Today's vehicles are filled with features and technologies to help keep you safer. But knowing how to use them properly can make you a better driver.
Ford Motor Co (F) is offering a list of 10 New Year's safety resolutions and tips.
* Always buckle that safety belt - no exceptions. In 2009 alone, the use of safety belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 12,700 lives in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
* Keep your eyes on the road - not on your cell phone. Avoid unnecessary distractions. According to a 100-car study conducted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, driver inattention that may involve looking away from the road for more than a few seconds is a factor in nearly 80 percent of accidents. That means no texting - no message is that important.
* Read a good book - like your owners' manual. Reading through it will give you some valuable safety information and could even save you some money.
* Scrape that ice, ice baby! On wintry mornings, don't be one of those people trying to negotiate the roads peering through a tiny hole of visibility in the windshield. That's just plain dangerous. Leave an additional 5-10 minutes of time in the morning to scrape the snow and ice from your car and give your defroster a chance to do its job.
* Find out how technology is working to keep you safer. Today's vehicles are equipped with state-of-the-art technology that can help keep you safer - but it always helps if drivers better understand these features. Take your anti-lock-brake system, for example. Many of us grew up being told to pump the brakes when we hit a patch of ice. That's not the right technique with four-wheel ABS technology. With ABS, pumping the brakes turns the anti-lock brake system on and off, which decreases braking efficiency and increases your stopping distance. ABS pumps the brakes automatically at a much faster rate than you could do it manually and allows better steering control.
* Learn how to parallel park - or buy a car that does it for you. Many of us dread the experience of learning to Parallel Park. Even after years of driving, some still hesitate, faced with the prospect of blocking traffic while negotiating our way into a street-side space.
* Listen to your mother - sit up straight. Make sure your seat and headrest are adjusted correctly in your vehicle to give you the optimum support. Your legs shouldn't be overstretched to reach the pedals; you should be able to glance up and out at your mirrors with ease.
* Check your pressure on all four tires - and the spare. Don't confuse the maximum tire pressure written on the sidewall of the tire with the recommended tire pressure provided by the manufacturer - that's found in that handy owner's manual you've resolved to read and on a sticker conveniently located on the driver's side door jamb. Also, show your spare you care by storing it in the trunk, where it will return the favor by getting you out of a jam should one of your tires spring a leak.
* Take a cue from the Boy Scouts - Be Prepared. You never know what cold weather will bring, so make sure you're carrying the essentials in case you get stuck or stranded. We recommend your list include water, blankets, granola bars or beef jerky, a few road flares, a good flashlight (and extra batteries), jumper cables, and a bag of kitty litter for traction if you're stuck in snow.
* 10. 4, 3, 2 ... If you're counting down to the New Year - stop right here. Remember the two-second rule. The vehicle in front of you should be passing a road marker two seconds before you to assure you're not tailgating. Some drivers' manuals even recommend a three-second rule. Remember, the New Year's goal is to get acquainted with YOUR car, not the one in front of you!