A National Safety Council study released last month indicates that seat belt use varies widely from state to state and the lack of drivers buckling up continues to be a leading cause of traffic accidents across America.

In 1999, an estimated 9,500 people died unnecessarily because they were not wearing seat belts. As more and more Americans hit roadways and increase highway congestion this busy summer season, AutoTrader.com reminds consumers to slow down and follow these 10 tips to keep accidents to a minimum:

  •  Pull into traffic slowly. Stop, Look, Listen. Be aware of blind spots, including those in rear view mirrors and behind windshield pillars or highway road signs. Also, when at an intersection making a right-hand turn, look both directions at least twice before proceeding. Vehicles can appear almost out of nowhere very quickly, so exercise caution when pulling into a busy intersection.
  •  Watch for red light runners. Count to three before entering an intersection on a green light. Look both ways and be sure no one is trying to speed through a yellow light. Exercise caution when passing semis. Truck drivers have a large blind spot on their right-hand side, so be especially careful when driving next to an 18-wheeler. If you cannot see the truck”s side mirrors, the truck driver cannot see you.
  •  Keep at least one hand on the steering wheel. Reduce in-car distractions such as changing radio stations or CDs, cell phones, eating or momentarily taking a hand off the wheel. A gust of wind, pothole or a blown tire could send the vehicle into another lane and cause a serious accident.
  •  Watch for kids. Children and animals have a habit of suddenly popping out from between parked cars and into roadways. If you are driving in a residential neighborhood with kids present, watch carefully and slow down.
  •  Perform engine maintenance regularly. Avoid sudden stalls or other vehicle failure by changing the oil regularly and keeping tires properly inflated.
  •  Scan 12 seconds ahead. Always concentrate on the area where you will be driving in 10-12 seconds. For highway driving, keep positioned far enough from other cars so if someone were to suddenly stop or swerve, you could avoid them.
  •  Look backwards when backing out. Fender benders in parking lots are all too common, so look out for cars leaving parking spaces. Don”t depend on mirrors alone — physically look over your right shoulder while steering to alleviate blind spots mirrors can create.
  •  Do not tailgate. Leave a three-second cushion between you and the car in front of you and begin your journey early enough so you don”t speed to make up time. As tempting as it may be when in a hurry, tailgating is a major cause of accidents.
  •  Be courteous to other drivers. No one owns the roads, so treat others with respect and report any suspicious driving activity to authorities.