Homeowner’s Guide to Driving Safety: Essentials for Your Garage
Your vehicle could be a danger to yourself and those on the road with you, and you need to do all you can to be safe. In fact, the Association for Safe International Road Travel estimates that every year, 1.3 million people are killed in road crashes, and an additional 20-50 million are injured. Those are serious numbers, and show the reasons that safety needs to be a top priority.
Each season brings its own risks and dangers. In the winter, you face the danger of black ice and slippery roads, but did you know that wet leaves on the road in the fall are just as dangerous? In the spring, you must watch for potholes, and in the summer, the risk is with the heat. Having a safety checklist you can turn to season by season to keep yourself and your family safe will help you enjoy the freedom of the road with minimal risk.
Here you will find a comprehensive list of driving and garage safety concerns for each season. Take some time to read through it and see where you are putting your family at risk, then make the changes necessary to decrease your risk and increase your overall safety. By taking these tips to heart, you can enjoy the freedom of travel without undue risk.
Garage Essentials by Season
Driving safety is a year-round concern, but some issues are more important at certain times of the year than others. Here is a list of driving safety that breaks down season by season, as well as concerns to consider in your own garage.
Feel free to jump ahead to the sections that interest you most!
In the fall, your thoughts turn from summer fun to school. With that shift, new driving and garage hazards can pop up. Be sure to watch for these:
- Back to school traffic - As kids head back to school, you will see more people out on the roads in the before and after school hours. You'll also need to watch for pedestrians as many parents and students will walk to school during mild fall weather.
- Rain makes roads slick - Fall rains, particularly after a long dry summer, can make roads quite slippery. The first few rains that land on the dry, dusty roads will create a serious hydroplaning risk. Be aware of this and drive slowly when it rains.
- Keep an eye out for school buses - As the kids head back to school, so do the school buses. You will need to watch for them, and be sure to always stop when you see their lights flashing and signs out.
- Leaves increase road risks - When leaves start to litter the roads, they can make seeing road lines difficult while also increasing the slipperiness of the road. Leaf debris can hide potholes as well.
- Leaf peepers add unexpected hazards - There's no denying that fall colors are brilliant, but some people forget about safe driving when they come upon a particularly beautiful view. Be aware of the actions of other drivers who may suddenly slow down to take in a view.
- Increased fog risk - Fall weather is a perfect recipe for fog, so consider this when heading out in the early morning or late evening. If you come across fog, don't turn on your high beams, which will actually hurt visibility. Always turn on your normal head lights and stay well behind the car in front of you.
- Sun glare increases - Help combat it by wearing sunglasses or have your windows tinted.
- Higher numbers of deer emerge - Fall is mating and migration season for deer. If you live in an area with a large deer population, you need to be constantly on the lookout for them darting across. Be aware that nighttime is the worst time for their activity.
- Frost increases on the window - This is a time when you need a frost removal tool handy in your garage. Never drive with impaired visibility due to frost.
In your garage, fall is a great time to look around for additional hazards. Consider:
- Put away the chemicals, cleaners, and toys you got out for summer that can create a risk if left out all winter.
- Create storage for fall outdoor tools that keeps them in a safe spot.
- Keep wet leaves and other fall debris off the garage floor to protect from fall hazards.
- Have an ice or frost scraper handy.
For more information about fall driving tips, hazards and garage safety, visit:
- AARP: Fall Driving Tips
- SafeBee: 7 Fall Driving Safety Tips
- Travel Guide: 5 Essential Autumn Driving Safety Tips
- Napa: Fall Driving Safety Tips
- The Weather Channel: Fall Driving Dangers
Most drivers are aware of the additional risk in winter weather conditions. Here's what you need to remember to stay safe while driving in the winter.
- Ice and snow make roads hazardous - Even the most seasoned winter driver needs to be aware of the additional hazards on the road in the winter, and prepare for them properly. Take time to practice in an empty, icy lot so you can be as prepared as possible for slick roads.
- Know your brakes - Anti-lock brakes work best if you stomp on them, but non-antilock brakes require you to pump the brakes to stop on slick roads. Learn what type you have.
- Stay back from other drivers - When roads are wet or icy in winter, don't follow closely behind other drivers, as it will take longer to stop your car.
- Prepare for CO risk - A warm car is great, but idling the car inside your garage, even with the door open, puts your family at risk for CO poisoning. Don't idle for long with the windows up in or near your garage. Your car will heat up without a long idle time. Be sure to check on family members if you know they’re about to drive out of the garage.
- Know what to do when stuck - If you are stuck or stalled in the winter, put a marker out so other drivers see you, and run your car for short periods to stay warm, turning it off in between. Always clear the exhaust pipe.
- Keep it half full - Never drive far in winter with less than 1/2 tank of gas. Remember, if you end up in the ditch you need fuel to stay warm, and driving always takes a little longer in the winter.
- Test the antifreeze - Make sure your antifreeze is rated for the temperatures you're likely to face in your area by having it tested.
- Be safe on bridges and overpasses - Bridges and overpasses will freeze before regular roads, so use caution when approaching them.
- Use caution with holiday drinking - Drinking is common around the holidays, but drinking and driving never mix. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are increased risk times for drunk driving crashes, with 42 percent of the accidents on New Year's Eve occurring due to drunk driving.
When it comes to garage safety and preparedness, here's what you need to know:
- Keep a well-packed emergency kit in your garage that you can grab when going out on the road. It should include flashlights, water, snacks, blankets, hand warmers, flares, sand and snow or ice removal tools.
- Check tire pressure regularly as cold weather can cause it to drop.
- Ensure your car has the proper tread for slick driving conditions.
- Have a safe storage space for the snow shovel.
- Keep ice melt products out of reach of kids and pets.
- Keep pets away from antifreeze that may leak out of your car onto your garage floor.
- Keep jumper cables and a tool kit in your vehicle.
- Check the windshield washer fluid reservoir before any trip, filling with fluid rated for freezing temperatures.
- Add dry clothing to vehicles before long trips, because wet clothing can lead to loss of body heat.
- Check your car's battery before any long winter trips.
- Stay home if you're tempted to drink and drive. (Granted, this is true year-round.)
For more information about safe winter driving, visit:
- OSHA: Safe Winter Driving
- AAA: Winter Driving Tips
- National Safety Council: Be Prepared for Winter Driving
- Consumer Reports: 10 Tips for Safe Winter Driving
- National Traffic Safety Institute: Winter Driving Safety Tips
- SafeMotorist.com: Prepare for Winter Driving - How to Drive in Snow
- FEMA: Winter Driving Safety
- AccuWeather: Winter Safety - 4 Dangerous Driving Myths Debunked
When the weather starts to warm up after a long, cold winter, you may find yourself desiring to spend more time on the road. This is great, but be sure you keep these spring driving safety tips in mind.
- Understand wet road risks - Spring showers bring wet driving conditions, and you need to be prepared. Increase following distance even in light mist to keep yourself safe.
- Be aware of potholes - Potholes are damaging to your car, so don't drive through them. Spring is a time when potholes are abundant, so learn to drive around them or straddle them whenever possible.
- Watch for pedestrians - The warmer temperatures mean more people will be out riding bikes and walking. Be more aware of those sharing the road with you to avoid an accident.
- Avoid the puddles - Large puddles can hide deep holes that could damage your car, and large puddles also increase your risk of hydroplaning. In addition, wet brakes may not work as they should. It's always best to avoid a big puddle.
- Prepare for hail -Hailstorms are common in the spring, and you need to know what to do if you're caught in a storm. Get under cover and off the road to wait out the storm.
- Watch for animals - For many animals, spring is mating or birthing season, which means they are moor active. Hibernating animals will also be coming out of hiding. Make sure you're aware of what is going on around you as you drive in the spring.
- Slow down in work zones - Spring is the time when road work happens more regularly, so be sure that you slow down when approaching work zones.
- Be aware of planting equipment - Spring is planting season. If you live anywhere near farmland, watch for planting and agricultural equipment on the roads, which is typically larger and slower moving than regular traffic.
For safety and preparedness in the garage, here are some tips:
- Check your tire pressure to ensure harsh winter driving conditions didn't affect it.
- Replace the windshield wipers to prepare yourself for spring showers.
- Ensure your tires have good all-weather tread.
- Check your trailer over, ensuring it's ready for spring yard work or outdoor activities.
For more information about spring driving safety, visit:
- AARP: Spring Driving Tips
- Travelers: Spring Driving Tips
- Rubber Manufacturers Association: Spring Driving Tips
- Spring Driving Safety Tips (Video)
- Element: Fleet Safety Tip - Spring Driving Tips
- Washington State Department of Labor & Industries: Spring Safety
- MDOT: Spring Driving Safety
Finally, summer is the time when many people hit the open road in search of outdoor adventures. Interestingly, according to the Department of Transportation, the summer is the riskiest season for drivers. This seems to contradict the many hazards of winter roads, but statistics prove that it's true. As you're planning for summer travel, be sure to account for these summer driving risks:
- Know your car's weight capacity - Don't overload your car when you hit the road for a trip, as this will put you at risk for breakdown or crash.
- Manage glare - Glare can make visibility impossible. Use sunglasses to protect yourself from this problem.
- Understand the heat of the vehicle - Don't leave children or pets in a parked car for even the shortest amount of time in the summer. It takes just moments for temperatures to increase to dangerous levels.
- Slow down - Hot weather is tough on vehicles, and driving too fast adds to that strain. Slow down to give your car a break.
- Avoid alcohol - If you're going to a summer cookout or party and plan to drink, don't get behind the wheel of the car.
- Schedule the oil change - The oil change is critical in the summer as it helps prevent overheating by adding proper lubrication to the car's moving parts.
- Check fluid levels - Heat can cause a drop in all critical fluids, so check your levels regularly.
When it comes to garage safety in the summer, here's a checklist:
- Watch for bikes, scooters and other summer toys that may be blocking your path in or out of the garage.
- Be aware of children who may be playing behind your vehicle.
- Understand that an unheated garage can heat up quickly, so use caution with items that are temperature sensitive.
- Never allow children to play inside a parked vehicle, as temperatures inside a vehicle in the summer are extremely hot.
- Keep pesticides, fertilizers, and similar hazards out of reach of children and pets.
- Pick up toys and gardening supplies to limit tripping hazards.
- Keep up-to-date road maps or an updated GPS on hand at all times.
For more information about keeping yourself safe in summer, visit:
- Huffington Post: Tips for Staying Safe During Summer Driving Season
- Autotrader: Top 10 Driving Safety Tips for Summer
- California Office of Traffic Safety: Summer Driving Tips
- DefensiveDriving.org: 19 Tips for Summer Driving Safety
- AARP: Summer Driving Tips
Some factors come into play no matter the season. To practice safe driving all year long, consider these tips:
- Expect other drivers to do the unexpected - Defensive driving is a year-round consideration.
- Keep your car well-maintained - A car that's properly maintained is less likely to break down.
- Be aware of road hazards - Don't neglect watching for hazards, like construction or potholes, no matter the season.
- Keep tires in good repair - Proper tread and inflation is critical year-round for the various hazards you'll face.
- Never drink and drive - No matter the season, alcohol and vehicles don't mix.
- Don't drive distracted -Districted drivers killed over 3,400 people in 2015 alone. Put the distractions away to stay safe year-round.
For keeping your garage safe and protected, consider these tips:
- Keep a basic medical kit in your car, including any critical medications, bandages, flares, antiseptic, bottled water, hydrocortisone ointment, breathing barrier for CPR and high-energy snacks.
- Protect yourself from tripping hazards by keeping the garage picked up and organized.
- Never leave children unattended in the garage.
- Don't let children or pets play in parked vehicles.
For more information about general driving and garage safety, visit:
- Maryland Department of Transportation: 10 Steps to Responsible Driving for All Motorists
- RealSimple: Safe Driving Tips for Bad Weather
- Legacy Health: Safe Driver Checklist
- OSHA: Motor Vehicle Safety
- National Safety Council: Thousands Have Died in Crashes Involving Cell Phone Use
Want to Stay Safe? Put These in Your Garage
Safe driving starts in your garage. As you consider what you need to do to stay safe, make sure you have these items on hand in your garage.
- First aid kit - Keep a stocked first aid kit in your garage that you can grab before long trips. Make sure it contains supplies for bandaging wounds, dealing with insect bites or allergies, delivering CPR and handling medication emergencies. Check annually for expired items.
- Emergency preparedness kit - Stock your car emergency preparedness kit with some basic foods and bottled water, flares, batteries, flashlights, blankets and a change of clothing. Check every other month to ensure these items are in working order and are not expired.
- Tire pump and gauge - Keep a pump and gauge for your tires in your garage. If you can't get a tire pump, at least keep a gauge you can use to check pressure before going to the gas station to pump them up if needed.
- Fire extinguisher - Keep a fire extinguisher handy in your garage. Test the extinguisher every 5 or 12 years depending on its labeling recommendation.
- Safety goggles - If you plan to do any car work on a DIY basis, invest in a quality pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes.
- Proper organization - Whether you're storing cleaning supplies, tools, yard supplies, or toys, you need organization and storage to keep them off the ground to keep yourself and your family safe. A ground cluttered with stuff is a tripping hazard and can also be a risk for your car, because backing over a bike is bad for your car. Make sure items stored overhead are properly secured so they don't drop on your vehicle.
- CO detectors - You already have CO alarms in your home, but your garage is one of the places where CO will first enter your home from your car. Install a CO detector in your garage, and be sure to replace the battery every 6 months. Replace the detector every 5-7 years.
- Essential fluids for your car - Washer fluid, engine oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, power steering fluid, and brake fluid should all be on hand when you find that you're low. Keep these out of reach of kids and pets, and protect them from freezing in the winter. Otherwise, they don't have a specific shelf life to worry about.
- Battery charger - A dead battery makes it impossible to drive, let alone drive safely. If you have a dead battery, a battery charger will get you to the mechanic so you can have it replaced.
Want to take your garage safety to the next level? Consider these safety tips:
- Vector Security: 4 Tips to Maintain Garage Safety
- LiftMaster: What You Must do to Keep Your Garage Safe for Kids and Pets
- Delaney's: Garage Safety - Better Safe Than Sorry
- Parents: Garage Safety Basics
- Prevention: Hidden Dangers in Your Garage
- Eton: 7 Garage Safety Tips
- DASMA: Safety Tips for Garage Doors
- Alan's Factory Outlet: Identifying Hazards in Your Shed and Garage - How to Create a Safer Environment
- Ready.gov: Car Safety Checklist