Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility” and drivers have a great responsibility to drive safely. Safe driving starts by letting go of bad habits and making changes even if they may be difficult to apply. Drivers may rationalize that nothing bad has happened to them while they were eating, texting, or doing any other activity that takes focus from the road, so continuing the behavior is acceptable. This “optimism bias” aka the “it won’t happen to me” rationale may eventually cause injury to yourself or others on the road. Learn to adopt some good driving behavior this year, that will soon become habits, to arrive at your destination safely.
Bad Habit: Using a Mobile Device
Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distraction behind the wheel. In fact, the National Safety Council reports that from 2017 – 2019 nearly 1.5 million accidents reported were caused by the use of a mobile device while driving. Driving requires your eyes, ears, and hands (on the wheel) to focus on the road. Using a device behind the wheel becomes a habit.
Good Habit: Keep your phone in your purse, in the center console, or in the backseat. Also, switch your device to airplane mode or silent to avoid the temptation of looking at any notifications while in the car.
Bad Habit: Using Headphones While Driving
Drivers have been enjoying the pleasure of listening to music, podcasts, talk radio, and audiobooks in their cars for many years, yet, it becomes a more dangerous activity when the sound is coming from headphones as opposed to the vehicle’s speakers. Wearing headphones prevents drivers from hearing emergency vehicle sirens, car horns from other vehicles, railroad crossing alarms, or crosswalk signals. Not being able to hear what’s going around you can result in an accident and injury to yourself or others.
Good Habit: Utilize your vehicle’s speakers to listen to music and other forms of entertainment and keep it at a reasonable volume.
Bad Habit: Not Using Your Turn Signals
Turn signal, blinker, directional, whatever you prefer to call it, this device shares your intentions with drivers around you. Yet, there are many motorists that fail to use theirs regularly, which is a mistake, as not using your turn signal can earn a traffic violation or cause an accident.
Good Habit: Activate your turn signals when changing lanes, pulling over, or turning left or right.
Bad Habit: Speeding
Speed limits are determined by states, counties, and municipalities based on analysis and surveys of the road for the safety of all drivers. Driving conditions can change at any time and driving too fast makes it more difficult to slow down or stop. Studies show that higher speeds increase the likelihood of collisions while driving. In the end, speeding may only save 1-2 minutes in getting to your destination and is much more dangerous than just going the speed limit.
Good Habit: Observe all posted speed limits, especially in school zones.
Bad Habit: Not Wearing Your Seatbelt
Seat belts significantly reduce the risk of injury or death in the event of a crash by preventing drivers and passengers from being ejected from the vehicle. Simply stated, seatbelts save lives. In Arizona, drivers can receive a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt as a secondary violation, if stopped for something else. Failure to secure a child under the age of 5 can be a primary reason for a stop and violation.
Good Habit: Put your seat belt on before starting your car. Always wear your seat belt, even if you’re just “going around the corner.” Insist all passengers wear seat belts when riding with you as well.
Bad Habit: Daydreaming
Motorists may be completely aware of the surrounding environment but be completely out of conscious contact. In other words, driving on “autopilot.” Drivers may not actually see what they’re looking at and later, cannot recall how they got from Point A to Point B. While your mind wanders, the subconscious takes over and in an emergency, you may snap you back to full alertness, but your reaction time and perception are severely affected.
Good Habit: Daydreaming is tricky because it cannot always be controlled but it can be minimized with simple adjustments such as:
- Taking different routes to break up your routine and avoid habituation.
- Keep your eyes moving by changing where you look every two seconds. Longer than that can cause a stare, which often encourages daydreaming.
- Chew gum or eat something crunchy to stay alert.
- Create thought-provoking scenarios by asking yourself “what-if.” Ask yourself, “what if the car in front of me suddenly stops?” not only will these thoughts keep your mind alert, but actually prepare you in the event that the situation you conjured becomes a reality.
Adapting some of these good driving habits may take some work but will be worth the effort. It may just save your life! There are many things you can do to add to the good driving habits list, and they all begin with you. Safe travels!