (less fun, but still necessary) errands.

Friday has been the worst day for driving across the country for the last decade, continuously recording the highest number of collisions over other days of the week. December to February are the months with the highest collision rates so exercise caution when driving in the winter.

Get Your Holiday Shopping Done Early

This is a driving tip, yes! The days leading up to Christmas are, historically, some of the worst days to drive. December 23rd consistently ranks as the worst for a high frequency of collisions. It’s good incentive to get your Christmas shopping done early so that you can avoid last minute trips to the mall when driving conditions are poor. Christmas Day, on the other hand, has been found to be the safest day to drive with the least collisions reported. 

One of my favourite winter drives – out to Omega Park!

Put On Your Winter Tires

Winter tires are a known preventative measure that can help ensure driving safety in colder months. I always thought that winter tires were purely beneficial in gaining traction on snow-covered and icy roads, but I learned from Allstate Canada that tires can lose a pound of pressure for every 5 degrees Celsius the temperature drops. It’s not just about road surface, temperature itself plays a factor.

Watch for Pedestrians

The most severe auto-related incidents reported over the past 10 years have been head-on collisions and those involving pedestrians or cyclists. Be mindful of this when approaching a crosswalk or roundabout. It’s equally important to be mindful when you are the pedestrian of cyclist yourself. This is something that was talked about when I studied cognitive psychology. Make sure that you are easily perceived as a human (i.e. don’t wear dark clothes when you’re out at night) and behave predictably and aligned with pedestrian driving laws.

Familiarize Yourself with Roundabouts

Roundabouts are known to significantly reduce vehicle collisions, but a lot of us feel uncomfortable with roundabouts because they’re unfamiliar. There are currently 21 roundabout intersections in the City of Ottawa. Roundabouts have 35% fewer crashes, 90% fewer vehicle fatalities and 76% fewer vehicle-related injuries. In a roundabout, vehicles are required to yield to pedestrians and traffic already using the roundabout, drive counter-clockwise and always to the right of the central island. Brush up on your knowledge of roundabouts and their key features here. How familiar are you with Canadian road signage? Check your knowledge so that you can navigate roundabouts effectively!

Give Other Drivers Space

Give the drivers in front of you space and give yourself a bit of extra space. Allstate Canada recommends leaving at least 8-10 seconds between you and the car in front of you. This gives you more time to safely come to a stop if the car in front of you stops abruptly, helping to reduce the risk of a rear-end collision. On the flip side, it’s good to leave a bit of space between you and the car in front of you even when you are stopped. This way if (hopefully not) someone were to rear-end you, that extra space might prevent a rear-ending domino effect. 

Play the Escape Route Game

The most important tip that I learned while driving was to always know your exit. Whether there’s an accident nearby, an outburst of road rage, or an ambulance flying up behind you – where will you go? Whenever possible, avoid getting completely grid locked by leaving a bit of space between you and the car in front of you by staying in the further possible lane to the right unless you’re passing.

Keep Driving

Miss your exit in a roundabout? Or your turn on a busy street? Just keep driving. When in a roundabout you will come around to the exit again. Otherwise, you can simply reroute. Take the next turn loop back to your destinations. This can once again be traced back to cognitive psychology. When you make a last minute turn, it’s likely that all of your attention is going towards that action and not on road safety. Moreover, other drivers rely on their perception of you to know what will happen next and you if haven’t signalled that perception is lacking.

Be Courteous (and Patient)

On the road basic courtesy applies. Don’t cut other drivers off, and only merge or enter roundabouts when there is space for you to do so. Patience can go a long way, too. I think we can all admit that our patience has been tested on the road particularly when other drivers aren’t following the rules or being courteous. My advice – just let it go. It’s better to have a bad driver ahead of you than behind you so if someone is determined to cut you off just let them have it. Your safety isn’t worth the risk!

This post is a paid partnership with Allstate Canada.