Good driving is more than not having been in a collision recently. Many of us think that we’re basically good drivers, which entitles us to bend the rules here and there. A no-look lane change. A little driving while sleepy. A bottled water while we drive (water’s good for us, right?). A closed-eye sneeze (just kidding, nothing you can do about that).
In reality, however, these small actions create opportunity for collisions and even fatalities. Keeping your safety skills sharp is the best way to avoid complacency, and we’ve composed a list of the biggest driving mistakes currently happening. This list is based on actual driving habits observed and recorded in North Carolina, our own back yard! Look out for your friends, family and neighbors by being a good driver; it’s the best thing you can do.
5. Driving with headphones
This is a big one. It’s also illegal in North Carolina and most other states. Many people like to listen to podcasts, music, news, or even TV and movies while driving. The problem is that headphones and ear buds seal your ears from outside noises, making it very difficult to hear all the things that you’re responsible for hearing.
Even if you keep the volume low and think that you can hear outside noise, your hearing is still severely compromised and can lead to collisions. Like we said, it’s illegal for a reason.
4. No-look backing up
Two reasons for this: a) you’re in a hurry, or b) you know the area. Both are terrible reasons. Backing up without looking is like driving forward with your eyes closed. Even using your mirrors is not a good enough excuse. Your mirrors, and even a rearview camera, are there to help your eyes, not replace them.
The low-speeds of rear driving are enough to cause significant damage to people or cars. Take the time to put your hand on the headrest, twist around in your seat, and look where you’re going before you step on the gas, just like you were taught—or supposed to have been taught—in driver’s ed.
3. Intersection lane-changes
Also illegal in North Carolina. Once you enter an intersection, you are required by law to remain in your lane until you exit, even if the vehicle in front of you stops short. Why? Because it’s an intersection. Inter. Section. Vehicles are intersecting here. A traffic hub is the worst possible place to change your lane because there are vehicles entering lanes from multiple directions.
Unless you have three pairs of eyes or a car made out of marshmallows, don’t do it.
2. Applying make-up/grooming
Ah, looking good. So important to look your best in the morgue, isn’t it? That’s exactly where you or anyone near you could be headed if you mistake your steering wheel for a sink and mirror. Many places in the U.S. now have restrooms available to the public, which means that you could actually find the perfect shade of lipstick or trim that soul patch into nirvana when stationary.
Rather than doing the old “driving with knees or elbows” thing, take a good look at yourself in that mirror and repeat after us: “My self-worth is not bound up in my attractiveness. I value human life more than looking good. I’d rather look scraggy than spend 30 years in the pokey.”
1. Mobile devices
You knew it was coming. Whether it’s texting, calling, or Facebooking, don’t touch your phone. You might recall a widely-publicized study from two years ago that showed that texting while driving cuts your reaction time in half, making collisions far more likely. A further study showed that a car can travel the length of a football field—100 yards—in the time it takes to read a text.
Our reflexes are at our best when we’re 15-25 years old. Even kids that age, however, have reaction times roughly equivalent to a senior citizen when using a mobile device. You might feel more alive or on point, but it’s an illusion. Your brain can’t keep up with everything at once, and that’s all it takes to ruin someone’s day or life.
So there you have it. Be a better person and take comfort in knowing that you’re making the world a better place, and likely saving yourself thousands of dollars in the process. Pump the brakes, slow down, and enjoy life by taking it in.