What are the top 10 driving mistakes?
10 Most Common Driving Errors (You’re Probably Guilty Of)
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We’re only human, as the saying goes, and people are 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 driving, oblivious to the fact that we’ve erred at all. Whether it is out of habit, lack of awareness, or indifference to the other vehicles around us, people tend to repeatedly make the same mistakes when behind the wheel. No wonder engineers and scientists are hard at work developing self-driving cars that will take human error out of the equation. Here’s a list of the 10 most common driver errors we humans make when operating an automobile.
10. Not Adjusting The Mirrors Properly
Rear view and side mirrors are not decorations. They are important instruments in your car that help you to see what is behind you 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, as people cannot adequately see the cars coming up behind them. Poor positioning of side mirrors is particularly bad, as 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 so poorly that drivers are looking at their own door handle rather than the cars driving alongside them. Best practice is to always take a moment when you first get into your 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.
9. Driving Slowly In The Passing Lane
We’ve all cursed them — the people who drive slowly in the passing lane on a highway, indifferent to the fact that they are blocking up traffic behind them. This practice is not only annoying as hell, but it is also dangerous, as it can lead to frustrated drivers speeding in the slower lane and trying to pass other cars on the inside lane. All drivers should remember that the lanes to the right are for slower moving vehicles and the lanes on the left are for faster driving cars. The key is to figure out which lane you’re most comfortable driving in based on the speed you’re traveling at. It is the height of inconsideration to drive in the fastest lane when you’re clearly not going the speed limit, or 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.
8. Not Using Your Turn Signal
So few of us use our turn signals that it is a wonder we even have them in our cars. What we all forget is that turn signals are an important safety feature that informs other motorists around us what our intentions are. When people don’t use a turn signal to indicate that they are changing lanes on a highway, or turning a corner on a city street, it forces the drivers behind and beside us to react to our actions at the last second and with no warning. This is how accidents happen. Proper driver etiquette dictates that people use their turn signals whenever they 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 people who have left their turn signal blinking for an extended period when they are not actually turning.
7. Leaving Your High Beams On
This bad habit can be extremely dangerous. High beams can both blind drivers in oncoming cars and distract drivers ahead of you. While high beams are important to use when driving on roads that have no street lights, people need to be aware of when they are using their high beams and turn them off whenever there are other cars around them. 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 cause reduced visibility when used in certain weather conditions, notably fog and snow. Be sure to pay attention to your dashboard at all times, as it is possible for people to accidentally hit their high beams and turn them on when driving. If your high beams are on, you’ll most likely see a blue light on the dash. That blue light could be a lifesaver.
6. Riding The Brakes
Unless you’re a Formula One race car driver, there’s no reason to ride the brakes in your car. This is the practice where people use both of their feet to drive. They keep the left foot on the brake and the right foot on gas. 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.
5. Bad Seating Position
This may not seem like a big deal. 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 they’re operating. Reaction times can be slowed when people’s legs are too stretched out and their feet are barely touching the gas or brake. Likewise, if people are too comfortable in their car they can be lulled into a daze and not pay attention to what is going on around them. To reinforce these points, take a look at professional race car drivers. At all times, they are sitting upright and don’t have to hyperextend their arms or legs to reach the wheel, or work the gas and brake. They also keep two hands on the steering wheel at all times, which ensures control of the car. Sitting properly in a car so that you are alert and capable of reacting quickly could mean the difference between life and death.
4. Using Your Daylights At Night
Daylights were not always common in cars, but they are standard in every car today and that 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. And if your taillights aren’t on, that means your car is not visible to other motorists on the road. Always be sure to turn on your car’s nightlights at dusk. This is not difficult and only requires that people turn the lever one notch to the left. Trust us, the added visibility and safety the nightlights provide is worth it. You’ll be safer and so will the other cars around you.
3. Crossing Lanes While Turning
Crossing multiple lanes while turning a corner is a more common mistake than most people realize. And it is a dangerous and costly mistake too. The correct (and safe) practice is to execute a turn in your own lane, than use your turn signal to indicate that you are changing lanes after completing the turn. Many people love to swing their car wide when taking a turn and change lanes at the same time. This can lead to collisions with cars in other lanes that are turning at the same time. In general, people’s turning etiquette could use a lot of improvement. Drivers will be doing themselves and those around them 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.
2. Speed Through A Yellow Light
We all know that a yellow light means “slow down” not “speed up.” Yet when we see a light go from green to yellow, most of us hit the gas rather than the brake. Getting through a yellow light so we don’t have to wait at a red one seems to be a national sport in the U.S. and Canada. This is very dangerous and should be avoided. Nearly every time you see a collision at an intersection, it is 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. Wait at the red light and when it turns green again, proceed on your way. The 90 seconds or so of your life that you give up is worth it.
1. 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. Problem is that the car that was tailgating behind you 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, and it leads to one of the highest incidents of accidents on roads and highways. Drivers should always be conscious of the cars behind them, and should stop slowly and with care — giving everyone nearby a chance to react and adjust. Otherwise, accidents both small and large can occur. And then you’ll end up missing the hot doughnuts at Krispy Kreme anyway, and who wants that?
Content written by Jack Sackman and created in partnership with HowStuffWorks.com
Top 10 Driving Mistakes That May Put You in Danger
In order to avoid serious accidents, there are several driving mistakes you should be aware of that may potentially put you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road in danger. Once you know about these mistakes, it’s much easier to be aware of them and correct them.
Here are the top 10 most common driving errors people make that can result in an accident, and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Driving While Distracted: With the use of smartphones, distracted driving has become one of the most serious and common driving mistakes today. Whether you’re eating your favourite fast-food burger or checking your social media account, driving while distracted is a surefire way to end up in an accident. These types of accidents affect teenagers in fairly large numbers, but they can also affect adults, too.
You can avoid this bad habit by choosing to go hands-free with your smartphone or by pulling over to a safe spot before you return any missed phone calls. If you need to eat, finish your meal before you start to drive a car so that you can give your full attention to the road ahead.
2. Speeding: One of the Most Common Driving Mistakes. When it comes to automobile crashes, speeding is one of the most common reasons for accidents on the road. It might be tempting to speed if you’re late for an important appointment, but speeding will most likely result in either a traffic ticket or an accident eventually.
Stick to the posted speed limit and maintain your speed until you reach your destination. Don’t engage in drag-racing or try to outpace another driver on the road. If you have cruise control, take advantage of it to help you maintain a proper speed.
3. Slow Reaction Times. Your reaction time refers to the amount of time it takes for you to react after realizing that you need to come to a stop, turn a corner, or otherwise avoid an accident on the road. Our reaction times can start to slow down as we age, but there are also other factors that can affect this crucial element of safe driving.
Never get behind the wheel if you’re under the influence of anything, and always give yourself enough distance between your car and the car in front of you. Plan your route ahead of time and never get behind the wheel if you feel sick or you’re taking medications that could affect your ability to make quick decisions. Have your brakes checked to make sure that they’re in good condition, which can help improve reaction time and ensure that you stop quickly and safely when you need to.
4. Failure to Use Your Turn Signal: One of the most common driving mistakes that can put you in danger is neglecting to use your turn signal. When you turn or change lanes, this simple act is crucial to ensuring your safety. A quick turn signal is the best way to inform other drivers of your next move.
Always use your turn signal even if there’s no one behind you so it becomes a habit. Almost half of the drivers in a recent study don’t use their turn signals, which can result in a crash or even a serious accident depending on the driving speed. Some localities have heavy penalties and fines for drivers who fail to use their turn signals.
5. Zipping Through Yellow Lights: The purpose of a yellow light is to warn drivers to slow down and be prepared to stop. Many drivers like to rush through the yellow light to see how quickly they can pass through an intersection without having to stop at a red light.
Pay attention and slow down whenever you see a yellow light and be ready to come to a complete stop. It’s never a good idea to try and outrun the yellow light since the length of time it stays yellow can vary depending on the time of day, the volume of traffic, and other factors.
6. Poor Steering Wheel Techniques: Your vehicle relies on you to keep it on the straight and narrow, but if you use poor steering techniques, things can turn out badly. Many drivers try to drive with one hand or simply don’t practise the proper techniques when it comes to using the steering wheel.
When you don’t have a firm grip on the wheel, it’s easy to lose control of your vehicle and end up in a crash. Some drivers hook the wheel which means that they don’t use both hands and place their forearm facing up with just one hand gripping the wheel. This is a dangerous, ineffective way to steer a vehicle safely.
7. Driving While Tired: If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’ll feel sluggish and tired, and your reaction times can suffer. According to the US Department of Transportation, fatigued drivers are twice as likely to make mistakes on the road as people who have had sufficient rest the night before.
Never drive long distances or at highway speeds if you’re feeling fatigued or sluggish. This is a common problem among truck drivers who feel pressured to meet delivery deadlines and miss out on proper sleep.
Try to take a nap before you head out on the road if you’re feeling tired. You can also ask someone else to drive or use a ride share service or public transportation if you’re feeling sleepy.
8. Failure to Use Side Mirrors or Driving in Blind Spots: The side mirrors on your vehicle are designed to help you clearly see other cars that are near or approaching you, but they’re also designed to help you look to see if someone is driving in your blind spot. A blind spot is when a vehicle is close to the side of your car but not visible, which could result in an accident if you try to change lanes while they’re directly located to one side of your vehicle.
You can avoid these driving mistakes by installing special blind spot mirrors that are affordable and easy to add to your side-view mirrors. With the help of blind spot mirrors, it’s much easier to see other vehicles that are in the lane next to you.
9. Not Yielding to Oncoming Vehicles: If you’re in a rush, you’re much more prone to darting out into oncoming traffic. Failing to yield to other vehicles can not only ensure you’ll get a ticket, but it’s also one of the most common driving mistakes that result in a crash.
You can easily avoid becoming a statistic by simply yielding to other drivers. A head-on collision or any crash with oncoming traffic can result in serious damage to your vehicle, injury, or even death.
10. Improper Use of Headlights and High Beams: Drivers who don’t turn on their headlights at night or during inclement weather are much more susceptible to being involved in a collision. Always use your headlights when it gets dark outside or when it’s raining so you can see, and so other drivers can see you.
Never drive at night without headlights, and only use your high beams when there is light traffic or no other cars on the road. The use of high beams can cause other drivers to have difficulty seeing clearly which may result in an accident.
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The 16 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Highway Driving
When the United States Interstate Highway System was created in 1956, it transformed the way Americans traveled. Upon its completion, these new freeways allowed us to drive cross country for the first time, covering hundreds of miles between stops.
But over time, the same elements that make highway driving so convenient – namely high speed limits and the elimination of intersections – have also resulted in some bad habits.
At best, these highway driving mistakes are an annoyance to other drivers. And at their worst, they can put others in danger, leading to accidents and serious injuries.
Below is our list of the 16 biggest mistakes people make when highway driving.
- Driving slow in the left lane. While laws differ slightly from state to state, the left lane of a multi-lane highway is generally reserved for faster traveling vehicles. That means unless you’re passing or traveling faster than the flow of traffic, you should keep your car to the right. Driving slowly in the left lane can cause traffic buildup and may even encourage drivers to take more dangerous maneuvers to overtake you (like passing in the right lane or shoulder).
- Driving when tired. This may seem obvious, but we drive at our best when we’re awake and alert. When you’re tired, your driving suffers. In fact, studies have shown that being awake for more than 18 hours can make you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (close to the legal limit)! Not only does driving when tired slow your reaction time, but you may also fall asleep behind the wheel – which causes thousands of crashes each year. So if you’re feeling tired, stop for a cup of coffee or pull over for a quick nap. (See also: Drowsy Driving: Is It Really So Bad?)
- Not taking breaks on long trips. You don’t need to be short on sleep for fatigue to set in. This is especially true on long road trips, when driving for hours on end can make you feel tired and less alert. So don’t let a desire to reach your destination quickly put others at risk. Stop and take a short break every few hours. This will give everyone a chance to stretch their legs and can help you stay more alert behind the wheel.
- Staying in a truck’s blind spot. Commercial trucks are big vehicles. Because of their size, they have big blind spots, too. That’s a term for the area a driver can’t see by looking through their window or mirror. If you’re travelling in a truck’s blind spot, the driver may not realize you’re there – which could cause them to accidentally hit you. To avoid driving in a truck’s blind spot, follow this rule of thumb: If you can’t see the driver in his side mirror, he can’t see you either.
- Speeding. On most highways in the U.S., a speed limit will be set somewhere between 55 and 80 miles per hour. Driving in excess of the posted limit may not only earn you a speeding ticket – it could jeopardize the safety of yourself and other drivers. Our 2021 survey revealed the top 5 reasons why drivers admit to speeding.
- Relying only on safety systems (and not your eyes and ears).High-tech vehicle safety systems get more and more advanced with each new model year. Adaptive cruise control. Automatic emergency braking. Lane keeping assist. Blind spot monitoring. The list goes on… Each of these systems is designed to prevent accidents and keep drivers safe. And for the most part, they do an amazing job. But this can result in drivers relying too much on their cars to do the driving, braking and accelerating for them. Remember, these systems aren’t always perfect, and they aren’t designed to reduce your responsibility behind the wheel.
- Not using your turn signals. When changing lanes on the highway, the law requires you to always use your turn signal. But it’s not uncommon to see vehicles zipping from lane to lane without signaling. Using your turn signals helps prevent accidents by letting other drivers know – and plan for – your movements.
- Keeping your brights on. On dark, remote highways, visibility becomes especially important. Turning on your high beam headlights will allow you to see further down the road, adding upwards of 300 feet to your visibility. Not only does this aid in navigating the road ahead, but it can help you avoid hitting an animal, like a deer. However, keeping your high beams on with other drivers on the road can become a blinding safety hazard. Don’t let your headlights put others at risk. Only use your brights when other vehicles are at least 500 feet away. Learn more in our related article: The Driver’s Guide to Headlights.
- Not yielding to oncoming traffic. While highway driving eliminates stoplights and intersections, you’ll still need to deal with vehicles merging on and off the road. When a car is approaching from an on-ramp, try to be aware of oncoming traffic and give them room to merge into your lane. In most states, the vehicle on the highway has the right of way. But adjusting your speed (or better yet, moving over to another lane) to allow another vehicle to merge safely can reduce the chance of an accident.
- Not using your mirrors. When switching lanes on the highway, you should always check your mirrors and blind spots before making a move. Be on the lookout for nearby vehicles, including those that may be quickly approaching on either side. Fail to do so, and you could find yourself turning into the path of another vehicle.
- Tailgating. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end collisions make up nearly 30 percent of all accidents. And tailgating, or following another vehicle too closely, is a major cause. Tailgating is especially dangerous on the highway because you travel such a great distance at higher speeds. That’s why experts recommend following the “three-second rule” – allowing a three second gap to pass an object after the car ahead of you does.
- Road rage. When dealing with bad or inconsiderate drivers, it can be easy to let your anger get the best of you. But when road rage takes over, it can lead to an even more dangerous situation fueled by rash, aggressive behavior. So take a step back and relax. Put things into perspective. And if you encounter another driver exhibiting road rage, do your best to avoid or de-escalate any confrontation.
- Poor passing etiquette. Have you ever tried to pass someone on the highway, only to have them accelerate and match your speed? This is an example of poor passing etiquette. When you’re passing another vehicle (or are being overtaken), make sure both cars have plenty of room to safely execute the pass.
- Inconsistent speed. The best way to drive on the highway is to keep your vehicle at a safe, consistent speed. Using your car’s cruise control is a great way to accomplish this. Constantly speeding up and slowing down is not only an annoyance to other drivers, it can also impede the flow of traffic.
- Hard braking. Smashing the brake pedal is an accident waiting to happen – especially at highway speeds. To avoid hard braking, always maintain a safe distance behind the car in front of you and keep your eyes on the road at all times
- Distracted driving. We’ve all seen drivers cruising along the highway with their eyes focused on a phone instead of the road. It’s a behavior that causes thousands of accidents (and more than 3,000 deaths) each year. Avoid the temptation to use your phone while driving. Your safety is always worth the wait.
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