Driving is one of the most common and convenient means of getting around, especially where public transportation is scarce. It is incredibly important to take measures to drive safely, as automobile accidents can have severe financial and health-related consequences. When you make a decision while driving, you are impacting others near you. A bad driver can often be spotted on the road by their poor practices that endanger themselves and the people around them. Though many people make some of these mistakes on rare occasions, those who consistently ignore the rules of the road pose a significant hazard. Here are 9 of the worst habits that bad drivers display when sitting behind the wheel.
1) Texting While Driving
Nearly everybody carries their cell phone with them when they leave their home, but as a driver, it is important for you to be responsible with it. While it has long been discussed that talking on the phone while driving is dangerous, in recent years it has become clear that texting while driving is also a significant problem. When you read or type a text, your eyes are on your phone only, and you cannot perceive your surroundings. If you are moving at a high speed, you may travel very many car lengths without being aware of others on the road, potentially leading to accidents. In fact, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, when you text while driving, you are 23 times more likely to get into a dangerous or even life-threatening situation.
2) Accelerating Through Yellow Lights
When you are in a rush to get to your destination, you may take unnecessary risks in your manner of driving. For example, if you are approaching an intersection and notice that the traffic light has just turned yellow, you may choose to speed up to avoid getting stuck at the light. This can put you and others in danger, especially if the light becomes red while you are still in the intersection. In all cases, it is best not to speed up as you approach an intersection, and if the light turns yellow, to slow down to a stop. If the light was green when you entered the intersection it is safer to continue through, but if you have to accelerate to beat the red light, that is a strong indicator that you should have stopped and waited for the next light cycle.
3) Eating While Driving
It is a well known fact that distracted driving can put you and the people around you in danger because it lessens your focus on the road. But people do not always consider that simple actions like eating while driving fall within this category. Eating behind the wheel poses risks such as directing your eyes away from your surroundings, keeping your hands off the wheel, and focusing your mind on what you are eating, rather than on your maneuvers and environment. In fact, if you eat while you drive, you are 3.6 times more likely to get into an accident, according to a 2014 Lytex study. So, for your safety and the well-being of those around you, you should either wait until you reach your destination or, if you cannot wait that long, pull over and park to eat.
4) Not Using Turn Signals
One of the most important things to realize while driving is that there are people on the road around you. In order for traffic to be able to proceed without incident, everyone has to be aware of what those around them are doing. Among the primary means of this inter-car communication is your turn signals. Turn signals let the drivers near you know when you intend to turn or change lanes, allowing them to prepare and perhaps alter their speed to accommodate you and avoid crashes. Almost 2 million accidents each year result from a failure to use turn signals. Considering that all it takes to turn the signal on is moving a lever right by the steering wheel, it is indefensible to ignore this simple practice that can save your life. The drivers around you, as well as the passengers in your car, will feel safer for it.
5) Not Checking Your Blind Spots
An unfortunate reality of driving is that you usually can’t see everything around you. There are certain blind spots in which you cannot see other people or cars, such as the areas that your sideview mirrors are unable to show. Whenever you are thinking about changing lanes or going in reverse, it is important to make sure no one is in your blind spots who you may hit. It is best to quickly glance behind you to look for someone who does not show up in your mirrors. Then, when you are sure nobody is in the way, it is safe to make your move. Failure to account for blind spots causes nearly 840,000 accidents yearly in the United States. Therefore, a good driver should always make sure they are aware of their surroundings before making decisions on the road.
Despite the fact that speed limits are put in place with the intention of moving the most people while still maintaining safety, people in a rush will often drive above the speed limit in order to reach their destination faster. However, speeding is an especially dangerous habit, since the higher your speed, the more damage a collision can cause. In fact, speeding causes tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States alone. At high speeds, you will travel a further distance in a short amount of time, meaning that you may not be able to stop in time for an otherwise avoidable altercation. Additionally, maintaining a more steady and reasonable speed will help your car’s fuel efficiency, which can save you money and help reduce negative environmental impacts.
7) Making Phone Calls While Driving
With so much technology in our world, people are constantly in contact with one another. Whether making appointments or simply having conversations, many people use their cell phones while they drive, regardless of the risks. When you talk on the phone while driving, your reaction times become comparable to that of drunk drivers Thus, you will have trouble making quick decisions and responding to changes in traffic. Nowadays, there are often Bluetooth options which allow you to make hands-free calls, but even this can shift your focus away from the road and other drivers. As with other distractions, it is crucial to stop and find somewhere to park if you need to make a call that cannot wait, because no conversation is more important than your life and the lives of those around you.
8) Not Obeying Traffic Signs
There are many different signs on roadways including stop signs, yield signs, and lane merging signs. These signs are put in place to regulate and help you understand how traffic is flowing. Since automobile collisions can lead to injury or death even at residential neighborhood speeds, it is important to obey all signs. For instance, if you are unable to see around a corner, stopping at the stop sign will allow you to gauge your situation and will prevent you from being hit by a car that otherwise would have been out of your field of view. Additionally, signs such as those marking animal crossings or bridge icing will let you know that it is safer to proceed with caution, and to be hyper-aware of non-car hazards.
A bad driving habit that safe drivers often find deplorable is tailgating. This is when you follow another car extremely closely instead of leaving a safe distance between vehicles. Tailgating is particularly dangerous because in the event of a short stop, the car immediately ahead, as well as perhaps some further ahead, can get hit with a rear-end collision. At high speeds, this can push an innocent driver into an intersection, cause a secondary crash, or cause serious injury on its own. The highest collision risk occurs when the tailgater is less than 2 seconds worth of distance behind the car immediately in front of them. As speed increases, it is a good idea to increase the distance between your car and the one in front of you, since you will require a longer stopping distance.