Driving Tips

5 Point Car Safety Checklist


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Having a car safety checklist can be a vital teaching tool for new drivers to understand the proper functioning of the systems that keep drivers and passengers safe when on the road. If you are a new driver or are in the process of teaching a new driver about vehicle and driving safety, here is an example of a comprehensive car safety checklist that should be performed any time a motorist is encountered with a vehicle that is new to them.

  1. Proper Functioning of Lights and Signals – A basic check of the lights and signals on the vehicle should be performed before driving in traffic. This should include the correct working condition of blinkers and hazard flashers in the front and rear, rear reverse lights, parking and side marker lights, as well as high and low beam headlights. To be extra thorough, you may also want to check the proper aiming of the headlights as well.
  2. Condition and Tread Depth of Tires – Another important safety item that should be inspected before driving a vehicle that is new to you is the tires. Remember that the tires are what hold the vehicle on the road so they are vital to passenger safety. First check the condition of the tires’ sidewalls, looking for nicks and bulges. Next, use a penny to check the proper depth of the tread. At the very minimum, the tread should be deeper than the top of Lincoln’s head when a penny is inserted upside-down into the tread groove. Be certain that you check tread depth on several places across the width of each tire to make sure the tread is wearing evenly – a poorly aligned tire could have tread that looks perfectly fine on one side of the tire and tread that is dangerously low on the other. Finally, check tire pressure to ensure proper inflation and adjust air pressure accordingly.  
  3. Brake System Check – A vehicle’s braking system is without a doubt its most important safety system. The braking system should be checked for proper actuation including the emergency brake. The most basic check of the braking system is to pump the brakes with the engine off several times until the pedal becomes firm. You should be able to keep solid pressure on the brake pedal for at least 10 seconds without any movement. If the pedal feels soft or there is excessive movement, that could be a sign of trouble.
  4. Fluid Levels – Ensuring that all the systems on the vehicle have been filled to their proper fluid levels is essential. This will help reduce the likelihood of a mechanical problem becoming a safety issue or causing passengers in the vehicle to become stranded. Fluid levels that should be checked as part of an initial safety inspection include engine oil, brake fluid, engine coolant, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid.
  5. Electrical and Safety Components – To wrap it up, check the instrument panel to make sure that there are no warning lights illuminated (such as “check engine” or “SRS” lights) that may indicate a problem. Check that the Dash and accessory lights work properly and check the horn.  Finally, check for smooth operation of the seat belts and buckles. Then once you’re buckled up, you’re ready to go.
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