When you first learn to drive, you study on how to do things the right way to pass your driver’s test. As time goes by, however, some of the lessons you’ve learned may fall by the wayside and are instead replaced with some bad driving habits. Bad habits behind the wheel can be dangerous to yourself and others. Learn how to put some good driving habits back into practice so that you can stay safe on the road.
Know Before You Go
Before you start motoring down the road, make sure you’re comfortable and that your vehicle is prepared for the trip by following this quick 5-step to do list:
- Walk around the car, look for obstacles that may prohibit your vehicle from moving. This also gives you the opportunity to check for dings, dents, or scratches.
- Adjust the steering wheel, headrest, and seat. For safety purposes, make sure your seat is positioned at least 10 inches from the airbag.
- Adjust mirrors to avoid blind spots.
- Ensure seatbelts are fastened for yourself and all passengers.
- Adjust temperature control and lock doors (if not automatic).
Distracted driving accounts for about 25% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities. There are three different types of distractions that take your focus on the road including visual, manual, and cognitive. Below we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions surrounding distracted driving.
What is a visual distraction while driving?
Visual distractions are what take the driver’s focus off the road. This includes playing with the radio, interacting with the GPS, looking away from the road at a phone, other drivers, or accidents on the roadside, and reading a newspaper, book, or magazine while driving.
What is a manual distraction while driving?
Manual distractions include anything that takes the driver’s hands off the steering wheel. Examples of manual distraction include eating or drinking, personal grooming such as putting on make-up, shaving, or polishing nails.
What is a cognitive distraction while driving?
Difficulty concentrating on the road ahead or anything that distracts your mind from driving can be classified as a cognitive distraction. While daydreaming and talking to other passengers are also part of this classification, most of the time cognitive distraction is a result of some sort of emotional distress.
How many accidents are caused by texting and driving?
Texting while driving is a severe distraction because it falls into all three categories for distraction, showing just how dangerous this activity is. Reading and replying to text messages takes your eyes and hands off the wheel and diverting your attention away from the road. In a study, according to the National Safety Council, nearly 1.5 million accidents were reported as a result of texting while driving from 2017 – 2019. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that cell phone use while driving contributes to between 3,000 and 6,000 deaths every year. Many cities, counties, and even states have bans on using a device while driving–in addition to risking your life, you’re risking hefty fines if caught.
Be Mindful of Inclement Weather
Slow down. Where there is precipitation no matter what is coming down from above, it’s best to reduce your speeds by 5 – 10 MPH. When raining, at speeds over 35 MPH, your car can hydroplane, raising off the road and driving on a layer of water. Hydroplaning may result in a severe accident causing injury to yourself or others. Also, avoid driving through flooded areas as it is often difficult to determine the depth of the water. If water enters the air-intake valve and the engine, your vehicle will shut off, leaving you in the middle of flooded waters. When driving through a puddle is unavoidable, be sure to feather your brakes by lightly and rapidly alternating pressure and release of the brakes, afterward to create heat and friction. This prevents brakes from locking while simultaneously regulating your speed.
Avoid the No-Zone
When traveling next to tractor trailers or semi-trucks, stay out of the “No-Zone.” Due to the sheer size and height of semi-trucks and busses, they have many large blind spots where cars and small trucks practically vanish from the driver’s view. Other drivers should avoid the front, rear, and both sides, of semi-trucks to keep in view of the driver. Traveling in the No-Zone is very dangerous and greatly increases the likelihood of a collision. No matter the size of your vehicle, it’s no match for an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer. Follow our basic safety rules for driving areas near a semi-truck:
Front: Never cut off a truck. Give at least 20 feet of distance while driving in front of a large truck before merging. Keep in mind that it takes longer for trucks to stop than cars. Allow at least one car length for every 10 MPH you’re traveling prior to merging in front of a truck. Do not slow down once merged.
Side: Even with large side mirrors, semi-trucks still have large blind spots on either side of the truck where they can’t see anything. Stay clear of their blind spots and give plenty of space when passing. Take caution and give plenty of room when a truck is turning as they make wide turns. Always avoid driving next to a semi-truck. Why? If the truck loses control or must immediately change lanes, your vehicle will be crushed like a can of soda. Additionally, tire blowouts are common and happen frequently with semi-trucks. A tire blowout happens with such force, it can hit your vehicle, causing you to lose control, and force you off the road. The longer you drive next to a truck, the more dangerous.
Rear: Tractor-trailers are not equipped with rear-view mirrors to see behind them. A good rule to remember is that if you cannot see the driver’s face, they cannot see you. Never tailgate a truck or draft (driving closely behind to reduce drag on your car). Give at least 3 seconds of following distance between the truck and your car.
Being a good driver means that your driving skills are not only defensive but safe as well. Now that you know how to curb your bad driving habits, you can hit the open road with the knowledge of an experienced driver no matter how long you’ve been behind the wheel.