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Sharing the Road - Driving Tips

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Anyone who has ever driven in an SUV knows the feeling of getting behind the wheel and thinking, "I can't believe how high up we are - I can see everything!" And as drivers of smaller cars know, while you're seeing everything, they're seeing nothing.

Those behind you, if they're in smaller cars, may not be able to see much of what's going on up ahead. So allow extra stopping space between you and the cars around you. That gives everyone extra time, and gives smaller cars extra space to avoid you.

Another important thing to understand is that SUVs aren't built like small cars and don't drive like them. They have a higher center of gravity, which makes them less balanced than smaller sedan-type cars - and more prone to rollovers. Their steering is typically not as precise as a car's -- and their suspensions are not well-suited to driving or taking curved freeway off-ramps at high speed.

Though the go-anywhere, do-anything image conveyed in TV commercials might lead you to believe otherwise, you need extra caution and reduced speed when you drive unpaved, hilly roads. Rough terrain carries its own set of risks, but the common theme is that obstacles can cause blowouts, and blowouts cause a rapid shift of weight - and potentially a rollover.

Most rollover accidents are single-vehicle crashes. That means they are preventable by drivers. Bear that in mind whether you're on a muddy fire road in the mountains or tooling around town with a carload of kids and groceries.

Tips for safe driving in an SUV:

  • Remember: the SUV doesn't handle like a smaller car and shouldn't be driven like one. Always drive cautiously and wear your seatbelt.
  • Drive more slowly than you would in a smaller car and remember that your elevated driving position can make it feel like you're going slower than you are.
  • Have your vehicle serviced regularly, and pay close attention to your tires.
  • Try to avoid sudden or sharp steering changes. The high center of gravity in SUVs can cause them to become unbalanced and possibly tip or rollover if you take corners too quickly.
  • Remember that cargo and even passengers further raise the center of gravity, so slow down even more when the car is full.
  • If possible, avoid passing other vehicles or changing lanes in a curve.
  • Do not carry too much weight. An overloaded vehicle is more likely to roll over. Overloading any vehicle also causes wear and tear to brakes, degrades handling, and can overheat tires, increasing the risk of blowout. If your manual doesn't specify what the maximum load capacity is for your vehicle, call your dealer.
  • Underinflated tires also contribute to blowouts. Maintain your manufacturer's recommended tire pressure.
  • A final word of warning on tires: Driving at high speed for an extended period of time is a common cause of heat-related tire failure. Keep speeds reasonable.

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