We all have them. Whether it’s texting while driving, speeding, ignoring stop signs or failing to use turn signals, everyone has developed bad driving habits. The problem is how to get rid of them.
While some of these may seem inconsequential, even the smallest lapses in concentration and judgement while driving can have fatal results. In 2021, 3,522 people in the U.S. were killed in distracted driving incidents, according to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The newly released AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index revealed that more than half of the 2,499 online survey respondents engaged in some form of risky behavior behind the wheel in 2022. This included 22.7% who reported speeding; 17.3% who were engaged in aggressive and distracted driving and 15% who engaged in all distracted driving behaviors. Another 1.3% admitted to impaired driving and 2.4% to all of the risky driving behaviors.
The best way to avoid bad driving habits, of course, is not to start them. Arnie Kinsler, a AAA Driving School behind-the-wheel instructor in Danbury, Conn., said he has noticed an increase in bad driving habits over the past few years and does his best to impress upon his young students the importance of following all the rules of the road.
“People act as though speed limits and stop signs are suggestions,” Kinsler said. “I’ve seen people eating full meals while driving 65 miles per hour.” He tells his students, most of whom are new drivers between 16 and 22 years old, to ignore drivers who honk when they come to a complete stop at a stop sign and reminds them that driving the speed limit keeps everyone safer.
For more seasoned drivers, who may be getting a little lax when it comes to traffic rules, Kinsler urges them to remain vigilant and not slip into dangerous habits, like accelerating at a yellow light. Drivers who want to refresh their skills can sign up for AAA’s Defensive Driving Course.
“One of the best ways to instill good driving habits is to explain why a regulation is important, and what can happen if you don’t follow it,” said Gary Driscoll, a AAA behind-the-wheel driving instructor in Cranston, R.I., and former police officer. “I stress situational awareness when driving.” Failure to pay attention even for a second could result in a life-or-death situation.
This is one of the most common bad driving habits, with more than half of drivers in the AAA survey admitting to it. Texting, talking on the phone, even talking to passengers, eating or listening to music are all distractions that could take your eyes of the road or cause you to lose focus.
One of the newest, and most dangerous, trends is shooting video while driving, especially with younger drivers trying to capture clips for social media. This takes your concentration almost completely off the road and your hands off the wheel. If you want to shoot a video from your car, do it while parked in a parking lot.
How to fix: Put your phone on do not disturb and out of reach, said Barbara Ward, a longtime traffic safety specialist with AAA Northeast. Texting while driving is one of the top bad habits to break. It raises the possibility of a crash because it creates a “triple threat,” according to Ward. “It takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off driving more than any other potentially distracting activity.”
Impaired driving includes getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or using marijuana. Driving while under the influence not only has serious legal repercussions, but puts the driver, passengers and everyone on the road in danger.
How to fix: Don’t do it. Designate a sober driver ahead of time or call a taxi or ride-sharing service.
Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as impaired driving, yet 18% of respondents reported engaging in that behavior in the past 30 days.
How to Fix: AAA recommends stopping for a break every two hours or 100 miles while you are driving. If you start to nod off, have trouble keeping your eyes open or can’t recall the last few miles driven, pull over and let someone else take the wheel.
While many drivers do not consider speeding risky behavior, speeding is a factor in one-third of vehicle fatalities. “Speeding gives you less time to react and increases the distance you need to stop,” Ward said.
How to Fix: Slow down. “Always know the posted speed limit and use cruise control, if possible, to keep the vehicle at a safe and reasonable speed,” added Ward.
The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as a combination of moving traffic offenses that can endanger other people or property, often sparked by road rage. This includes one of the most infuriating bad driving habits, tailgating.
How to Fix: Avoid being a tailgater by staying calm if someone ahead of you is driving more slowly and keep a lighter foot on the gas pedal. If someone is tailgating you, continue driving the speed limit, remain calm and obey traffic signals.
More tips for dealing with an aggressive driver:
- Avoid eye contact with angry drivers.
- Don’t respond to aggression with aggression.
- If you feel you are at risk, drive to a public place such as a police station, hospital or fire station.
- When you park, allow room so you can pull out safely if someone approaches you aggressively.
- Use your horn to attract attention but remain in your locked vehicle.
- If you feel threatened, call 911.
More Bad Driving Habits
- Rolling through stop signs or not knowing when to stop for a school bus.
- Not slowing down and moving over for emergency vehicles – or any vehicle stopped at the roadside.
- Failing to wear a seat belt or use turn signals.
And there may be a few bad driving habits you might not even know you have, based on this story about bizarre state driving laws.
Learn more about at AAA’s driver training programs.
What bad driving habit drives you crazy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.