We’re only human, as the saying goes. We are all bound to make mistakes when driving. A staggering 99% of all accidents on roads and highways are caused by human error. Yet most of us continue to make the same mistakes over-and-over again when behind the wheel, oblivious to the fact that we’ve erred at all.
Whether it is out of habit, lack of awareness, or indifference, we all tend to repeatedly make the same driving mistakes. You could simply call them bad habits. It’s no wonder that engineers and scientists are hard at work developing self-driving cars. Removing human error from the equation would lead to much safer roads and fewer car accidents. Until those cars arrive, we should all strive to break our driving bad habits. Here’s a list of the ten most common mistakes we make when operating an automobile.
Not Adjusting The Mirrors Properly
Rear view and side mirrors are not decorations. They are important instruments on your car that help you to see what is behind and on either side of your vehicle. Ensuring that the mirrors on your car are in the right position is critically important. However, a majority of drivers motor around with their mirrors out of position and not adjusted properly. This can lead to accidents, since they cannot adequately see the cars coming up behind them.
Poor positioning of side mirrors is particularly bad. It can lead to a slew of accidents as people switch lanes without seeing another car right beside them. While there will always be a blind spot in side mirrors, the problem is amplified when the mirror is adjusted poorly. Some drivers have their side mirrors angled to see mostly their own vehicle, and not nearly enough of the lane beside them. The best practice is to always take a moment when you first get into any car to adjust all the mirrors to the right position. Angle the side mirrors out so you don’t see your own car at all and you’ll eliminate the blind spot almost completely.
Driving Slowly In The Passing Lane
We’ve all cursed them. You know, the people who drive slowly in the passing lane on a highway, indifferent to the fact that they are blocking traffic behind them. This practice is not only annoying as hell, but it’s also extremely dangerous. It can lead to frustrated drivers speeding in the slower lane and trying to pass other cars on the right. All drivers should remember that the lanes to the right are for slower moving vehicles and the lanes on the left are for passing them. And then getting out of the way.
The key is to figure out which lane you’re most comfortable driving in. It’s usually based on the average speed you travel at. It is the height of inconsideration to drive in the fastest lane when you’re barely going the speed limit. Or if you can see a long line of cars behind you with the drivers’ faces contorted in rage. That honking you’re hearing is telling you to move over to the right lane.
Not Using Your Turn Signal
So few of us use our turn signals regularly. Frankly, it’s a wonder we even have them in our cars. What we all seem to forget is that turn signals are an important safety feature. They inform other motorists around us what our driving intentions are. When you don’t use a turn signal to indicate you are changing lanes or turning a corner, it forces other drivers to react to our actions at the last second. They can’t ready your mind! This is how accidents happen.
Proper driver etiquette dictates that you use your turn signals whenever you are turning or changing lanes. Just be sure to turn off the signal once you make your move. It’s pretty annoying to drive behind someone who has left their turn signal blinking for an extended period when they are not actually turning.
Leaving Your High Beams On
This bad habit can be extremely dangerous. High beams can temporarily blind drivers of oncoming cars and also distract drivers ahead of you. While high beams are important to use when driving on roads that have no street lights, some of us overuse them. You need to be aware of when you have left your high beams one and turn them off whenever there are other cars around.
The general rule of thumb is to use low beams whenever you see another car’s headlights or taillights in the distance. Also, keep in mind that high beams can actually cause reduced visibility when used in certain weather conditions, like fog and snow. There’s a reason fog lights exist, after all.
Be sure to pay close attention to your dashboard when driving at night. It’s easy to accidentally hit your high beams when you need them, but forget to flip them off. If your high beams are on, you’ll most likely see a blue indicator light on the dash. That blue light could be a lifesaver.
Riding The Brakes
Unless you’re a Formula One driver, there’s no reason to ride the brakes in your car. This is the practice of using both feet when you drive. If you keep your left foot on the brake and the right foot on gas, you’re doing it wrong. This can lead to the nasty habit of holding the brake and gas at the same time for a couple of seconds, usually when stopped at a red light or stop sign.
Over time, this practice will wear out the brakes quickly. It can also cause fender benders and more serious accidents as drivers behind you will struggle to react to the jerking of your car. Be safe and use your right foot to both brake and accelerate your car. There’s a reason why your driver’s education teacher was such a stickler about this point.
Bad Seating Position
This may not seem like a big deal at first. After all, you have the seat in your car just the way you like it. You’re comfortable when driving, and that’s all that matters, right? Not so fast. Many people sit too far back, and in positions that compromise their control of the vehicle. Reaction times can be slowed when your legs are too stretched out and your feet are barely touching the pedals.
Likewise, if you are too comfortable, it’s easy to be lulled into a daze or get fatigued. That leads to not paying attention to what is going on around you. To reinforce these points, take a look at professional race car drivers. At all times, they are sitting upright. They don’t have to hyperextend their arms or legs to reach the wheel, or work the pedals. They also keep two hands on the steering wheel at all times, which ensures control of the car. Sitting upright properly in your car will help you stay alert. In turn, that makes you more capable of reacting quickly if there’s a problem. It could mean the difference between life and death.
Using Your Daylights At Night
Daylights were not always common in cars. However, they are standard in pretty much every vehicle these days. This has led to many of us taking them for granted and assuming (wrongly) that we can leave them running at night. Daylights are dimmer than nightlights on most cars, and taillights are usually not on when the daylights are running. If your taillights aren’t on, your car is not very visible to other motorists on the road.
Always be sure to turn on your car’s nightlights at dusk. It’s not difficult and only requires you to flip the switch or turn a knob, depending on your model. Trust us, the added visibility and safety that nightlights provide is worth it. You’ll be safer and so will the other cars around you.
Crossing Lanes While Turning
Crossing multiple lanes while turning a corner is a more common mistake than most people realize. It’s also a dangerous and potentially costly mistake too. The correct (and safe) practice is to execute a turn into your own lane. Usually that means turning into the closest lane. If you need to be in the other lane after your turn, you need to signal and change lanes afterwards.
However, many people love to swing their cars wide when taking a turn and essentially change lanes at the same time. This can lead to collisions, as cars in other lanes correctly assume they have the right of way to turn into the lanes that are supposed to be free.
In general, our collective turning etiquette could use a lot of improvement. Drivers will be doing everyone a favor if they don’t change lanes while turning. Making this one simple adjustment can do a world of good and have a very positive impact.
Speed Through A Yellow Light
We all know that a yellow light means “slow down”, and not “speed up.” Yet many of us still hit the gas when we see a green light flip to yellow. Getting through a yellow light so we don’t have to wait at a red one seems to be a national obsession in North America. However, this is very dangerous and should be avoided.
Nearly every time you see a collision at an intersection, it’s because someone was speeding through a yellow light and got t-boned. It’s best to be cautious and patient. When the light turns yellow, slow down and stop, as long as you can do so safely. Just wait at the red light and then proceed on your way. The 90 seconds of your life that you give up is worth it.
Stop Suddenly Without Warning
We’ve all done this one. You’re driving along and suddenly see a parking spot you want or that the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign is lit up at Krispy Kreme. You slam on the brakes and come to an abrupt stop without warning. The problem is that the car behind you, who may have been following a little too closely, has now likely run into your rear end and caused a collision.
Stopping suddenly and without warning is one of the biggest mistakes drivers make. It leads to one of the highest causes of accidents on roads and highways. You should always be conscious of the cars behind you. Always try to stop slowly and with care. That gives everyone nearby a chance to react and adjust. Otherwise, accidents both small and large can occur. Plus, you can run into Krispy Kreme for those hot donuts if you’re dealing with an accident.