Driving is an important aspect of modern life, and for many of us, it is an essential part of our daily routine. It can be an enjoyable way to get from place to place, but it must be taken seriously. According to the latest report made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. Making an effort to drive safely and learning accident prevention techniques at a driving safety course can help curb that statistic.
Unfortunately, many drivers engage in bad driving habits that not only put themselves at risk but also endanger the lives of others.The best method to lower your risk of getting into a car accident is to eliminate any bad habits you’ve acquired.
Having poor driving habits doesn’t always mean that you are a bad driver or that you regularly get slapped with a traffic violation ticket. Many skilled drivers can get into unnecessary and preventable collisions due to risky behaviors. Here’s a list of some of the most common bad driving habits and provide tips on how to avoid them.
1. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is one of most easily preventable yet hardest habits to break for bad drivers. Texting or using your phone while driving, eating or drinking while driving, driving with your headphones on, or engaging in any activity that takes your eyes or mind off the road can often lead to collisions.
According to Forbes, about 3,000 people die in auto accidents due to distracted driving every year in the United States. Being 25- to 34-year-olds involved in the most distracted driving fatal car accidents, and cell phone use involved in 12% of car accidents.
To avoid this habit, it’s crucial to put your phone away while driving, and refrain from any activity, or distraction, that could take your attention away from the road, so you can always keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel to properly avoid possible danger. If you need to use your phone or perform any other task, pull over to a safe location first.
If you want to listen to music, don’t wear earbuds. Listen through your car’s speakers at a low volume. This way you’ll be able to hear any car horns, ambulances, or other audible warnings as you drive.
2. Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only illegal but also extremely dangerous. Drunk driving isn’t just a risk of getting your license suspended or revoked due to a DUI, it’s a legitimate safety hazard for you and other drivers in traffic. Your reaction time is slower and your focus is shot when you’re drunk.
Impaired driving can result in serious accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. It’s essential to use a designated driver, or use alternative transportation like a ride-sharing service, or public transportation if you plan to consume alcohol or drugs. Remember, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) varies by state, but it’s always best to avoid driving after consuming any amount of alcohol or drugs.
Driving under the influence isn’t just about alcohol or recreational drugs either. Certain medications can also affect your ability to properly operate your vehicle. Make sure that you look at the labels of your medicine to see if it will affect your performance or if it outright tells you not to operate any machinery.
3. Not Wearing Seat Belts
One of the simplest and most effective ways to protect yourself in a vehicle is by wearing a seat belt. According to the NSC, drivers have 50% less of a chance of being injured in a crash if they buckled up. Yet, many drivers and passengers neglect to buckle up.
It is important to remember to strap in with your seat belt in order to be properly protected. Being forgetful could cost you your life. Make it a habit to put on your seat belt before starting the engine, and remind your passengers to do the same, regardless of the distance of the trip.
It’s also essential to set a good example for your passengers, especially if you have children, by wearing your seatbelt at all times.
Speeding not only increases the risk of accidents but also results in costly traffic tickets and higher insurance premiums. Always obey posted speed limits and adjust your speed according to road conditions, such as weather, traffic, and visibility.
Plan your trips ahead of time to allow for enough travel time so you don’t feel the need to rush and avoid the temptation to speed. Remember, arriving safely is more important than arriving quickly.
Speed limits exist for a reason. The faster you drive, the less control you have of your vehicle. The other danger is that an obstacle appears in your path and you have less reaction time to avoid it. So keep in mind, driving at a safe and legal speed is crucial for your safety and the safety of others on the road.
5. Aggressive Driving
Aggressive driving, including tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, and engaging in road rage, is not only dangerous but also illegal. Aggressive driving can escalate situations on the road and lead to accidents or confrontations with other drivers.
Stay calm and composed while driving, and avoid responding to aggressive drivers. If confronted by an aggressive driver, avoid engaging and safely remove yourself from the situation. Practice patience, tolerance, and respect for other road users.
6. Rolling Through Stop Signs and Lights
Disregarding traffic signals, such as stop signs and red lights, can highly increase your chances of a collision, and is a serious traffic violation that can result in accidents and fines. Always obey traffic signals, be attentive and vigilant at all times, come to a complete stop at stop signs, and wait for green lights before proceeding through intersections. If the intersection isn’t a four-way stop, a car could easily collide into you from the side. This is avoidable if you pay attention to stop signs or traffic lights and proceed accordingly.
7. Driving While Tired
Being drowsy while driving is like driving while drunk. Fatigue can impair your judgment, and ability to stay alert on the road, make your reaction time slower, and compromise your focus. Driving while tired is dangerous and can increase the risk of accidents.
Make sure you have enough rest before hitting the road. If you feel yourself getting drowsy, or sleepy, pull over to a safe place to park and take a quick nap, or switch drivers if possible.
If you are planning to have a long drive, get enough sleep the night before, and take regular breaks during your trip to stay refreshed and alert.
8. Improper Lane Changes and Failing to Use Your Turn Signal
Changing lanes without using the proper signals, cutting off other drivers, or weaving in and out of lanes can be dangerous and increase the risk of accidents.
Using turn signals is a basic rule of the road, but many drivers tend to neglect this crucial safety measure. Failure to use signals can lead to confusion among other drivers and result in accidents or traffic violations. It is important to use your turn signal at least 100 feet before you make your move. Whether it is to change lanes, turn at intersections, or merging into traffic, your turn signal helps other drivers know where you intend to go. It also helps pedestrians nearby know where you’re going to be if they cross the street. A simple flick of the wrist at every turn can prevent potential injury and hundreds of dollars worth of damage.
We also recommend you to check your blind spots before making a move, and give other drivers enough space when merging or changing lanes.
Be sure to turn off your signal after completing the maneuver. Using signals not only promotes safe driving but also demonstrates responsible and courteous driving behavior.
9. Neglecting the Weather
Bad weather can greatly impact road conditions, visibility, and traction, and failing to adjust your driving behavior accordingly can be dangerous. Driving in wet or frozen conditions isn’t the same as driving on a sunny day.
There typically is lower visibility and it is harder to maneuver a vehicle through any rain or snow. Check the weather forecast before you drive, be mindful of the slicker road surfaces, and adjust your driving speed to allow for longer stopping distances between you and other vehicles .
Additionally, ensure that your windshield wipers, headlights, and defrosting mechanisms are in proper working condition to maintain optimal visibility during adverse weather conditions.
10. Neglecting Basic Car Care
Neglecting basic car care can result in vehicle malfunctions, breakdowns, and accidents. Skipping regular vehicle maintenance, such as checking tire pressure, changing oil, and inspecting brakes, can compromise the safety and performance of your vehicle.
A dirty windshield can affect your visibility, bald tires can affect your maneuverability, a broken light can prevent other cars from seeing where you’re turning, and so on. Failing to maintain your vehicle or make minor repairs can lead to accidents and major damage if left unaddressed.
To avoid this, follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle and address any issues promptly. Regularly get a tune up, rotate your tires, wash your car, and do other forms of car care to ensure that your vehicle is in top shape for the road.
Regular car care not only ensures the safety and reliability of your vehicle but also helps you avoid unnecessary repair costs in the long run.
It’s essential to be mindful of our driving habits and make a conscious effort to avoid bad driving habits that can put ourselves and others at risk. Simple measures such as using signals, practicing proper lane changes, adjusting driving behavior to weather conditions, and maintaining regular car care can go a long way in promoting safe driving and preventing accidents or traffic violations.
Additionally, safe driving can also have a positive impact on your car insurance rates, as many insurance companies offer discounts to drivers with a clean driving record. So, let’s strive to be responsible and safe drivers, not only for our own sake but also for the safety of everyone on the road. Drive safely!