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Wheels of Wisdom: Safety Rules of the Road

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Driving is one of the most common forms of travel. Even if you arrive at a destination by plane, you may still find yourself behind the wheel of a rental car. When this happens, there are certain rules of safety to put into gear, rules of safety that might not normally apply when you are driving a car of your own. Keeping these rules in mind is the best way to arrive safely at your destination, keeping yourself, and your pine tree air freshener, all in one piece.

Know where you are going.

Sure, it sounds like an easy concept, but driving in an unfamiliar area is a road map to getting lost. This can lead to a dangerous situation: getting a spare tire out on a desolate road, for example. It can also cost you valuable time and resources. To avoid this, study your maps before you leave, not while you’re driving in your car. On the off chance you do become lost, don’t be ashamed to stop and ask for directions. In other words, don’t be a male.

Check out the car before you check out the car.

Rental cars are driven by a variety of people, people who might not have treated the car with the utmost care. For this reason, it’s important to make sure the car is in working condition before you take it from the rental lot. Make sure the doors lock, the brakes break, and the oil level is adequate. It’s also a good idea to check wiper fluid, in the event you come across rain or snow. If the car appears to be lacking in any department, demand a different rental or simply go somewhere else.

Hide receipts and rental agreements.

Receipts and rental agreements contain valuable information about you. They might not reveal that you like long walks on the beach, but they will reveal your name, your address, your credit card number, and in some cases your social security number. For this reason, it’s a smart idea to keep your papers on you instead of in your vehicle. If you must leave them in your car, leave them inside the trunk or a locked glove compartment, somewhere out of sight where they won’t invite lurking thieves.

Lock your doors.

It might seem like common sense in this day and age when everyone knows to lock their doors. When you are driving a rental car, however, this might be something that is easy to forget. To begin with, the car isn’t yours and you might not treat it with the same security as you would treat your own vehicle. Secondly, the rental car might contain locks different from those of your car. If you are used to pushing a button on your key ring to lock all of your doors, you might forget to press the manual locks of the car you are renting.

Don’t get out of the car if you feel unsafe.

In an area you aren’t familiar with, it’s easy to get in a less than safe situation. Perhaps you drive into a bad part of town or you end up on your own in a precarious situation late at night. Whatever happens, it’s best to stay in your car if you feel any hint of danger. If you need to get out of the car (if your car gets rear ended, for example) then motion for the driver in the other car to follow you to an area that is better lit or populated with people. If you can’t find a safer area, call the local police and don’t leave the car until they arrive.

Rental cars can be safe, unsafe, or somewhere in the middle. Taking precautions and making wise decisions is your best bet when taking to the road – the road paved with bricks of protection. Happy trails to you.

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About JM Jordan

  • Jennifer,

    As a risk manager and a veteran of the car rental industry, I applaud your message.

    The most frequent question I get is about the additional liability insurance and the loss (or collision) damage waiver.

    Do I need it? Am I covered under my own insurance?

    My answer to both these questions is “I don’t know”. You should check with your insurance agent to see if you would be covered, or with your insurance or HR department if you are a business traveler.

    If there is any doubt, take the coverage.

    If you don’t have insurance, take the coverage.

    I remember so many people who didn’t take the coverage because of the expense or they figured they were covered without checking with their agent, and getting stuck for a bill for thousands of dollars for a damaged car they don’t even own.

    Two more points – If someone else is going to drive the rental car, make sure they are named on the rental contract. An unauthorized driver could preclude coverage.

    And don’t drive drunk. All bets are off if you are in an accident in a rental car and you are intoxicated.

    Rick Vassar
    Author Hide! Here Comes the Insurance Guy – A Practical Guide to Understanding Business Insurance and Risk Management

  • I’d recommend checking if your insurance is void for drink driving. It could vary between insurers.