Driving is the primary means of transportation for so many Americans. Getting behind the wheel everyday, it’s easy to become complacent and forget just how dangerous driving is. According to the most recent data available by the IIHS, there were 38,824 fatalities as a result of road traffic accidents in 2020. Bad driving habits are easy to develop but can be difficult to break. However, drivers can work to address these issues and improve the overall safety of our roads. Here are the 10 most dangerous driving habits and how you can avoid them.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is one of the most dangerous driving habits. These substances impair your judgment, reaction time, and coordination, making it difficult to drive safely and avoid potential hazards. To avoid this habit, do not drink or take drugs before driving. If you plan to drink, assign a designated driver, use ridesharing services, or use public transportation.
Texting While Driving
Texting while driving is a common form of distracted driving that deserves extra attention. It’s especially dangerous because it involves visual, cognitive, and manual attention, making it much more difficult to focus on the road. To avoid this habit, you should place your phone out of reach or use a hands-free device.
Eating While Driving
Eating while driving may seem harmless, but it is also another very common form of distracted driving. It takes your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road, making it difficult to read and react to sudden changes in traffic. It’s best to eat before you drive or pull over to a safe location to eat.
Speeding was the cause of 29% of all fatal crashes in 2020. Driving at higher speeds reduces the amount of time to slop or slow down and causes accidents to be more deadly. Additionally, performing evasive maneuvers at higher speeds increases the likelihood of the driver losing control of the vehicle. The best practice is to obey posted speed limits, and slow down according to road and weather conditions.
Tailgating is the practice of following too close to the vehicle ahead of you. Not providing enough cushion reduces your ability to react to sudden stops or changes in traffic, increasing the likelihood of a rear-end collision. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a distance of at least one car length for every ten miles per hour of speed.
Aggressive driving plays a large part in road rage and fatal highway accidents. Aggressive driving is defined by the NHTSA as driving that occurs when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” Common characteristics of aggressive driving includes:
- Driving under the influence
- Improper or erratic lane changes
- Failure to yield to the right of way
- Failure to signal
- Failure to obey posted traffic signs
- Making an improper turn
To avoid this habit, drive defensively, obey the traffic laws, and be courteous of other drivers.
Performing an Illegal Turn
Improperly changing lanes is a very common way to cause sideswipe accidents, T-bones, and even head-on collisions. It typically involves not checking blind spots, not signaling when changing lanes, or crossing a solid yellow line. Remember to always check blindspots, signal ahead of time, and only make legal turns when it is safe to do so.
Driving with insufficient sleep can be just as dangerous as driving drunk according to the accident lawyers at Kam, Ebersbach, & Lewis. Lack of sleep can impair your judgment and reaction time. Get enough sleep before you drive and take a break for every two consecutive hours behind the wheel. Lookout for these four signs that you’re too tired to be behind the wheel:
- Yawning. Continual yawning or struggling to keep your eyes open.
- Memory lapse. Struggling to remember the last couple exits or landmarks you passed recently.
- Lane deviation. Drifting back and forth within your lane or hitting the rumble strips off the side of the road.
- Unsafe driving. Catching yourself frequently tailgating, braking, or engaging in other unsafe driving maneuvers. Activating your car’s advanced safety features more frequently than normal.
If you are experiencing these warning signs, you are likely too tired to drive and should pull over to rest.
Running Red Lights, Stop Signs
Common for reckless drivers, running red lights and stop signs can lead to a catastrophic accident. It’s often the result of impatience, rushing to get somewhere, or not paying attention. To avoid this, give yourself enough time to get to your destination safely and stay alert for road signs and stop lights.
Relying Too Heavily On Safety Features
Safety features like lane departure warnings and automatic emergency braking have helped improve overall safety on the road. However, developing the habit of relying on these technologies too heavily can be dangerous. It’s important to remember that these features are not foolproof and can malfunction or fail in certain conditions. Overreliance on these features leads to complacency and a lack of attentiveness while driving. It’s important to always stay alert of your surroundings and to always be ready to take action if necessary, even if your car is equipped with advanced safety features.
Safe Driving Tips for Any Situation
The National Institute of Health offers these broad safe driving tips to avoid accidents:
- Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times.
- Avoid multitasking like talking or texting, eating and drinking, or playing with your radio head unit.
- Wear your seatbelt.
- Drive at the speed limit. Driving too fast or too slow is unsafe.
- Obey all road signs.
- Maintain a safe following distance between you and the car ahead.
- Don’t drink and drive.
- When taking a new medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects.
- Wear corrective lenses while driving
- Don’t wear sunglasses at night.
Be Mindful, Reduce Accidents
There are many dangerous driving habits that can lead to fatalities and accidents. Being cognizant of these mistakes and taking the steps to correct them will improve the overall safety for everyone sharing the road. By driving defensively, obeying traffic laws, and being courteous to other drivers, you can do your part to make the roads safer for everyone.