Be honest – if you had a dime for every lousy driver you saw on the road, you’d be wealthy ten times over. What’s even scarier is that there are new drivers hitting the roadways every day, thus increasing your odds of running into one (literally) or having them run square into you. If you’re an experienced driver, it pays to be hyper vigilant and drive defensively. If you’re a new driver, here’s a list of some of the things you’re probably doing wrong that you didn’t even realize you were doing.
Talking and driving. Just because you have a hands-free setup on your cell phone and you refuse to text unless you’re safely pulled over to the side of the road doesn’t make you a focused driver. The simple act of having a conversation on the phone – whether you’re holding the phone in your free hand, balancing it between your chin and ear, or yapping via speakerphone or Bluetooth – is enough of a distraction to put you and the others around you in a dangerous position. This doesn’t mean you can’t answer the phone if it’s an emergency or have a conversation with the person sitting next to you in the passenger seat. It does, however, mean that by focusing too much on the conversation and not enough on the road is a recipe for disaster.
Rocking out and driving. What would road trips be like without car stereos to keep us entertained and awake? A lot safer, according to the experts whose job it is to know all about the things that lead to car accidents. Whether you’re driving from coast to coast or from one end of town to the other, music at loud volumes can be just as much of a distraction as talking on the phone while driving. Even more so, as the tendency to rock out to your favorite tune can sometimes sneak up when you least expect it. Listening to music or talk radio while driving is something that should only be done at low enough volumes to ensure you don’t shut out the sounds of the world around you.
Eating and driving. You want to talk about distractions? This one takes the cake – literally and figuratively. If you simply can’t find time to eat a meal and are discovering that eating and driving is working well with your schedule, maybe you need to rearrange a few things. Driving while stuffing your face isn’t just gross (talk about the crumbs and the stains created) but it also puts you in the absolute worst position to respond quickly to a hazard on the road.
Driving while improperly adjusted. Jumping behind the wheel of a car and taking off without adjusting your seat, your rearview mirrors, or your side view mirrors is one of the most commonly made mistakes by drivers who haven’t had their fair share of experience on the road. Did you know that being too close to the steering wheel can result in preventing your airbag from deploying properly? You do now. Be sure that before you even start your car, you’ve adjusted your seat leaving at least 10 inches of space between yourself and the steering wheel and that you’ve adjusted all mirrors to enable you to see traffic around you.
Paying too much attention to the road in front of you. Yes, we said it. Naturally, it’s critical to watch what’s going on in front of you when you’re driving. But a lot of new drivers make the horrible mistake of only staring straight ahead and failing to look around and behind themselves. As a rule, you should be checking your rearview and side view mirrors at least once every 10 seconds. You don’t have to study them, just take a quick glance. This will keep you alerted to any other drivers that have drifted into your blind spots or that may be following too closely behind you for comfort.
Flaking on your vehicle maintenance. Keeping your car in tip top shape is important not only to ensuring you can get from one place to another without having to hitch a ride, but also to staying safe on the road. If your brakes are in need of replacement, waiting until they’ve failed you is unacceptable. Likewise, if your power steering fluid is running low, you can’t exactly steer safely. The condition of your vehicle’s tires is also imperative to road safety, since they’re the very things that serve to keep you rolling and not broken down by the side of the road. Bald tires contribute to more accidents than you’d like to think about and can put you in a serious pickle if you’re driving in inclement weather. Don’t let your car’s condition be the determining factor between your qualifying as a good driver and a lousy one. Keep up on scheduled maintenance and talk to an auto mechanic if your car’s performance (or lack thereof) is putting you and other people in danger.