Here’s a scary statistic for you: over 1.2 million people die while driving every year. That might sound like a scary number and reason enough to stay off the road, but the truth is that most people are killed while driving because they are distracted and not giving the most important task (the driving) their full attention.
As we learn to drive and become more comfortable while driving a vehicle, it’s possible that we can forget just how important it is to give driving our full attention. We start to develop bad driving habits that can endanger ourselves and the others on the road. Here are ten dangerous driving habits it’s time to break:
1. Texting while driving – This practice is so dangerous, many states are making it illegal to text and drive. Even if you think you can text without looking at your phone, most of today’s phones require two hands in order to text, and that means no hands are on the wheel and part of your attention is occupied by the text message you are trying to send. It’s just not ideal for reacting to the road.
2. Not using turn signals – We’ve all driven behind that person that seems to be slowing down for no apparent reason and then turns off on a side street without signaling. We’ve also watched people weave in and out of traffic, without signaling their intent to change lanes. It’s not just a courtesy to other drivers—it can prevent tragedy. Using your signal is the only way for cars in adjacent lanes to know whether or not you’re going to change lanes.
3. Failing to yield – Not following right-of-way protocol can be seriously dangerous, especially if everyone else at the intersection or in the merge lane is following right-of-way protocol. Instead of speeding into traffic, make sure that you are following the rules of the road. At a four way stop, whichever car stopped first has the right of way. If more than one car stopped at the same time, the car furthest to the right goes first. If two cars are facing each other at the stop, the car going straight has right-of-way.
4. Tailgating – Not everyone is guilty of this dangerous driving habit, but many people are. Following another car closely doesn’t just annoy the person in the lead car—it’s rude and unnecessary. Many drivers will see this as punitive to a car that is going too slowly, and while it does annoy a driver who notices it, it’s much more dangerous for the tailgater than the person being tailgated and it’s unlikely to actually encourage a person driving well below the speed limit to speed up.
5. Driving while tired – You already know that it’s dangerous to drive while drunk, but it’s just as dangerous to drive while tired. When you are tired, your senses are not as alert and are therefore not as able to perceive danger and react to it. When you are tired, your reaction time is much slower than when you are awake and alert and there is always to possibility that you will actually drift off at the wheel. If you are too tired to stay awake while driving, it’s time to pull over and take a nap.
6. Failing to drive carefully in bad weather – Someone who is zipping up and down icy roads on a subzero day has either never felt their car careen out of control or has forgotten how terrifying that can be. Even if your car has the very best snow tires and four-wheel-drive, ice and even rain can send your car shooting off the road without warning if you are not driving carefully. Don’t disregard warnings about icy and snow.
7. Refusing to wear a seatbelt – As a child, a seatbelt feels like an inconvenience. As an adult, it feels like it is not necessary. If the videos they show in driver’s education don’t leave a lasting impression of the danger that comes along with driving without wearing your seatbelt, you might find yourself cruising along the highway without yours on. There’s a reason that this practice is illegal: it’s extremely dangerous. Wearing a seatbelt is a lot better than being thrown through the window of your car when you get in an accident.
8. Eating while driving – This falls into the “distracted driving” category. Because you can’t pay full attention to either activity while driving, you can be sure that one of those activities is going to suffer. Whether it is drifting into another lane of traffic, which causes you to spill and make a mess inside your car or spilling and making a mess inside your car which causes you to drift into another lane of traffic while you are trying to clean up that spill, it’s just not worth the hassle.
9. Talking on the phone – There’s a reason that most states have banned this practice and that if a cop catches you talking on the phone, you’re likely to be pulled over and given a ticket: it’s extremely dangerous. While most people think they can get away with using hands-free mode, the truth is that just like texting, talking on the phone takes your attention away from the most important activity you’re doing: driving.
10. Not driving the speed of traffic – Unless the speed of traffic is twenty miles an hour above the speed limit, driving the speed of traffic is almost more important than driving the speed limit. One of the most dangerous things you can do is be that guy driving ten miles under the speed limit in the left lane. It’s dangerous for you and it hinders the flow of traffic, making driving more dangerous for everyone else, too.