35991650_MFirst and foremost, safety is the number one goal when you’re driving. That said, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that we each spend nearly 18,000 minutes in our cars each year. If you absolutely love your car and can’t wait to get behind the wheel, then this statistic might not seem so bad to you. That’s like “seven 40-hour weeks at the office,” according to Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of time in your car. Whether you are heading out on a trip for fun or are heading to work, there are some things you can do to make all of those minutes a little more pleasant.

1. Start with a clean interior. Each night when you reach your destination, remove any trash and clutter. That way you will get into a car the next morning that doesn’t make you cringe. Take the time periodically for a thorough cleaning that includes vacuuming.

2. Use the time to clear your head. If you have passengers, then this might not work. But if you find yourself alone (and the survey shows that many people are frequently driving alone), then this is a great time to enjoy some quiet time. Turn off the radio or choose soothing music. Enjoy the scenery. Just don’t close your eyes!

3. Plan ahead. If you are heading somewhere new, make sure you have directions before you start. You can also check road conditions and get notifications about road work before you start. If possible, avoid driving during the times of heaviest traffic, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area.

4. Just breathe. If you have a long commute for work or often get caught in rush hour traffic, then you are well aware of the stress that comes with so much time behind the wheel. Staying calm is important to help you stay safe. Make sure you aren’t hungry when you start and take the time to use the restroom before you get in the car. Stay safe out there!