For most drivers, the driving environment doesn’t change significantly from one day to the next. Most of our everyday driving is our daily commute to work or school and back. For others, however, the driving environment can vary dramatically. For example, a typical commute for some may include a quiet suburban residential street, a higher speed arterial roadway, an interstate highway in a rural environment, and a busy commercial area. Here are some quick tips for what to look for in some driving environments.

Residential streets

  • Young children can behave in unpredictable ways. Be on the lookout for young children in the area.
  • Watch for parked cars that have drivers sitting in the driver’s seat as they may pull out into traffic ahead of you.
  • Pedestrians crossing the street have the right-of-way at intersections.

City driving

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Traffic conditions can sometimes be unpredictable, and in an urban driving environment, frustration with traffic can only heighten your stress and chances of being involved in a crash.
  • When the traffic gets heavier, give yourself plenty of time to react to other drivers by slowing down and giving yourself a good cushion of space between your car and those around you.
  • Be courteous and always signal your intentions to change lanes or turn.
  • Don't allow other drivers to frustrate or intimidate you as a driver.
  • Pedestrians may “jaywalk” and can be more unpredictable in the city.
  • Watch for other drivers who might make abrupt movements in and out of parking spaces or driveways; other drivers aren’t always as courteous as we’d like them to be.
  • Taxis, buses, and bicyclists may stop to pick up or drop off passengers, or turn suddenly and without warning.
  • Take care not to stop or get stuck in the middle of an intersection.
  • Take extra care when turning left at intersections.

Rural roads

  • Be especially careful at intersections during certain times of the year. For example, corn and other crops can be very tall during the late fall and potentially obscure the sight distance at intersections. Or the tree foliage may obscure important signs or warnings.
  • Give slow-moving farming vehicles, which can be more active in the spring and summer, more space to maneuver. Remember, they cannot maneuver as well as you can in your vehicle.
  • Pass only when you are absolutely certain it is safe to do so. Be especially careful at or near crests of hills or around curves as there may be oncoming traffic just beyond your line of sight.
  • Know the road. Some rural roads may be impassable during periods of heavy rains or snow. Be prepared to take an alternate route.

Highway driving

  • Understand where your blind spots are and how to adjust your mirrors accordingly. Remember also not to linger too long in someone else’s blind spot.
  • Maintain a speed that is safe for conditions. Remember that driving 20 miles per hour in a blinding snow storm may still be unsafe for conditions even on a highway.
  • Be on the lookout for distracted drivers as they may not be as aware of their driving environment as you are.
  • A good rule-of-thumb is that if you cannot see the mirrors of a tractor-trailer, it’s not likely that the driver can see you. Give these vehicles plenty of respect and room as they may also not be able to stop or maneuver as easily as you can in your car.
  • Respect traffic and highway signs, especially around work zones. In most states, there are more stringent consequences for traffic infractions in a work zone.