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Driving Dangerously: Are You Guilty?

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Driving Dangerously: Are You Guilty?

HCA image for driving safety You’re speeding home from work so you won’t be late for dinner with your friend. You reach for your cell phone and give your friend a call to say you are running a couple of minutes late. You pass a police car and remember that one of your brake lights is out. Oh well, you’ll get it fixed tomorrow.

In one short drive, you’ve made three of the ten most common driving mistakes. Even if you know better than to drink and drive or drive without wearing a seat belt, chances are you still have some bad driving habits. In fact, a recent survey commissioned by Drive For Life: The National Safe Driving Test and Initiative—a group that promotes driver education—reported that 91% of licensed drivers admit to bad driving habits. These habits, ranging from speeding to being distracted by cell phones, are responsible for a majority of the six million auto accidents that occur each year in the United States. What are the most common mistakes we make on the road? How can we avoid them?

Top Ten Mistakes

According to Drive for Life, the top ten bad driving habits Americans have are:

  1. Failing to pay attention (“zoning out”)
  2. Driving while drowsy
  3. Becoming distracted inside the car by your radio, cell phone, children, among others
  4. Failing to adjust to adverse weather conditions
  5. Driving aggressively (tailgating, running red lights and stop signs)
  6. Making assumptions about other driver’s intentions
  7. Speeding
  8. Changing lanes without checking blind spots and mirrors
  9. Driving while upset
  10. Ignoring essential auto maintenance (such as brake lights and bald tires)

The Drive for Life survey interviewed 1,100 licensed drivers, age 16 and older, about their driving habits. The survey found that people between the ages of 26 and 44 admitted to the most dangerous driving habits. The most common mistakes these drivers make are ignoring auto maintenance, driving through red or yellow lights, using a cell phone while driving, reading while driving, and eating while driving.

Younger and older people make their fair share of driving mistakes, too. Drivers under 26 were the most likely to speed and neglect to signal before turning. Even though seniors tend to drive more carefully than younger people, 57% admitted to speeding, and 39% said they eat while driving.

How You Can Drive More Safely

Do you have bad driving habits? If so, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has some tips on how to sharpen your driving skills and make you and those around you safer on the road:

  • Plan ahead and allow yourself some extra time to get where you are going. This way, you will be more likely to concentrate on your driving and less likely to drive aggressively.
  • Be relaxed when you are behind the wheel. Listen to your favorite relaxing music, which can calm your nerves and keep you from getting frustrated when you are driving.
  • Drive the posted speed limit. If you tend to drive a few miles above the speed limit, don’t. The road is a safer place when everyone is driving at the same speed.
  • Find alternate routes to your destination. Even if it is a little bit out of the way, an alternate route may be less congested and safer.
  • Take advantage of public transportation. You can avoid having to navigate through traffic if you let someone else do the driving.
  • Don’t rush to get there on time. Realize that you will be late every once in a while and avoid driving aggressively.

If you find yourself on the same road as an aggressive driver, the NHTSA suggests that you do the following:

  • Get out of the way. When you see a dangerous driver on the road, the most important thing you can do is get out of their way.
  • Put your pride aside. Don’t challenge an aggressive driver by speeding up and putting yourself in danger.
  • Avoid eye contact. Eye contact with aggressive drivers may enrage them.
  • Ignore gestures and refuse to return them.
  • If someone on the road is seriously driving aggressively, call the police. Just don’t forget to pull off the road to a safe place to use your cell phone.

By controlling your own bad driving habits and avoiding dangerous drivers, you can help make the road a safer place to drive.


Drive for Life: The National Safe Driving Test and Initiative

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Drive for Life: The National Safe Driving Test and Initiative website. Available at: http://www.safedrivingtest.com/site.htm . Accessed on August 7, 2003.

National Center for Statistics and Analysis website. Available at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ . Accessed on August 11, 2003.

Last reviewed July 2007 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.