We all know the various activities we are not supposed to do while driving. But despite the fact that everyone knows at some level how to drive safely, over 38,000 Americans were killed in traffic accidents in 2015. It was the largest percentage rise in vehicle accidents in 50 years.
We should remember that a car accident is a colossal safety failure and that even basic steps can help you avoid an accident. Therefore, some of the most dangerous driving habits are also some of the easiest to fix. Here are five habits which far too many drivers do and what you can do to avoid them.
I once had a boss who was extraordinarily calm and respectful in the office, yet turned into a ball of rage whenever we drove together to an outside meeting. He would curse and slander anyone whose driving annoyed him in any way, and it was a deeply unpleasant experience especially because he was normally a nice guy.
Road rage can transform anyone into a monster instantly, and an angry driver is an unsafe driver. But why do we get so angry? According to Slate, it is the fact that other drivers are anonymous and hidden in their cars. This causes us to dehumanize them and is comparable to how people online can transform into vicious jerks when they talk to someone while hiding behind a screen.
Driving alongside a passenger can help you act like you would normally, though that does not always work as in my case. But if you find yourself experiencing road rage, take a moment to calm down, breathe deeply, and not let your anger take over.
Drunk driving is dangerous because alcohol slows your reactions which you need to drive safely. But driving while sleepy poses similar problems. Furthermore, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report found that drowsy driving is more likely to occur on freeways which increase the chances of a fatal accident, and that young men are the group most at risk from this sort of accident.
If you are tired, don’t hesitate to pull over and rest. Sleeping in a car is not as comfortable sleeping in your bed, but it is still better than taking the chance of sleeping forever.
Speeding through yellow lights
Contrary to the popular beliefs of drivers, yellow lights do not mean “Speed up to avoid the red light.” They mean “slow down.”
Slowing down on seeing a yellow light and being the first car stuck at a red light sucks. But the problem with speeding up is that it encourages you to keep speeding up until the last second, increasing the risk that you mistime things and end up running a red light after all. And even if you avoid a car accident for now, you can find yourself having a very unpleasant conversation with a nearby officer.
We’re not just talking about cell phones. Activities like eating and talking can also take your mind off the road and increase your risk of an accident. In fact, one of the biggest causes of distracted driving is young children and parents’ attempt to handle their various idiosyncrasies.
Distracted driving caused over 400,000 injuries in 2009, but they are not that difficult to stop. Put your phone away. If something really urgent pops up like an important phone call, pull over and take care of it. Focusing only on one thing at a time is a crucial safety tip, whether we are looking at driving, the workplace, or anywhere else.
Cars have more safety features than ever, but nothing beats a seatbelt when it comes to saving lives. The CDC observes that seat belts saved 12,802 lives in 2014 and warns that airbags “are not a substitute for seat belts.” And yet despite that important fact, far too many people think that they are “too old” for seat belts or find it uncomfortable.
If you’re not used to constantly wearing a seat belt, get used to it. Wear it all the time, even when you only need to move your car a couple feet. Doing it every single time regardless of circumstances will turn it into a habit.
Make seatbelt wearing a habit and you will get used to it. Far from feeling uncomfortable while wearing it, you will feel uncomfortable driving without it. And that is a good thing.
Relax and stay focused
Driving safely is not that hard. All it requires is that you focus on the road, not be distracted by texts or anything else, and staying alert. Alertness, more than anything else, is the one trait which will help you stay alive and not turn into another statistic.
Make good driving a habit by wearing your seatbelt and by getting rid of distractions, and you will have nothing to worry about.
Featured photo credit: Lord Jim via flickr.com