When a motorist makes a bad move in traffic, many of their fellow drivers are quick to judge their (perceived) lack of skill and awareness. Little do others realize, they might also be at fault for similar poor decisions. Read on for the five bad driving habits you need to break if you want to stay safe on the roads.

1. Distracted driving

Whether you play around with the radio or pick up a call from a friend, you need to keep your hands free, and eyes and mind on the road. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say that people are three times more likely to be in an accident if they are distracted, and that rate shoots up to 23 times more likely if they are texting. If a call or message comes in and you absolutely feel the need to respond, look for a safe, highly visible area up ahead, signal that you’re changing lanes to pull over and put on your four-ways to take the call or text back.

2. Tailgating

We’ve all been cut off, but tailgating a vehicle or retaliating in any way not only puts you in danger but other travelers as well. Instead, stay calm, keep your mind on the road, and remember that your priority is to be a defensive driver. Be proactive and mindful of what you need to do to stay safe and avoid putting yourself and other motorists at risk.

3. Driving while tired

Regardless of whether it’s the morning after pulling an all-nighter study session for an exam, insomnia or the baby kept you awake, driving while drowsy puts you and other road users at risk. The Canada Safety Council reports that fatigue is a factor in about one in five collisions, ranking it behind drunk driving and speeding as the third most common cause of road accidents. Going without sleep for 18-21 hours is like having a blood alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.08, and is comparable to impaired driving.

Make sure to get a solid seven to eight hours of sleep before a road trip and don’t ignore signs like yawning, drifting out of your lane, and difficulty keeping your eyes open. These are clear indications that you either need to take a break from driving (such as switching with a passenger) or pull over to take a nap. Check out more symptoms of fatigue here to learn more about how to combat drowsy driving.

4. Obstructing traffic when lost

It can be frustrating when you realize you’re lost or can’t find the address of your destination. Oftentimes, it’s tempting to slow down to look for the right road sign or house number. But you risk more than being late when you hold up traffic. Motorists can get impatient, angry and may start to behave unpredictably in their effort to overtake you. Your best bet is to safely pull over and consult your GPS or call a friend for directions until the higher-speed traffic behind you subsides.

5. Clumsy pickups and drop-offs in high-traffic areas

Allowing passengers to enter or exit your vehicle at an intersection, no-stopping zone or in traffic is very risky, especially when your passengers are children. In a 2016 study by York University and the Hospital for Sick Children found there is an increased risk of injury from pedestrian-motor vehicle collisions during rush hour due to unsafe driving behaviours by parents dropping off young students.

Make sure you’re dropping off your passengers on the right side of the road (no jaywalking!) and not stopping in the middle of the road or double parking - even if you think it will just take one minute. Pull off to a side street or into a designated “drop off” zone so that your commute to school or work stays safe for everyone.

Breaking your bad driving habits may not happen overnight but being aware of the increased risks related to your own behaviours is the first step to replacing them with safer, defensive driving.

Source
1. Canadian Family Physician - Cell Phone Use While Driving: http://www.cfp.ca/content/59/7/723.full
2. FatigueImpairment.ca - Signs of Fatigue Impairment: http://www.fatigueimpairment.ca/signs-of-fatigue-impairment/
3. Traffic Injury Prevention Study (2016): http://news.yorku.ca/files/driver-behaviour.pdf

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