Habits That Can Kill You and Others

dangerous driving habits
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Car accidents kill more than 1,000 people a year, and if you do not take the proper safety measures, you could be part of this statistic.

There are many driving habits, such as eating texting and driving, which reduce your alertness as a driver.

When you engage in distracting behaviors, it lowers your ability to process information as you drive and increases your risk of getting into an accident. Staying alert is critical while driving, as it allows you to react quickly and make split-second decisions if necessary.

Tailgating, speeding and driving while you are tired are other habits that may seem harmless but in reality, they put you, passengers and other drivers at risk. As a result, many states have implemented distracted driving laws to reduce drivers’ propensity to participate in these behaviors. Review the sections below for a look at some of the most dangerous driving habits.

Texting and Driving

Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous habits motorists can engage in. Texting takes motorists’ focus away from the road for seconds at a time. Those few seconds, however, can be crucial in determining if a motorist is able to prevent an accident or cause one. Fatal car accident statistics show that car-related death rates have risen in the last few years as a direct result of this behavior. It is crucial that motorists put their devices away while they drive to remain alert on the road.

Eating

A 2014 study found that motorists who eat and drink while driving are almost four times more likely to get into a car accident than those who are not. Eating itself is often not the issue, it is everything involved in the task. It’s very likely that the following situations happen as you eat and drive:

  • Spilling food on yourself and the car
  • Burning yourself with hot drinks or food items
  • Removing your hands from the wheel to grab napkins, condiments and utensils

All of these driving distractions affect a driver’s ability to remain alert and react quickly. Eating increases the chances that you will be distracted, thus endangering you, your passengers and other motorists on the road.

Driving While Sleepy

Drowsy driving happens when a motorist operates a vehicle while extremely fatigued and/or sleepy. Even if it does not lead to falling asleep on the road, it can slow down motorists’ reaction time and their alertness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that over 6,000 crashes happen every year due to drowsy drivers. The most common signs of driving while drowsy are:

  • Frequent yawning and blinking.
  • Slowly drifting out of lane and hitting road rumble strips.
  • Difficulty remembering miles driven.

Many drivers choose to listen to music or lower their windows to stay awake. However, it is best to pull over to rest or switch drivers, as drowsy drivers are a danger to themselves and others.

Speeding

Speed limit signs are meant to regulate the speed at which motorists drive in certain areas. When drivers speed, they reduce their ability to control the vehicle, slow down, swerve or respond to a number of situations that may occur while driving. Speeding is a major issue among motorists, especially teen drivers. One study found that 21 percent of serious crashes where teen drivers were at fault, it was due to going above the speed limit sign. Parents should do the following to prevent teen drivers from starting this reckless driving habit:

  • Explain the importance of speed management in various driving conditions, such as a highway or residential area.
  • Avoid purchasing a car right after your teen obtains his or her license, as they are more likely to speed in their own, brand-new car than in the family vehicle.
  • If you do purchase a car for your teen, consider a larger vehicle, as they tend to be a safer choice than sports cars.

Driving Too Slow

Conversely, driving too slowly can also cause a car accident. A slow driver can become a hazard on the road and greatly affect the flow of traffic. For instance, the left lane on many highways is considered the fast lane. Drivers who do not adhere to this rule can cause other motorists to suddenly brake or switch lanes as an attempt to maintain the appropriate speed limit for the area. This is why some areas have minimum limits to ensure that drivers match the speed in the area.

Accelerating Through Yellow Lights

In driver’s ed courses, motorists learn that traffic lights have three indicators: red for stop, green for go and yellow for slowing down. However, many drivers do the exact opposite at yellow lights. They speed through the light to avoid sitting through a red light. However, this type of reckless driving behavior can be dangerous, especially to other drivers. Motorists headed in the opposite direction often yield to incoming traffic before turning left and wait until the yellow light to safely cross. However, by failing to slow down at yellow lights, drivers send the wrong signal to drivers and increase the chances of a collision.

Applying Makeup

Another distracted driving habit is driving while applying makeup. Putting on makeup requires precision and focus, which you also need to safely operate a motor vehicle. In many cases, applying makeup also involves you turning your eyes away from the road to look at the mirrors in the vehicle. Even if you wait until you are at a red light or a stop sign to apply makeup, it only takes a few a small driving distraction to cause an accident. It is best to wait until you have arrived and parked at your location.

Not Using Your Signal

It may not seem as dangerous as distracted driving, but one study found that neglecting to use your turn signal could cause more accidents than distracted driving. Signaling is a way to communicate to other drivers that you will be switching lanes or turning. As a response, other motorists will take appropriate action by slowing down. Driving without communicating with other drivers is dangerous and can cause a series of collisions from fender benders to head-on collisions.

Not Wearing Seat Belt

A seatbelt is designed to prevent you from being violently propelled forward or backward in the event of a collision. Every year, thousands are injured or killed in situations where they would have incurred less or no injuries with a seatbelt. All motorists should wear their seatbelts and request that every passenger do the same. It is highly effective in protecting passengers in car accidents but also in sudden vehicle movements. In 2016, seat belts saved approximately 15,000 lives. When you do not wear your seat belt, you leave yourself and your passengers at risk of serious injuries.

Tailgating

Tailgating is another dangerous driving habit that occurs when you drive too closely to the vehicle ahead of you. Many motorists tailgate to pressure drivers into speeding up. However, it mostly endangers the driver and their passengers. The two-second rule listed in most driver’s ed manuals wherein motorists determine if they are driving too close to the vehicle in front of them by doing the following:

  • Pick a reference point on the road.
  • Count once the vehicle ahead has passed it.
  • Stop counting once you have passed the same reference point. If it takes less than two seconds to reach it, you are driving too closely to the vehicle. However, if it takes more than that, then your driving distance is appropriate.