Ultimate Guide To Tires & Driver Safety (Updated for 2022)

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Updated December 2, 2022

Not to be a downer or anything, but driving is how you die.

Let’s look at the cold, hard facts. An estimated 42,915 died in car crashes in the USA in 2021 alone. 

Driving is a pretty fun activity that smashes people to bits when given the opportunity.

tires and driver safety guide

Table of Contents

I’ve personally been in the back seat during a 75 MPH (120 km/hour) freeway accident, and I’m damn lucky I was in a safe car when it happened; otherwise, I’d have been a goner over ten years ago.

Luckily, I’m still here to tell you about it thanks to amazing luck.

The thing is too, that driving doesn’t have to be near as dangerous as some nimwits make it.

Almost all of us do some type of crazy maneuver when we’re rallying on the freeway at some point or another. Even slow drivers can’t argue that, but being consistently smart helps you stay alive in the streets.

Alrighty, so if you want to avoid spitting out tempered glass from a window explosion (or something worse), read my latest edition of tires and driver safety.

Tire Safety In Five Easy Steps

According to the United States Department of Transportation, 664 driving fatalities in 2020 were caused by tire-related crashes. Here are five easy points for keeping your tires afloat:

Step 1. Check tire pressures regularly

This includes the spare tire. FYI, basically every vehicle manufacturer prints recommended tire inflation in PSI inside the driver’s door panel.

Fix TPMS sensors when they break. Don’t put a piece of black tape over that dumb exclamation point indicator light flashing on your dash. You’re not fooling anyone, just pay the extra bucks to get the sensor replaced for your safety’s sake.

Step 2. Use the correct tires for the terrain 

One easy way to find yourself in a pickle is by using the wrong tires for the terrain. Are you driving over a massive winter pass in the Wild West? You’d better have some snow tires or at least snow chains/snow socks.

Step 3. Always carry a spare/plug kit 

Being stranded miles from a rescue isn’t fun. Thank yourself later by adding a tire plug kit and small air compressor (I like the ones that plug into the cigarette lighter) just in case. Being prepared is huge when driving long distances.

Learning how to plug a tire is also a must. In the video below, the guy does a good job plugging his tire. I didn’t see him torque the wheels down though, so it might have flown off the vehicle minutes later. Check it out:

Step 4. Know Tire Speed Ratings

Some offroading tires aren’t rated for high speeds and therefore put you in more danger when driving with them on the highway.

If you travel too fast for what your tires are rated for, it’ll heat up and compromise the tread compound putting your tires at risk for failure.

Click here to read our guide on tire speed ratings.

Step 5. Know How To Safely Change The Spare

Know how to properly jack up your vehicle and remove/replace the wheel.

Always put a wheel chock underneath the car before jacking it up. Make sure you’re putting it on the side of the tire that will stop the car from rolling downward.

Important: Keep a torque wrench in your car so you don’t under torque or over torque the lugs. Check out what Lauren Davis from Michelin Tires has to say about tires safety:

Does Tire Alignment Increase Vehicle Safety?

How can unbalanced tires affect a driver’s safety?

Unbalanced tires cause potentially intense vibration at higher speeds, and they also contribute to suspension wear, uneven tread wear, and other parts failures depending on the car.

Also, don’t mistake a bad wheel bearing for an unbalanced tire. If you’re dumb enough to neglect a wheel that’s wobbling back and forth, it will fall off eventually and cause lots of problems.

Should You Replace The Tires After Curb Damage?

Did you lose control and slam the curb going sideways?

You’re going to want a professional to shine a flashlight around.

If you notice visible sidewall damage at the mechanic’s shop, they might recommend new tires for your safety. Use your best judgment.

18 Driver’s Safety Guidelines For Staying Safe On The Road

Now that I’ve covered the major things when it comes to tire safety let’s hit on some driving safety tips that more people should know?

I was a chauffeur for Mercedes-Benz before they put me in the shop. Here’s a complete list of my recommended driver’s safety guidelines:

#1 Maintain Constant Awareness 

Responsibility is the number one attribute that good drivers have. It bugs me so bad when I get into someone’s car and they seemingly don’t keep my life in high consideration. 

Do everything you can to make your passengers feel comfortable when in control of the vehicle.

#2 Keep Both Hands On The Wheel “10 and 2”

Some drivers love to have a burger in one hand, and a drink in the other hand while driving. Steering with your knees? Oh please no.

Okay, you might be a “pro” driver, but once a tire blows out or a deer runs into the road, you’ve instantly reacted slower to a potentially life-threatening situation.

Every heard of “10 and 2”, there’s a reason, it’s because its the safest way to steer your vehicle.

#3 Proper Maintenance

Don’t neglect maintenance. Always visually inspect your tires, and fill them to the correct PSI when they look like they’re losing air. Here are a few other maintenance points of inspection:

Fluid checks

Oil, brake fluid, and coolant are the most important fluids to check, especially before long road trips. Other fluids to check are power steering fluid, transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid, DEF fluid, etc.

Don’t forget to have your technician check your differential fluid from time to time (maybe every two oil changes). 

It’s also good to know the different terminology for fluid loss to understand the urgency of each situation. Below are three different ways I use to describe the loss of fluids. FYI, any verb similar to these three will work:

Sweating

Sweating is the least urgent sign of fluid loss. This happens when trace amounts of vehicle liquid are starting to show through the gaskets. Most cars sweat something after 50 thousand miles or so.

Seeping

When fluid is seeping out of an engine part, that means it’s seeping out, but it hasn’t touched the ground yet to be considered an actual leak.

How urgent is a seeping car part? It depends on the part. Seeping brakes or coolant system? Take care of that immediately. Seeping oil leak? Meh, add more oil, and keep driving.

Leaking

Leaking is when the engine fluid is hitting the ground, and I would advise to never drive a car that leaks. The only arguable exception to the rule is a car with a leaky head gasket (don’t risk it). 

Tire pressure 

Find out the exact PSI specs for both front and rear tires on your vehicle by checking the inside of your driver’s side door panel.

Don’t be intimidated about filling tire pressures. Use a tire gauge and ask someone if you’re not sure what to do.

Filters changes 

Engine and cabin air filters both should be changed about every two oil changes. 

Refreshing your engine air filter helps your engine to run at top spec, and replacing the cabin air filter improves the quality of air that you breathe in while you drive.

Brake flush

Brake flush needs to happen every 20 thousand miles to avoid premature brake wear. 

#4 Smart lane changing

Changing lanes at high speeds is an adrenaline rush. Here are a few tips on doing it safer:

Maintain constant speed 

The worst thing you can do is slow down when changing lanes. Why? Because technically, you should only change lanes when passing a slower car on the left. So why would you slow down when the motive is to get around the car in front of you? My point exactly.

Check your blind spot/Utilize a blind spot monitor

Make damn sure no one is in the way when changing lanes. Always keep a close eye on motorcycles and pedestrians who are at the highest risk of danger.

#5 Always Pass On The Left 

It’s illegal to pass a car on the right on the Autobahn, and it will surely get the cops’ attention if you pull that nonsense in the USA. Okay California, you have me baffled with your aggressive right lane passing. 

As far as safety is concerned, if you’re driving in the USA, you pass on the left. Yeah, we might measure with miles, but–we know the metric system too. Smart Americans pass on the left. 

The state of Pennsylvania cites that 17-year-old drivers caused 459 crashes in 2017 due to improper turning alone.

#6 Use Your Cruise Control

Not only does cruise control help keep you under the speed limit at all times, but it also improves fuel economy and gives your feet a break when driving long distances.

All of you Tesla owners, I encourage you to use that self-driving feature every moment you get the chance (if equipped), but that doesn’t mean you should quit paying attention to the road.

#7 Consider Murphy’s Law When Driving

Murphy’s Law is spot on. Remember these:

Murphy’s First Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong

Murphy’s Second Law: Nothing is as easy as it looks

Murphy’s Third Law: Everything takes longer than you think it will

#8 No Cell Phone

According to NHTSA, 3,142 lives were taken in 2020 by distracted driving. Here are a few ways to get rid of your cell phone when driving:

Let The Passenger Navigate/Choose Music 

Alright DJ, focus on the road. Handing your phone to the passenger is a smart move when driving.

Connect To Bluetooth 

Utilize your Bluetooth system for navigation, calls, choosing music, etc. Ask someone to help you connect your Bluetooth if you aren’t sure how to do it.

#9 Don’t Touch The Battery Cables

The first thing they tell you in hybrid vehicle tech training is don’t touch the orange wires. Anything connected to the battery, alternator, starter—yeah, don’t touch that stuff. If you have to make an emergency repair, remove the negative battery terminal first to avoid getting shocked.

#10 Maintain A Safe Following Distance

The last thing you want to do is slam into the vehicle in front of you.  

#11 Be Prepared (First Aid Kit, backup plan, etc.)

I can’t stress this enough. Here are a few tips based on the season:

#12 Extreme Winter Conditions Preparation 

Always bring adequate clothing, plan your trips, and it’s always a good idea to have a set of snow chains (and know how to properly install them).

#13 Extreme Summer Conditions Preparation 

Keep a five-gallon jug of drinkable water on long summer road trips. Las Vegas also recommends shutting your A/C off on the highway to avoid overheating in scorching temperatures.

#14 Don’t Be An Idiot 

I feel like this is just solid general advice on tires and driver’s safety. Make smart decisions, don’t get too drugged up and drive, and don’t drive drunk. Even if you think you’re a good impaired driver, there’s always the chance of losing consciousness at the wheel involuntarily.

#15 Avoid Road Rage 

Keep your cool. Even if another driver is making dangerous maneuvers, steer clear and don’t provoke anything. These people got guns.

#16 Maintain The Flow Of Traffic

Or in other words, don’t be in a hurry. “Ain’t no rushin’” is a phrase used by a Juilliard Music graduate, and it rings particularly true for driving in today’s world.

#17 Frequent Safety Inspections

Get a safety inspection report during every oil change, and seriously consider repairs when the technician recommends them. 

As a technician, I don’t want to be recommending any work on your vehicle. Instead, I feel more confident sending the car back saying, “Yep! It’s good to go”.

#18 Utilize Your Vehicle’s Safety Technology

Here’s a quick list of safety technology available on newer cars:

Backup cameras/360-degree cam

Backup cameras are mandatory by law on newer vehicle makes. 

Try out a car equipped with a 360-degree camera system, and you won’t want to go back to the old tech.

Nightvision tech 

Yeah, Mercedes S-Class and other luxury vehicles have night vision capability that helps you see when driving at night. 

Lane-Change Assist/Blind Spot Monitor

Lane-change assist alerts you with both noise and indicator lights in each mirror to warn of something in your blind spot. If your car doesn’t have a lane-change assist, I recommend installing small bubble mirrors in the corner of your side views to help keep you from getting a neck cramp when looking backward.

Lane assist 

The lane assist feature automatically adjusts steering when the car senses that you’re crossing over the painted lines. One thing I’ve noticed about lane assist is that it wears down the inside brake pads quite a bit faster.

Brake assist

Mercedes DISTRONIC cruise control system was the first to implement radar technology. One time I was driving in an expensive coupe SUV, and I got slightly distracted. The car stopped at the light without me doing anything. At that moment, the realization of the power of artificial intelligence swept over me.

Navigation

Use the navigation to your advantage. Just don’t look at it too closely enough while driving to get distracted.

TPMS sensors 

Heed to your TPMS sensors when they tell you your tire pressure is low, and always keep your TPMS system without faults for the safest driving enjoyment.

What Is the Best Online Driver Safety Course?

There are plenty of ways to learn driver’s safety. Here are the best online driver safety courses I came up with referencing DefensiveDriving.org:

  • IDriveSafely.com
  • DriversEd.com
  • ApprovedCourse defensive driving
  • My Improv course

Final Thoughts On The Ultimate Guides To Tires And Driver Safety

Let’s get these fatality numbers down people! We lost over 42 thousand lives last year alone in car accidents in the USA. We can do better.

Hey, and if you’re rallying around the Baja, you’re going to want to keep 500 pesos (20 bucks usually works) on you at all times, for safety’s sake.

Meet Your Tire Expert
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About The Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

Trained by Mercedes-Benz in Long Beach, California and worked as a technician in a Mercedes-Benz AMG shop. Ryan has years of experience in the shop to help you with your automotive needs!

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