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10 Bad-Driver Habits That Kill

As difficult as it may be to believe, most car accidents can be easily prevented--in fact, the majority of accidents are brought about by people doing the wrong thing or failing to do something important. This realization gains special importance when you consider the life-threatening consequences involved. Annually, car accidents result in or are responsible for:
•1.3 million deaths
•3,287 deaths per day
•20 to 50 million injured and/or disabled (often permanently)
•over 50% involve young adults between 15 & 44
•400,000 under 25 world-wide dying (over 1000/day)
•presently being the 9th leading cause of death & expected to become the 5th by 2030
•being the leading cause of death among young adults between 15 & 29
•costs of $518 billion globally in medical expenses, lost productivity & damages

Even causes that may be attributed to circumstances beyond your control (such as bad weather) can still fall under the auspices of lack of responsible behavior. During bad weather, for example, people can slow down and drive with extra care--yet, many people fail to take such proper precautions when called to do so.

Addressing the issue of car accidents begins with better education--i.e., doing a better job of teaching everyone the rules of the road, and, short of that, holding everyone accountable for what they do or fail to do in reference to any accidents that take place. As individuals, we can drastically reduce our being the cause of a car accident simply by not committing any of the following stupid mistakes:

1. Driving neck and neck with other vehicles. If something (a deer, a piece of flying tire off a semi-truck, etc.) were to shove its way in front of the car immediately to your right or left, the driver of that car will likely instinctively swerve into the next lane, possibly the one you're driving in; similar problems may arise from a simple tire blow-out or some other unforeseen mechanical mishap.

These mishaps will, in turn, force you to swerve (also instinctively) out of your lane, possibly slamming into another vehile or crashing into a ditch, a tree, or something else.

The results would also be the same, by the way, if the first driver to encounter a problem simply slams on the breaks (the other most likely instinctive reaction); as the breaks lock, the car may still deviate into the next lane . . . either that or the car will flip over--or the car behind that car will merge into your lane to avoid slamming from behind into the stopping car. Either way, you won't be safe in your lane, even if you were (at least in this scenario) an innocent by-stander.

For the record, the only time that cars should be proceeding in a neck-and-neck formation (i.e., immediately next to each other) is in slow-moving, bumper-to-bumper traffic. In that situation, the chance of someone suddenly swerving into your lane is highly unlikely, since people can just come to a leisurely stop, should something get in their way. Except for this scenario, you should always be several car lengths behind or in front of other cars, but never neck-and-neck.

2. Changing lanes inappropriately. Unfortunately, most people aren't given adequate instructions on the most basic aspects of driving--perhaps because everyone assumes that some of these things fall under "common sense." Many accidents, however, are caused by people who are obviously clueless about the proper way to change lanes, especially on the highway.

Before changing lanes, a good driver uses his/her turn signals, lets a couple of seconds pass by (to give another driver enough time to honk his horn or get out of the way), checks the mirrors, and then, most importantly, takes a physical quick glance to make sure that the designated blind spots are clear. Bad drivers, on the other hand, often fail to do one or more of these things, sometimes resulting in a car accident.

Not only do these bad drivers rely too often on their mirrors alone (which don't depict actual distances of other vehicles or whether a car may be hiding in a blind spot) but they also change lanes too quickly after turning on their signals (if they use them at all). In fact, these suicidal drivers can often be seen careening across several lanes all at once, perhaps out of fear that they will miss the next exit. Apparently, making sure they don't miss their next exit supersedes risking life and limb?

What these geniuses fail to realize is that each time they change lanes, another new opportunity for mishap arises; to put it in mathematical terms, the surface area covered by a blind spot increases exponentially with the number of lanes included. For the record, the only proper, safe way to change lanes is one lane at a time. And, no, the world won't come to an end because an exit is missed!

3. Driving in the blind spots of other vehicles. It's easy to lose count of how many times you can see bad drivers nonchalantly driving in the blind spots of other cars. This is especially heinous in reference to tractor trailers, RVs, dump trucks, buses, and other large vehicles--all of which have bigger blind spots than regular-sized cars.

Why do people continue to make this exceedingly stupid mistake?

To repeat, a good driver always stays several car lengths ahead or behind other cars; this goes for cars in the same lane. Not only are cars driving in blind spots invisible to the car ahead but the drivers thereof may also not clearly see turning signals. When you add this to the incendiary formula of a large vehicle not seeing someone driving in a blind spot, is it really that difficult to see why this scenario is a recipe for a bloody disaster?

Even if drivers of large vehicles follow the proper procedures for changing lanes, they may still collide with vehicles driving in blind spots. For the record, those persons who insist on driving in these treacherous blind spots deserve 95% of the blame if an accident occurs . . . in most cases.

If you don't want to be one of these bad drivers, make sure that you stay way ahead or behind of other vehicles, especially trucks, RVs and buses--never neck-and-neck, as a tailgater, or in a blind spot.

4. Driving in the farthest left lane too slowly & not letting people pass. For those who may not know it, the farthest lest lane is the passing lane. Bad drivers, apparently oblivious to this fact, often insist on driving in this lane, sometimes unnecessarily creating traffic build-ups or slow-downs (by refusing to speed up and get out of the way of faster-moving traffic).

By the way, "too slowly" includes obstinately driving at the posted speed limit, as if, by virtue of being "law-abiding citizens," these people then have the right to arbitrarily deny other drivers the "passing lane" privilege. First of all, unless these people are law enforcement officers, they have no right to impose that role upon themselves.

Secondly, there are instances when drivers are justified in exceeding the speed limit (such as when changing lanes or trying to pass another vehicle, perhaps a semi trailer you may not feel safe driving behind).

Thirdly, by blocking off traffic and not letting faster traffic pass, these law-abiding-obsessed citizens can sometimes, ironically, make the road more dangerous, not safer.

What these bad drivers fail to realize is that when too many cars congregate in the same area (because of people trying to play "traffic-speed controllers") the chances of an accident are greatly increased. By letting people pass, though, traffic is allowed to move more efficiently, usually reducing dangerous, overly-compacted congregation of vehicles.

It's commendable that some people think that the speed limits should never be violated but, if that's their philosophy, then they shouldn't be stubbornly driving in the passing lane, to the point of denying other drivers the right to pass them or creating traffic clog-ups that only make roads more dangerous for everyone.

5. Tailgating. One of the most dangerous things bad drivers do is tailgate other drivers. As a general rule, you should pull into the next slower lane so that tailgaters can pass you. Unfortunately, though, this can motivate overly-aggressive drivers to constantly bully other drivers out of the way simply by tailgating them--at least, this is one of the excuses some people give for never moving out of the way of tailgaters.

For the record, tailgating is never a good idea, either for the tailgater or the person being tailgated. You should always drive several car lengths behind the car in front of you. If the driver in front has to suddenly step on the brakes or if a tire blows out, that tailgating car will most probably not be able to avoid what would otherwise be an easily-avoided collision.

One exception to this rule, however, is when you are in the passing lane and some clueless driver in front of you isn't letting you pass. In that case, tailgating may be the only way to let that clueless driver know that he or she needs to move aside. Another approach may be to flash your lights until "clueless" gets the message.

For the record, this is not to say that tailgating is ever justified but, if a bad driver is ignorantly blocking the passing lane, then resorting to bad driving (tailgating) may become unavoidable--but, still, the burden of the blame for this unsafe situation should rest mainly with the lane blocker, not the tailgater.

6. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A high percentage of deaths involving car accidents come about as a result of people driving under the influence of mind stimulants, not all of which are "illegal." The point to make here is that a mind under the influence of strong chemicals is not as adept and capable as one that is sober, free-of-stimulants and in otherwise good health.

Good drivers, recognizing this, do not get in a car, if they have been drinking or using drugs. Once under the influence, however, people may not have the good judgment to make a good decision, but this should not be accepted as a legitimate excuse on its own.

People who deliberately abuse drugs or drink alcohol know full well, in advance, that their consumption of these things will hamper their judgment. They can either not abuse these substances or they can simply choose to abuse them in the privacy of their own home, thus reducing the chances of being tempted to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

7. Knowingly driving an unsafe vehicle. All vehicles require regular maintenance and mechanical upkeep. If people drive a vehicle that they have either not properly maintained or which they have not had inspected periodically, then they must take responsibility for any mishaps. Some people might think that a blown tire (resulting in an accident) isn't the fault of a car owner but that isn't necessarily the case, especially if the car owner was told by a mechanic that he was riding on bald tires (or if he notices such a thing himself).

Other things that can undermine the safety of a car include cracked windshields, worn brakes, dirty, in need of change fluids, low engine oil, etc. These and other circumstances can cause a car to malfunction, possibly leading to an accident.

Good drivers, if they can help it, don't get behind the wheel of a vehicle in bad mechanical shape; if they do, then they should hold themselves accountable for their negligence--so should the law, if an investigation reveals such a finding.

8. Multitasking while driving. People seem to think that it's okay to do all kinds of creative things while driving, often putting other people's lives at stake with their sheer stupidity and lack of common sense. For the record, it's not okay to do any of these things while you're driving:
•use a cell phone (unless you install a hand-free, speaker system, with pre-recorded touch dialing--under no circumstances engaging in any kind of text messaging),
•put on cosmetics,
•shave,
•check out reading material,
•watch a DVD,
•surf the Internet,
•change clothes,
•have sex,
•or engage in any of the other million things people attempt to do.

In fact, driving while multitasking should be a criminal felony in every state, especially if damage to property occurs or anyone gets hurt as a result of this kind of inexcusable dumbness.

A good driver pulls over, out of traffic, if he or she has a sudden need to do something important that may interfere with the safe operation of a moving, life-threatening vehicle.

9. Driving too slowly. Of all the poor driving choices people make on the roads every day, this mistake may be the one people will think is the least egregious. After all, isn't it a good thing to drive slowly, or, rather, isn't it better to drive slowly than to speed? Well, first of all, it is possible to drive too slowly--in fact, you can get a ticket for driving too slowly below the posted speed limit.

Nevertheless, on a highway with a posted speed limit of 65mph, there is no reason why anyone should be driving at, say, 35 to 40 mph (unless mechanical problems are the excuse). Contrary to what people who deliberately do this think, this isn't necessarily "driving safely" but, rather, unnecessarily creating a time-bomb situation.

These bad drivers (unless they have a legitimate reason for engaging in this activity) will either be rammed into by another car from behind (maybe by someone driving the speed limit and, therefore, not necessarily doing anything inappropriate or illegal) or they will cause an accident by forcing a whole bunch of cars to keep passing them.

As a general rule, you should speed up (not slow down) when passing another car, but this is difficult to do when the car in front is going too slow. You should also strive to drive at the posted speed limit (not below it).

If, however, you feel mentally or physically uncomfortable or unable to maneuver a car at high speeds (in accordance with posted speed limits), maybe it's time to reconsider whether you are qualified or well-suited to be driving a vehicle, especially on the highway.

This may sound harsh but not in light of the fact that some people continue to drive in spite of not being up to it (because of compromised faculties, impaired reflexes or poor eyesight/hearing); these situations are particularly heinous if car accidents are the result--especially those involving damage to property and injured/killed victims.

10. Driving around with brains turned off. There is no excuse for people unnecessarily exposing others to dangerous conditions by doing things that are downright foolhardy, childish, impractical, or downright stupid. Some examples include horsing or joking around, drag racing, running from the authorities (even though 99.9% of people who do so get caught) at high speeds, or socializing too much while driving.

Driving requires undivided, focused attention and, contrary to popular opinion, a good dosage of common sense and intelligence. Not meeting these requirements, however, can be the result of:
1.not getting enough sleep,
2.not having eaten for a while,
3.allowing yourself to be distracted by personal problems,
4.not taking the time to pre-plan a trip,
5.allowing people to drive who are simply not ready to drive on their own (such as teenagers who haven't had enough instruction or experience),
6.allowing yourself to drive despite not feeling well or suffering from medical problems that can easily affect driving ability (e.g., diabetes, epilepsy, visual problems, hearing loss, etc.),
7.and otherwise underestimating how much effort, mental alertness and good coordination is required to drive safely.

Conclusion

Should people receive much more instruction before being allowed to drive a vehicle? Should they be required, at the very least, to know the rules of the road intimately? It's not clear whether the problem is just a matter of lack of knowledge. If that were the case, better training and education would be enough to drastically reduce car accidents and massive losses of life and limb that accompany such.

What is more likely, though, is that people don't take driving a vehicle seriously enough. They also seem to not fear enough the consequences of poor or irresponsible driving. Perhaps punishing people more severely and publicly may help the situation but, again, it's not clear if this would change the statistics much.

Maybe the answer lies in improving technology. That would include smarter vehicles that can sense when things go wrong and, possibly, help drivers make better decisions, thus reducing road fatalities in the long run.

For your part, do what you can to not become a victim of bad drivers or, worse yet, be one of those bad drivers who shamelessly and irresponsibly inflicts harm on others by causing car accidents that could easily be prevented.

Preventing these accidents, furthermore, may be as simple as not letting yourself (or those over whom you exercise guidance and authority) make any of the easily-fixed or easily-avoided mistakes delineated herein.