Learning to drive can be a pretty stressful time. Not only do you have to figure out how to handle a 4,000-pound machine around streets filled with hazards and obstacles, but there are also all those rules you have to remember about how to drive correctly. Of course, most experienced drivers forget these rules as time goes on, but most will be familiar to those who are currently preparing for their test.
“Mirror, signal, maneuver” are three words that learner drivers in the UK will be used to hearing all the time, along with the warning to “check your blind spot.” The UK driving test is notoriously difficult to pass, especially when compared with the much more relaxed US test, which probably goes a long way towards explaining why so many American drivers display so many of the dangerous driver habits on this list.
One of the most universally accepted driving rules for years was that your hands should be placed on the steering wheel at ten and two, but this old rule has now been discredited, mainly because it dates from the days before airbags had been invented and when power steering was science fiction. If you want to be a good, safe drive in a modern car, keep your hands at nine and three, or even eight and four – and make sure to avoid the dangerous driver habits on the list below…
20 Driving Over The Speed Limit
It goes without saying that driving too fast can be very dangerous. Roads all over the world have speed limits, which take into consideration the condition of the road, the number of carriageways, and whether or not you're driving through an area where there are likely to be a lot of pedestrians. Driving over the speed limit is bad for drivers if you get caught and can put your passengers and other motorists at risk if you're involved in a collision; however, it's pedestrians who really bear the brunt of the dangers of speeding drivers. There's a direct correlation between pedestrian fatalities and speed, and even a reduction of just a few miles per hour can make the difference between a fatal collision and a serious injury.
19 Driving Too Slowly
Perhaps more surprisingly, it can also be dangerous to drive too slowly in certain situations. Most countries don't have minimum speed limits, but you can be stopped and cited for inconsiderate driving in the UK or in the US for failing to stay right except to pass and if you're driving slow enough to hold up traffic in the middle or the fast lane of the highway. Really slow drivers cause other motorists to become frustrated, which leads to them taking risks in order to get past–either undertaking illegally or passing where it isn’t safe to do so on two-lane roads. In addition, cops are always going to be suspicious of slow drivers, as motorists who are under the influence can often slow right down in a misguided effort to look like they're safe drivers!
18 Driving Under The Influence
Speaking of driving under the influence, driving after having consumed too much alcohol is one of the most common dangerous driving habits, mainly because motorists fail to realize how much even a small amount of alcohol can affect their judgment.
Some countries ban drinking and driving completely, but most nations impose a limit so that you can have a very small amount to drink and still get behind the wheel of your car.
In the US, for example, the legal limit is 0.08 grams of alcohol for every 100 grams of blood–any more than that and you're over the limit and facing some potentially very stiff penalties. Driving while drunk affects your ability to judge speed, distance, and all kinds of other factors, making an accident almost inevitable.
17 Driving When Taking Prescription Meds
Similarly, driving under the influence of drugs can also have a major impact on your ability behind the wheel. When most people think of driving and drugs, they immediately think of illegal drugs and those often inadvertently hilarious cop videos of failed sobriety tests, but the fact is that there are many prescription drugs that can affect your driving. Too many people ignore the warnings that come with their medication not to drive or operate heavy machinery as if those rules don’t apply to them, but a drowsy driver or one who could be taken ill at the wheel at any moment is potentially just as dangerous as a driver who's blazing drunk! Designated drivers are just as important when you’re taking strong meds as they are on a night out.
16 Failure To Check Your Blind Spot
“Check your blind spot” may be a common instruction to learner drivers, but it's also one which many motorists seem to find too easy to forget as soon as they get their hands on their license. The addition of side mirrors and rear-view mirrors in cars over the years has made it easier to eliminate this problem–so long as drivers actually remember to use them–but blind spots still exist, especially when changing lanes or backing up. Modern technology, especially rear sensors and cameras to help you avoid collisions when reversing, has been developed, and this can help drivers, but there's no substitute for a good, old-fashioned glance over the shoulder to make sure the carriageway is clear before you signal to pull out.
15 Failure To Buckle Up
New York was the first state to make it a legal requirement for drivers to wear seatbelts in 1984. Since then, all the states have passed their own forms of legislation, although New Hampshire’s law only covers passengers under the age of 18.
In some states, adults are only required to wear seatbelts if they're traveling in the front seat, and in 15 states, you cannot actually be stopped for not wearing your seatbelt; you would have to be stopped by a police officer for another infraction first.
Wearing seatbelts has been definitively proven to reduce fatalities in vehicle collisions, regardless of the concerns some people have about them causing more injuries than they prevent, and buckling up every time you get behind the wheel is definitely a good habit to get into.
14 Road Rage
Road rage is on the rise. Sometimes, it may only take the form of yelling an expletive at the offending motorist or making a rude gesture, but even that can be dangerous, as your attention is distracted from other road users for a few seconds. In some cases, however, road rage is far more serious, with the aggrieved party driving aggressively in order to catch up with the driver who's offended them in order to intimidate or harass them. This aggressive driving puts all other road users at risk, and what does it actually achieve in the end, apart from a fleeting sense of satisfaction? In fact, road rage is thought to be either directly responsible for or a contributing factor in around one-third of road accidents.
13 Failing To Leave A Decent Gap Between Cars
Traveling in city traffic may not be as dangerous as traveling at high speed on the interstate, but there are still plenty of opportunities for motorists to show off their dangerous driving habits. I’m sure we've all been in the car, waiting patiently at a set of traffic lights or a junction, when the vehicle behind decides to crawl to a stop just a few inches behind our fender. While it may seem to be nothing more than a minor annoyance or a lack of good driving etiquette, failing to leave a decent gap between cars can cause accidents; if someone were to bump into the back of the car behind you, then he would have nowhere to go but straight into the trunk of your own vehicle…
Dangerous drivers don’t just pull up too close to the vehicle in front when traffic is stationary. Tailgating, the dangerous habit of driving too closely behind the motorist in front, is a major cause of accidents, especially on highways and interstates where cars are usually zipping along at speed. One of the most important parts of that strict UK driving test is learning about stopping distances—the distance it takes a vehicle to come to a complete stop at different speeds. Amazingly, it takes a car traveling at 70 mph over 300 feet to come to a complete stop, an impossible task for tailgaters who insist on driving barely a few feet behind the motorist in front. If that driver has to brake suddenly, tailgaters have nowhere to go but into the back of the car they’re following.
11 Viewing Yield And Stop Rules As Optional Extras
There are lots of situations on the road when drivers have to display a little patience and allow other road users to go first. Unfortunately, patience isn't something that many motorists are well known for, and plenty of drivers seem to view these yield and stop rules as optional extras. Failing to yield to pedestrians on a crosswalk, to oncoming traffic when you're making a left turn, to moving traffic after you've been parked up, or to vehicles on the through road when you approach a T-junction is a surefire way to end up in a bad collision. The same goes for “Stop” signs, which are apparently ignored by a surprisingly large number of motorists, despite the simplicity of their instruction.
10 Swerving Over A Couple Of Lanes
There are lots of other dangerous driving habits when it comes to driving on interstates, highways, and dual carriageways, not least when other motorists decide to swerve over a couple of lanes in order to gain just a few yards of advantage over other drivers. One of the main advantages of highways is that you can easily and, in theory, safely overtake slower vehicles in the inside lanes, provided that there's adequate space to do so and that you clearly indicate your intention to overtake or pull back into the slow lane. Swerving in and out of different lanes, often at the last minute and without using blinkers, is asking for trouble and leaves all the other drivers guessing as to what your next move might be!
9 Speeding Through The Red Light
Learning to drive can be a complicated process with lots to remember about the process of driving itself and all the different rules of the road. However, there are a few things that are so simple to understand, even a young child could grasp the concept. Traffic lights are one of those things; everyone knows green means go, amber means get ready, and red means stop. Yet, despite this simplicity, it does seem that there are some drivers who find this simple process a bit difficult to follow–at least it appears that way, judging by how many red lights they speed through! Not only does this put other drivers and pedestrians at risk, but cameras affixed to traffic lights are also likely to catch your indiscretion, leading to a significant fine…
8 Making Unlawful U-Turns
Believe it or not, road signs are there for the safety of drivers and other road users and not just to spoil our fun. If a sign tells you not to do something, chances are, there’s a very good reason not to perform that particular maneuver.
One of the most ignored road signs is “No U-Turn,” which is usually seen at junctions and sets of traffic lights, preventing drivers from turning and going back the way they came.
It may seem a pointless sign, put there just to annoy drivers, but there are dangers associated with making illegal U-turns; traffic can come from unexpected lanes, and even if you manage to avoid a collision, waiting for the cars to clear so that you can make a U-turn is bound to create traffic congestion.
7 Using The Car Horn To Retaliate Against Motorists
Car horns are an essential part of your vehicle, used to alert other drivers in the event of an imminent collision. It’s not supposed to be used to retaliate against motorists who have gotten in your way or to express your displeasure at being held up in a traffic jam. Surprisingly, leaning on the horn when you’re being held up in traffic isn’t going to magically clear the road in front of you. In fact, all you'll end up doing is making yourself more agitated and annoying all the other motorists around you. Some US states have laws against using horns except in an emergency, though they’re difficult to enforce and don’t seem to have made much difference to traffic jams in Los Angeles.
6 Driving Too Quickly In Parking Lots
Some drivers play nicely on the road but seem to think that anything goes when it comes to driving in parking lots. Driving too quickly in these usually tight spaces is just asking for trouble, while it's easy to forget that there are one-way systems and junctions that you have to observe the same as you would on a normal road. You'll often see drivers cutting across empty sections of parking lots, taking no consideration of the fact that other motorists won’t see them coming or even expect them to be there. It’s dangerous to treat parking lots as some sort of playground for your car when there are other people using it, too or to drive too quickly for the tightly packed lanes.
5 Failing To Use Turn Signals
Occasionally, you'll come across a very special kind of driver—the psychic driver. These are drivers who are able to communicate their intentions to other motorists simply by using the power of the mind. They don’t need to use such basic items as turn signals, as other drivers will obviously know that they intend to turn at the next junction or change lane. Sadly, not all drivers are able to receive these psychic messages, which is why the rest of us mere mortals use our blinkers to let other motorists know where we’re going. Failing to use those trusty turn signals is downright dangerous and leaves road users having to guess where you’re going next–and to take evasive action to avoid you if necessary!
4 Having A Permanently Blinking Indicator Light
If failing to use your blinkers when you’re overtaking or making a turn is really dangerous, then it can also be more than annoying when drivers accidentally leave their turn signals on. While it may not be quite as dangerous as failing to signal altogether, a permanently blinking indicator light does leave other motorists confused and puzzled, as they'll quite reasonably be expecting you to make the turn or perform the maneuver you're indicating for!
Too many motorists have gotten into the very bad habit of making a turn or overtaking and then just leaving their blinkers to turn off by themselves.
However, on interstates or in busy city center traffic, other road users can very easily end up getting the wrong signal–pun intended…
3 Failure To Properly Maintain Your Vehicle
Failure to properly maintain your vehicle can not only leave you high and dry when your car eventually breaks down but can also become a hazard to yourself and other road users. There are strict rules regarding vehicle maintenance, and cops can pull you over if they think that your car might be too dangerous to be on the road or if it could pose a risk to other road users. Only 18 states in the US require regular vehicle inspections to ensure that everything is in order, whereas in the UK, every vehicle has to pass an annual test called an MOT. Police will frequently pull over UK drivers if they have a broken headlight, bald tires, or any other defect that could cause an accident.
2 Speeding In Icy, Foggy, And Wet Conditions
Too many motorists don’t pay any attention to the conditions outside when they get behind the wheel, continuing to drive as normal even when the road surface is icy or wet or when it's windy or foggy. Rain, snow, and ice on the road can all make it more difficult to drive, and most sensible drivers slow down when conditions are challenging to enable them to better control their vehicles. Fog can decrease your visibility to just a few feet, which means that drivers cannot possibly see what’s coming–yet many motorists insist on maintaining their usual speed. You should always drive for the conditions, regardless of how confident you feel behind the wheel, as bad weather can take even the most experienced driver by surprise.
1 Using The Mobile Phone While Driving
Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers, and these days, there are lots of reasons for motorists to get distracted while behind the wheel. Cellphones are the main culprit, but there have also been cases where drivers have been spotted applying their makeup, watching TV, reading books, and even eating bowls of cereal. In 2013, cellphone use was the cause of over 3,000 deaths on US roads, with teen drivers more likely than most to try texting and driving. It's estimated that 11 teenagers die every day as a result of using their cellphones while behind the wheel. Amazingly, only 15 states have banned the use of hand-held phones by all drivers, with a handful more banning their use by newly qualified motorists. The only way to prevent these deaths is to ban cellphone use by drivers completely.