Driving your personal car might be the simplest and fastest way to get from point A to point B, but it is also an activity that demands your full concentration. Not surprisingly, many driving “veterans” are the ones responsible for numerous accidents, precisely due to their overconfidence behind the wheel. They believe – erroneously I might add – that maneuvering the vehicle becomes a reflex after a while and therefore, they don’t need to focus their full attention span.
While it is true that a driver with an extensive experience will generally be able to take adaptive actions much quicker than a newbie, unforeseen situation can and will happen. If you are paying attention to other activities rather than the road and the traffic, it is highly unlikely that you will be able act fast enough to avoid an accident.
Alternatively, if you break all traffic rules and you expect the other cars to avert a collision, what guarantee do you have that all the other drivers have keen reflexes? But what exactly are the most dangerous behaviors behind the wheel nowadays?
1. Talking on the phone
As mentioned, some people automatically believe that once they have gathered sufficient road experience, they are free to multitask while driving. In the busy world of today, many of us would like to utilize the time spent on the road for taking care of office business, chatting with our friends/spouse, placing orders, etc. over the phone. The reason why this is completely unadvisable does not only reside in the distracting nature of the activity, but also in the inability to use both hands for steering, signaling, changing gears, so on and so forth. While you should refrain from conversing on the phone completely, if it is an absolute necessity, then the least you could do is use a Bluetooth hands-free.
2. Running stop signs
Stop signs are there for a reason and even if you think that you can run them because the coast is clear, don’t. These traffic signs are generally installed in tricky areas or zones with limited visibility in order to prevent the so-called “T-bone” collisions. At the same time, Stop signs are used in high pedestrian/cyclist traffic zones and running them might result in hitting an inattentive passerby. For the 4 way stops, remember that the car on the right side always has the right of way.
3. Not signaling your turns properly
You simply cannot expect the other traffic participants to guess your intentions, no matter how obvious they seem to you. As of such, don’t act like the Secret Service and use the lights to properly signal your turns or line changing in a timely manner. If you signal at the very last moment, then the other drivers might not have enough reaction time to adapt accordingly, so don’t risk it. Remember, you are signaling to let the other drivers know what you are ABOUT TO DO, not what you are ALREADY DOING.
4. Running the red light
Nobody says that you shouldn’t step on the gas a bit when the light has just turned yellow, but never ever push the red light. Not only do you risk a considerably fine, but also a T-Bone collision and your vehicle already has enough velocity – you accelerated to catch the yellow traffic light, remember? – to cause significant damage and even casualties. The same applies for turn arrows, when drivers still stream in after the “GO” light is off. In this case, the risk of collision is also accompanied by the traffic jams their reckless actions determine.
5. Exceeding the speed limit
The speed limits are enforced because of the nature of the street, which typically involves pedestrian crossings, dangerous curves, poor road conditions or all factors combined. They are not set arbitrarily, as you might think, but rather based on the optimal speed that would allow you to maneuver the vehicle effectively. It is also necessary to note that you should regularly check the speedometer, because modern cars confer an extremely quiet and smooth driving experience, which sometimes makes it very difficult to accurately estimate the velocity.
6. Not yielding the right of way and merging improperly
Yielding the right of way is the best way to avoid car pileups on the highway, but you also need to utilize the ramps correctly – adapt the speed to the traffic and signal your intentions in a timely manner – in order to gain entry in the stream. The most common mistake you can make implies waiting until you reach the very end of the ramp and then attempting to mix with the crowd.
7. Texting/Social networking behind the wheel
Texting behind the wheel is one of the most common causes of accidents nowadays, even more so than talking on the phone. Because you have to take your eyes off the road in order to type, you will not be able to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Not surprisingly, the young drivers are responsible for most of the texting-related car accidents.
8. Not adapting your speed to the weather conditions
Even though you have a four wheel drive vehicle, that does not mean that you have absolute control over it while running over frozen roads or during rainstorms. That kind of overconfidence should be put aside and, irrespective of whether you are driving a compact or an SUV, you need to adapt the velocity of your car accordingly. Moreover, in severe weather circumstances, consider maximizing the distance between your vehicle and the car in front, just in case it starts spinning out of control.
9. Tailgating the car in front
The main rule here is to keep at least 4 car lengths between your grille and the rear bumper of the car in front, but a much better way to avoid tailgating implies estimating the time it would take to collide in the event that the other driver would suddenly hit the brakes. Anything less than 2 seconds is considered dangerous tailgating, 4 seconds is optimal for normal weather conditions and 8 is recommended for icy roads and during storms.
There’s probably no need for me to remind you about the dangers of substance abuse – this includes both narcotics and alcohol – but this subject cannot be stressed enough. In spite of the numerous campaigns that raise awareness about the risks of this reckless behavior and the hefty fines/jail time you risk you are pulled over or cause a collision, DUI is still the main cause of lethal accident. Remember that not only will your road etiquette leave much to be desired, but the reflexes are substantially limited and your response time is much, much higher!