Driving can be dangerous even if you’re a perfect driver — but who is? Even if you’re a highly skilled, experienced driver with an excellent record, you could be making dangerous mistakes on the road. And while driving, any mistake you make can turn deadly in a matter of seconds. Stay safe, and alert by avoiding these dangerous driving mistakes.
- Driving under the influence: Drunk driving kills nearly 30 Americans every day, more than once every hour. Alcohol-impaired driving crashes also cause almost a third of all traffic-related deaths. But people drive drunk nearly 300,000 times every day, and 4,000 people are arrested for drunk driving daily. There’s no question that drunk driving kills and that it’s dangerous. It’s also costly and hazardous to your freedom, with a DUI or conviction for a drunk driving death costing thousands and potentially landing you in jail for an extended period of time. To stay safe, it’s best to avoid driving under the influence at all. Choose a designated driver, ask for a ride home, get a cab, or take public transportation home.
- Texting while driving: One in four motor vehicle crashes now involves a cell phone, and texting or using your phone can increase your risk of crashing by three times. Texting takes your attention and eyes off the road, whether you’re on the freeway or in a neighborhood. You’re more likely to hit objects, cars, or people in your way or veer dangerously off the road. Turn off your phone, store it out of reach, or simply ignore texts as they come in. Or, if you can’t wait, pull over to answer a text, then get back to driving safely with your full attention.
- Distracted driving: Texting while driving is one form of distracted driving, but distracted driving can include many more dangerous habits, such as eating while driving, putting on makeup, daydreaming, or engaging in intense conversations. Even attending to the needs of children can be incredibly dangerous while driving. In fact, 3,154 people are killed, and 424,000 people are injured annually by distracted driving accidents. Commit to focusing on the road, and pull over if you have any pressing distractions that need your attention immediately.
- Speeding: Everyone knows this one: speeding is an obvious way to drive dangerously. It’s also a good way to end up dead on the road, as speed is a contributing factor in 26% of all fatal crashes. Speed can also make crashes more dangerous, increasing the impact and potential for injury or death. It may be tempting to get where you’re going faster, especially if you’re late. But it’s not worth the risk (or time, or hassle) of a ticket, and it’s certainly not worth your health or your life. Go with the flow and keep your speed reasonable for the traffic you’re in. You’ll be much safer if you stick to a slower speed.
- Aggressive driving and road rage: Aggressive driving doesn’t just drive other drivers crazy; it can kill you, too. In 56% of fatal crashes, aggressive driving is to blame. This can include driving recklessly, improper following, erratic lane changing, or failure to observe traffic laws. Aggressive driving can also graduate into road rage, making an even more dangerous situation as drivers race, intentionally crash, or taunt each other. It can even lead to violence on the road. Even when your patience is tested, it’s safer to practice courteous driving at all times.
- Not driving for the weather: Posted speed limits are just that: limits. It’s the fastest you should safely be able to drive under ideal conditions. But the fact is that you won’t always be driving under ideal conditions. You may be driving in the dark, rain, snow, sleet, even ice or hail. And that can lead to slippery and dangerous conditions that make it very hazardous to stick to the speed limit. Be smart about how you’re driving, and consider whether you should slow down to stay safe during inclement weather and other driving challenges.
- Failing to maintain vehicles: Your vehicle is meant to last for years, but it’s not meant to run forever with no maintenance or care at all. Parts wear out; fluids get old and murky, tires and brakes wear down. These all require maintenance and replacement, and if you let them go too long, you could be facing a dangerous situation. This can include a tire blowout, engine failure, and a broken down car on the side of the road. You should follow your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, stay on top of regular oil changes, and practice good tire maintenance, including regularly checking your tire pressure.
- Failure to signal or check blind spots: Changing lanes seems simple as you move from one space to another, but it can be one of the most dangerous maneuvers you make while driving. Weaving in and out of lanes, not putting your blinker on, or even worse, not checking your blind spot could result in a serious collision on the freeway or the street.
- Following too closely: You can typically choose how far away you are from the car in front of you. And too often, drivers choose to follow far too close. Whether you’re tailgating or simply inching up closer than you should, you’re playing a dangerous game. Get distracted for a moment, or need to stop at any moment suddenly, and you might find yourself in someone else’s backseat. It’s safest to keep two car lengths in between you and the vehicle in front of you. You should leave even more room if you’re driving during inclement weather or following a large truck.
- Not wearing a seat belt: Wearing a seat belt won’t stop a crash, but if you do end up in an accident, it may save your life. Even with today’s advanced safety features, wearing a seat belt is one of the most important ways to protect yourself from serious injury or death during an auto accident. It only takes a moment to put on your seat belt and potentially save your life. Remember to use correctly installed car seats for children as well.
While driving can prove deadly or dangerous in any condition, safe drivers avoid making hazardous mistakes like drunk driving, texting, or not wearing a seatbelt. Avoid these dangerous driving mistakes to make your next trip on the road safer.