If you’ve never gotten into an accident and don’t tend to get pulled over, you might think that you’re a perfect driver. You may even get outraged at other drivers who make mistakes on the road.
The thing is, most of us have a lot of bad driving habits that we’re unaware of. Those habits could be putting you in danger or putting undue stress on your vehicle.
Improving your driving is possible, but you have to know what you’re doing in order to change. We’re going to take a look at a number of common bad driving habits as well as providing some defensive driving suggestions that could help you improve.
Take a look at the following examples of bad driving habits and see if they might apply to you.
Many people seem not to understand the importance of keeping a safe distance. We’ve seen this overwhelmingly when it comes to social distancing, and the same thing applies to the roads.
The general rule is that you should give yourself about three seconds of space from the car in front of you. You can pick a marker, wait for the car in front to pass it, and count the seconds until you reach that marker.
If three seconds go by, that’s enough space.
Riding the people in front of you is incredibly dangerous. It puts stress on them to speed up which jeopardizes their safety. Most importantly, though, it reduces the time you have to respond if they have to brake or swerve.
Your vehicle takes a toll when you tailgate as well. Staying close behind someone requires that you brake and accelerate often, and that puts undue strain on the entire system.
2. Using Your Cellphone in Any Way
Texting has long been a dangerous issue on the road. Advancements in technology have made it a lot safer to answer phone calls or send messages with your voice, but many vehicles don’t have those features.
Unless your vehicle allows you to make commands in a hands-free way, you shouldn’t be using your phone while you’re driving. Peeking down to read a text, change the song, or make a call are still very dangerous.
Just consider the amount of space you travel when you look at your phone for three seconds. If you’re going sixty miles per hour, you travel 264 feet in that timeframe.
That’s enough space for any number of hazards to jump out in front of your car or for conditions to change and put you in danger.
3. Forgetting Blind Spots
We hate to break it to you, but your vehicle has blind spots. No matter how sophisticated your car is, there’s no better safety system than your own eyes.
Using your side and rear-view mirrors is essential, and your car might even alert you when there’s a car to your side. That said, you should always be aware of your vehicle’s blind spots and check them before you change lanes or merge.
Sensor technology is new, and there could be bugs that fail the system from time to time and put you in danger. If you have to turn your head and peak back through your rear window to make sure you’re safe, that’s what you’ve got to do.
4. Driving Drowsy
Driving while intoxicated is a massive issue, but did you know that driving while you’re tired can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
Depending on how tired you are, your ability to read situations and make decisions is incredibly altered. Plus, you run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
If you’re too tired, try to rest up before you hit the roads. You can also take some time to make coffee or drink an energy shot and see how it affects you. When all else fails and you have to get somewhere, you can ask someone to drive you or call a cab.
5. Outrunning Oil Changes
Oil companies and mechanics are in cahoots and fudge the mileage for your next oil change, right?
It’s true that not all cars require the same number of miles between oil changes. The standard “5,000-mile oil change” shouldn’t apply to every vehicle. You should check your owner’s manual to see just how long you have to wait before you get an oil change.
That said, make sure that you actually get your oil changed at that interval. It’s a legitimately important part of keeping your car in good shape and ensuring your safety.
Cars need oil like we need water, so it’s not something to forget about. If you go too far over your mileage mark, you might be facing a whole lot of repair costs.
6. Basing Speed on Other Drivers
You might find yourself trying to compete with other drivers on the road, even if you’re not flagrantly speeding or racing.
It’s a common thing to do. We get little grievances and frustrations with certain cars and we make slight moves to pass them or slow down to frustrate them. Similarly, we might go with the pack and decide that everyone is speeding so it must be safe to do it as well.
These fluctuations in speed can be dangerous. It’s best to stick to the speed limit and allow others to pass you when you notice that they’re getting antsy behind you.
If it comes to it, you can simply pull over and allow someone to go on.
7. Not Balancing Tire Pressure
Many of us lose air in a tire and just fill it back up until it looks right. You wouldn’t think that this would be too big of a deal, but it turns out that it is.
When tire pressure isn’t even across tires, your braking and steering mechanisms are slightly off. Your car also has to compensate for the imbalance in various ways.
Those issues put a strain on your steering systems and can lead to significant issues over time. Problems with the frame and steering systems of a vehicle are costly, and they’re dangerous when issues manifest on the road.
8. Leaving Your Brights On
How to handle your brights is an area of driver’s education that gets touched on briefly, but it’s often forgotten. You’re driving on a dark road, there’s nobody in sight, so you flip your brights on.
It’s what you have to do to increase visibility. When another car drives past you, you might forget that you have your brights on or not even think to turn them off. This can actually be dangerous.
Leaving brights on interferes with the other driver’s visibility while they’re in front of you. It also takes a moment for them to adjust their eyes when they pass. So, whenever your brights are on and you notice an oncoming car in the distance, do them a favor and flip the lights off.
9. Neglecting Wipers
Your windshield wipers might not get a lot of action depending on your climate.
It’s important that they’re always in good shape, though. In the instance that you get splashed with some mud or it begins snowing, you’ll be in a dangerous situation if those wipers don’t work.
10. Riding on an Empty Tank
When you drive while your gas tank is close to empty, the car uses fuel from the bottom of the tank. That fuel is where any sediment and debris will end up.
When pulled, those impurities can put a strain on your fuel line and clog the fuel filter up. Over time, those issues become more significant and can lead to costly repairs.
11. Not Using Your Parking Brake
Most of us think that the parking brake is just there for steep hills and other precarious situations.
It’s actually supposed to be used whenever you park the car. Setting the parking brake helps keep the vehicle even and prevents the bulk of the car from resting unevenly on its components.
If your home parking spot is uneven, for example, you’ll gradually warp the components of your vehicle.
12. Shifting Too Quickly
You back out of a spot and quickly shift from “reverse”, to neutral, to drive without stopping.
It’s a classic “cool guy” move that we can all appreciate. The trouble is, shifting without stopping is awful for your drivetrain. You don’t even want to think about the costs of repairing your drivetrain because you were trying to look cool.
13. Forgetting Maintenance
Cars are home to hundreds, if not thousands of various parts. All of these parts have the potential to wear down, and they all serve a purpose.
Unless you’re a mechanic, there’s no way that you could monitor the health of the various pieces of your vehicle. It’s important to have your car checked out frequently to make sure everything is in good shape.
Eating, ruffling through bags, writing notes, and plotting GPS coordinates are no excuse to be distracted while driving.
As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as multitasking. You’re only doing two things poorly and interchangeably.
If you have to do something, it’s safest to pull over and take care of it before moving forward.
15. Ignoring Road Conditions
The speed limit should only be your maximum speed when road conditions are safe. When there’s snow, rain, ice, or anything else on your path, it’s wise to slow down and adjust accordingly.
Road conditions are at the whim of nature, and human intervention isn’t at a point where we can keep roads safe. Be sure to stay vigilant and adjust your driving habits to the conditions of the road.
Want to Learn More about Bad Driving Habits?
There’s a good chance that we all have bad driving habits that didn’t make it into this list. The good thing is, we’ve got plenty of information on improving your driving that should smooth things out for you.
Explore our site for more tips on defensive driving, staying safe, and making sure that your experience on the road doesn’t do too much damage to your bank account.