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Risky Driving Behaviors & Ways to Improve Them

Driving is one of the easiest ways to get to your desired location, and with our busy schedules, it is a convenience that cannot be overlooked.

However, it is easy to cultivate lousy driving habits that put you and other people on the road in danger. On top of that, if you exhibit risky behaviors behind the wheel, you might also find it hard to get good deals on your car insurance.

So, what are some of the top risky driving behaviors, and how can you improve them? Read on to find out more!

Multi-Tasking Behind the Wheel

While some risky behaviors that occur when driving are due to bad habits that occur over time, others are more consistent with multitasking in the vehicle.

Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents and personal injuries when traveling in a vehicle. In 2018, nearly 3,000 people were killed in accidents caused by drivers using their phones, GPS, or performing other activities that drew their eyes off the road. As such, it is one of the most dangerous behaviors that you can have behind the wheel. Though we all lead busy lives, multitasking while driving is a big risk.

This includes eating or drinking while behind the wheel, applying makeup or fixing your hair, being distracted by passengers, or even changing the radio. All these practices take your focus away from the road and can lead to accidents.

Another big distraction worth mentioning, is texting and talking on the phone while driving. Using your cell phone takes your attention away from the road. Even if it’s just for a second or two, traffic ahead of you could have changed, or a child or animal could have jutted out into the roadway.

How To Improve It

Before you start the car and begin your trip, make sure everything is already set up. That includes selecting your radio station or Spotify playlist, adjusting all car mirrors, and taking a preemptive sip of coffee.

If the temptation of using your phone while behind the wheel is too great, put your cellphone in the glove box or download an app like AT&T’s DriveMode, that silences incoming texts and sends phone calls directly to your voicemail. That way, you won’t see or hear any notifications received while driving and have the urge to check.

While the car is in motion, and even when you are at a stoplight or stuck in traffic, you should not be doing any other activity apart from concentrating on your driving. So if you must use your phone, either pull over to a secure location and turn off the car or let a trusted passenger complete your text or call for you.

Driving Under The Influence

It can be easy to downplay driving home after having a couple of glasses of wine at a friend’s house or a few beers at the bar. But even a small amount of mind-altering substances can have a drastic effect on the quality of your driving and your focus. 

You should also avoid driving after taking certain prescription medications. Such medicines are usually marked with labels warning not to drive after ingesting them, as they can make you very drowsy or disorientated. 

How To Improve It

It’s important not to drive after ingesting too much alcohol, or taking any drugs, whether they have been prescribed or are recreational. Call a friend for a ride or dial a local taxi service instead of getting behind the wheel.

Driving When Drowsy

Driving while tired can be just as dangerous—or even fatal—as driving drunk. According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving is responsible for more than 6,400 U.S. deaths annually. Because fatigue decreases a driver’s reaction time and ability to focus, it can lead to accidents, injury, or loss of life, so it is best not to risk driving while you are exhausted.

How To Improve It

Make sure to get enough rest before driving, especially if you have a long trip ahead of you. If you feel drowsy, pull over to a safe location and take a nap instead of battling the fatigue. Or, if you have a passenger who can drive, let them take over.

Driving Without A Seat Belt

Not using your seatbelt or wearing it incorrectly is negligent and a pointless risk. Seatbelts are proven to save lives should an accident occur, whether or not you were the one who caused it. 

Not only does wearing a seatbelt protect you, but you set an excellent example for everyone else in the car to follow. You also avoid needless fines.

How To Improve It

Make it a habit to buckle your seatbelt as soon as you sit down in any vehicle. If you notice that other passengers have not applied their seatbelts correctly, do not put the car in motion until everyone is safely buckled in.

Ignoring Traffic Signals

Traffic signals are present to prevent accidents and help drivers know when it is safe to proceed. However, by ignoring these important signals, you put not only yourself at great risk but everyone else around you on the road, too.

How To Improve It

No matter the time of day, amount of surrounding traffic, or traffic cameras, it’s crucial to follow the rules of the road and any signals. This includes traffic lights, cautionary alerts, and construction notices, among many others.

Lane Switching And Drifting

While changing lanes is not an issue, drivers who weave in and out of lanes exhibit careless and dangerous lane use. Additionally, drifting outside your lane can be caused by a distraction, leading to an accident.

How To Improve It

Keep focused on your lane when driving, and don’t be tempted by one that might be moving a bit faster. It is advisable to plan your route in advance to know which lane to be in for upcoming turns and prevent excessive lane switches.

Not Checking The Blind Spot

All cars have a blind spot, but not every driver remembers to check it. This is one of the riskiest behaviors not only for you but for pedestrians, cyclists, and other cars. Neglecting a simple shoulder check can lead to catastrophic accidents.

How To Improve It

Always check your side mirrors and complete the quick shoulder check to ensure the space you want to move your car into is free. Never fall into the trap of assuming no one is beside you simply because you can’t hear a car—cyclists are common in blind spots.

Not Keeping A Safe Distance

Drivers who routinely follow too closely to the car in front of them are risking a terrible collision. You need to give yourself enough time to react or brake if the vehicle ahead of you encounters unexpected traffic or runs into a problem.

How To Improve It

Keep at least one car’s length of space ahead of you at all times. If you are driving on the highway or under other fast conditions where things can occur within a fraction of a second, try to double that space to give yourself enough time to react properly.

Not Maintaining Safe Speed For The Conditions

Not everyone has to contend with ice and snow when driving. But drivers should adjust their speed for plenty of other unsafe conditions, including heavy rain or driving at night. It might be tempting to speed but consider your safety first.

How To Improve It

Always make sure your speed is adequate for the reaction time necessary for challenging conditions. Skidding, low visibility, and unseen animals are all risks for these conditions, so matching your speed to these possibilities is crucial.

Risky Left Hand Turns

When making a left-hand turn, it can sometimes be tricky to calculate the available space between your vehicle and oncoming traffic. It’s especially dangerous when drivers decide to risk it and cut the turn far too close, often ending in a collision.

How To Improve It

When making left-hand turns, always wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic that is far larger than you anticipate needing. This will give you enough room to safely complete the turn even if you have misjudged the speed of other cars around you.

Speeding

Even the best drivers sometimes find themselves speeding. But any drivers who routinely or consistently exceed the speed limit exhibit one of the riskiest driving behaviors. 

If you speed, you drastically reduce the reaction time available to you. Consequently, this eliminates some of your options in a situation where you need to brake or use evasive driving techniques to avoid debris, animals, or other hazards.

How To Improve It

Good brakes and fast reflexes only go so far on the road, so make sure you keep an eye on your speed. If you are worried about being late, leave about fifteen or twenty minutes earlier. Or, accept that you are running behind and maintain the speed limit.

It is better to be a few minutes late than risk getting pulled over or in an accident. That would be a costly mistake.

Sudden Breaking

Breaking suddenly while driving at any speed is ill-advised, but it is especially dangerous when traveling at high speeds. It increases the risk of rear-end collisions because you do not give the drivers behind you adequate time to react to your braking and safely apply their own.

How To Improve It

Follow other cars in front of you at a safe distance and remain alert. By scanning your environment for any hazards and following cars from a safe distance, you will have more time to slow down.

In addition, practice gentle braking techniques. This involves applying small amounts of pressure to the brake pedal instead of stomping directly on it. The more time it takes you to coast safely to a stop, the more warning everyone behind you will receive as well.

If you find gentle breaking difficult to achieve, you can sign up for a refresher lesson with a driving instructor. Sometimes, all it takes is a reminder of good driving habits to fix a risky behavior that has developed over time!

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