Think you’re a good driver? Almost every driver develops bad habits behind the wheel. Make sure you’re not making these common driving mistakes.
The mistake: Getting distracted by your cell phone
Drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to crash. Yes, it’s common sense not to use your phone while behind the steering wheel, and yet the roads are still filled with people using their phones. Arizona law now specifically prohibits the handheld use of cell phones, with hands-free use permitted.
How to fix it: Commit to avoid the dangers of distracted driving by putting your phone out of sight and out of reach when driving.
The mistake: Misusing (or ignoring) your turn signal
Almost half of drivers don’t signal when changing lanes and 25 percent don’t signal when making a turn. The problem? Signaling is not optional. Failing to use your turn signal isn’t just illegal, it’s also inconsiderate and unsafe. You should also take care not to use your turn signal too early or too late, or to leave it on — all of these habits are confusing to other drivers.
How to fix it: Arizona traffic laws require that you signal continuously no less than 100 feet prior to making a turn.
The mistake: Not paying attention at a red light
Distracted driving isn’t just a safety issue when your vehicle is moving. Failing to notice a red light has flipped to green because your brain isn’t focused on the driving situation at hand holds up traffic for everyone and, even worse, can lead to a crash.
How to fix it: Keep your eyes and your attention where they need to be, even when you’re stopped at a red light.
The mistake: Neglecting to check your blind spots
Did you know that about 40 percent of a vehicle’s outer perimeter is hidden by blind spots? Avoid potential collisions — and avoid causing alarm for other drivers, who might have to suddenly swerve to get out of your way — when you make it a habit to always check your blind spots before changing lanes or performing other maneuvers.
How to fix it: Safely check your blind spots by checking all mirrors, and also turning your head to glance over your shoulder in both directions before making lateral maneuvers.
The mistake: Failing to use or correctly adjust your mirrors
Your mirrors play an important role, helping you detect other vehicles as well as objects in the road. Adjusting them properly can help you minimize blind spots and reduce the chances of collision.
How to fix it: Before you start driving, adjust your rearview mirror so that you can see the entire rear window from your driver’s seat, without moving your head. Adjust your side mirrors this way:
- Adjust the driver’s side mirror by placing your head against the left side window, then adjust it until you can barely see the side of your car in the mirror’s right side.
- Adjust the passenger’s side mirror by positioning your head so it’s just above the center console. Adjust the mirror’s position until you can barely see the side of your car in the mirror’s left side.
The mistake: Not holding the steering wheel properly
Maybe you have a habit of holding the steering wheel in one hand and your coffee cup in the other. Maybe you prefer to steer with your knee, or with your hand cupping the bottom of the steering wheel. None of these are recommended and could have disastrous consequences.
How to fix it: Keep both hands on the wheel as much as possible. You might have learned to keep your hands in the ‘10 and 2 o’clock’ positions, but that’s the old recommendation. The new recommendation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is “9 and 3 o’clock.” Why? This is a safer position in case the airbag goes off. It also takes into account the way modern steering wheels are built and move.
The mistake: Slamming the accelerator or brakes
Having a habit of mashing the pedals not only doesn’t get you anywhere faster, it’s actually detrimental to your car. You waste gas when you lean on the accelerator and wear down your brake pads when you mash the brakes.
How to fix it: Be conscious about driving more smoothly, placing gradual pressure on the pedals.
The mistake: Driving aggressively
Tailgating, cutting drivers off, or aggressively passing another driver are all maneuvers that are discourteous, unsafe, and even illegal. Road rage is a criminal offense, and aggressive driving is a traffic offense.
How to fix it: Stay unemotional behind the wheel, don’t take the driving habits of others personally, and practice being a courteous and predictable driver.
The mistake: Going too slow in the left lane
Slow driving in the left lane isn’t just a pet peeve. It’s actually dangerous — causing unnecessary traffic jams — and illegal. The law permits drivers to use the left lane for passing, so if you’re a slow-moving vehicle not attempting to pass and traffic is backing up behind you, your driving is considered hazardous.
How to fix it: If you’re going under the speed limit or driving slower than the flow of traffic, stay to the right. Be aware of the traffic behind you, and move to the right if you perceive others want to pass.
The mistake: Not merging correctly
When multiple lanes of traffic have to merge into one, drivers can get frustrated and refuse to let other cars in front of them by sticking closely to the next car in the line (risking rear-ending the car in front of you). Or, you might be one of those people who likes to merge as early as possible.
How to fix it: Observe the “zipper” merge method, which recommends driving as long as possible in the lane that is ending, and then at the front of the line, every car takes turns merging into the ongoing lane of traffic. This is scientifically proven to be more efficient and to keep the flow going.
Want a personalized approach to learning to identify and correct your driving mistakes? Check out all the courses we offer at Stop and Go Driving School.