There are many safety-oriented reasons why you should be pulling over and taking a breather in order to protect your life and others. It might be obvious that when it’s raining heavily and you can’t see a thing, it’s a good time to stop on the side of the road.
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However, when else would it be appropriate? Here’s a breakdown of when you should stop driving.
Whether you’re feeling a little off or you’re experiencing something more serious like chest pain or shortness of breath, it’s best to pull over. If you think you might be experiencing a serious medical emergency, don’t try to make it home! Stop your car on the side of the road and call for help — let the emergency services specialists come to you; don’t risk your life by driving while your health is compromised.
Cars.com points out that even less dangerous medical problems can be extremely distracting and make us worse drivers because of it. For example, if you have a really bad migraine or a terrible toothache, your mind will be focused on the pain instead of on the road. It’s best to pull over until you feel better or get help if you need it.
While most people have heard by now that applying makeup, texting, eating, and other similar activities while driving can be very distracting, there’s another sort of distraction people don’t generally think about — emotions. Aside from visual distractions, you can be distracted cognitively, which means that your mind isn’t focused on the road like it should be.
Thinking about problems in your social or financial life, for example, could consume your thoughts and leave you paying less attention to the drivers around you. If you’re depressed or really worried about something, pull over and try to calm yourself down. It’s unsafe for your mind to be so overwhelmed with negative feelings while driving.
Changes in Car Behavior
You know your car better than anyone — except for maybe mechanics. But the point is that you’re the one always driving it around, so you know its usual sounds and behaviors. Sometimes a warning light will come on to alert you to a potentially dangerous situation. In this case, if you don’t know what it means, you should pull over; some problems could severely damage your car in minutes.
However, sometimes there won’t be a little light to tell you what’s wrong. Trust your instincts. Do you smell something unusual? Is the handling of your car off? Are the brakes not working as well as usual? Don’t shrug it off and continue driving — pull over and try to assess the issue. Taking the risk could put your car and you in danger.
It may seem obvious that sleeping and driving don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, but sometimes drivers don’t realize how tired they are. A study done by researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that driving for three hours at night had similar effects to being intoxicated.
Studies like this one portray the real danger of being drowsy behind the wheel. If you’re feeling tired, don’t take the risk in trying to get to your destination and beat the fatigue. If you’re on a long drive, try to stay somewhere for the night and get your rest. If you’re on a shorter trip, try pulling over in a safe place and taking a 15 minute nap.
There are many more reasons other than the ones listed that should prompt you to pull over. Essentially, anything that distracts your vision or your thoughts is distracting you from driving, so practice becoming aware of these distractions and eliminating them. Always put your safety and the safety of others first!