Distracted Driving And Other Unsafe Driving Habits

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Identifying and rooting out bad driving habits

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What’s Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is anything that distracts us and takes our eyes and attention away from the road while operating a motor vehicle, to such a degree that it compromises our safety and that of our passengers. Let's look at some driver distractions while driving, as well as some other bad habits that often accompany distracted driving.

Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving Habits Cost Lives

Despite the fact that Americans drove 13.2% fewer miles during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic fatalities were worse compared to 2019:

  • About 36,680 people died in vehicle crashes - up 7.2%
  • The fatality rate is 1.37 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled - up from 1.11
  • About 23,395 vehicle occupants died - up 5%
  • About 6,205 pedestrians died - the same as 2019
  • About 5,015 motorcyclists died - up 9%
  • About 846 cyclists died - up 5%
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Bad Driving Habits You Should Avoid

NHTSA analyses show that the main drivers of fatalities in the United States were impaired driving, speeding, and not wearing their seatbelts. Distracted driving as a form of careless driving can now be added to the list, as it is becoming one of America's major health concerns. The CDC estimates that eight people die every day in the USA due to accidents caused by distracted drivers. These are the sad facts and you'll notice that many of the worst habits below have to do with being distracted behind the wheel.

Here are the worst and most dangerous bad driving habits to avoid while driving:

  • DUI. Driving under the influence was the foremost killer in America in 2020. The NHTSA estimates that at least 28 people die every day in America due to crashes caused by drunk driving. In 2019, 10,142 people lost their lives this way. Drugs also fall under this category, whether they be medicinal or recreational. There is a reason that so many pharmaceuticals warn not to operate heavy machinery while under their influence. While Marijuana may be legal in some places, driving while under its effects is not.
  • Distractions. This covers any type of distracted driving, including using your cell phone, taking photos, eating and drinking, using your radio or infotainment system, texting, taking selfies, looking away from the road while talking to passengers, checking social media, and even putting on makeup or other grooming activities. The NHTSA says cell phone use is the worst offender.
  • Speeding. A bad driving habit you should avoid is speeding. It is one of the major causes of fatalities, even though it often occurs in combination with others, such as drunk, distracted, or aggressive driving.
  • Not wearing seatbelts. Despite the CDC saying that wearing a seatbelt reduces fatalities and serious crash injuries by 50%, many people still don't wear them, in particular young people between 18 and 34. Here is some advice for young people to become better drivers.
  • Poor signaling, merging, and lane etiquette. Improper merging, not signaling while changing lanes, and failure to check blind spots are signs of a bad driver and result in many otherwise avoidable accidents. People driving vehicles with large blind spots, such as convertibles with the top up, should be especially careful.
  • Aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is a terrible driving habit and leads to your emotions taking over, poor choices, and taking risks, such as tailgating. Each of these have knock-on effects in other drivers, leading to road rage and more aggressive driving.
  • Drowsy driving. Driving while you are tired is similar to driving under the influence and can turn even a good driver into the worst driver. It impairs your awareness, decision-making, and reactions. Generally, young drivers from 16 to 25 and commercial drivers are most likely to drive while they are tired. Here are a few tips to help you stay awake while driving.
  • Driving in poor weather conditions. The Federal Highway Administration says that around one out of five crashes relates to bad weather conditions, with wet roads being the biggest contributor, followed by rain and sleet/snow.
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Conclusion

It's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security because you don't drive under the influence, wear your seatbelt, don't speed, or drive a safe, modern car such as a Volvo XC90 or Tesla Model S with all the latest safety and driver-assistance features. However, most people tend to be oblivious to the distractions that take their attention away from the road. Do what you can to reduce distractions by getting a hands-free kit for your phone first of all, especially because cell phone use is the biggest problem. Don't become that distracted driver that adds to our grisly statistics.

The responsibility to take stock of your bad habits while driving and actively do something about them starts with you. Electric cars have brought new dangers to light as pedestrians don't hear them coming, adding to the problem of distracted driving. Some experts believe driverless cars might put a stop to the problem of distracted drivers but the technology is still far from mature. Right now, knowing how to reduce dangerous driving habits is up to us - the people behind the wheel - in a bid to be good examples for a new generation of young drivers.

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FAQs

What is the NHTSA doing to stop distracted driving?

The NHTSA partners with the police to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving through public service announcements and campaigns, as well as on its Facebook and Twitter pages, where it shares tips and stories to involve the public. While states determine their own laws in terms of dealing with distracted driving, the NHTSA provides federal investments to address states' needs. One result is April being named Distracted Driving Awareness Month, running in parallel with the "U Drive. U Text. U Pay" campaign and crackdown.

What’s distracted driving contributing to our accident statistics?

In 2019, 3,142 people were killed by distracted drivers - and these were all avoidable deaths. Illustrating the menace of cell phone use while driving, the NHTSA says that by 2017, cell phone use already made up 14% of America's distracted driving accidents.

Is it illegal to cut someone off while driving?

Not necessarily, unless it causes a dangerous situation with cars having to brake hard or swerve to avoid you. In such a case, cutting someone off could be judged as being negligent driving in the first or second degree - an illegal act and subject to a fine. "Negligent" here refers to the driver's failure to exercise ordinary care, which means neglecting to do something a reasonably careful person would have done under the circumstances.

Is there federal legislation curbing cell phone use?

Each state has its own legislation but states have been moving to get rid of the use of cell phones while driving altogether. As of April 2020, 24 US states, several US territories, and the District of Columbia have passed laws that ban talking on a handheld cell phone while driving.

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