While traffic accidents and fatalities have been on the rise, driving under the influence is not the main cause of collisions. Nearly 43,000 people died in traffic accidents in 2021, but only 20% of those were alcohol-related, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. So, you can see that a large proportion of serious crashes are the result of common driving mistakes drivers make every day.
Many drivers just want to get where they’re going as comfortably and as efficiently as possible. But, nothing can ruin your day quite like getting a speeding ticket or causing a crash. So how can you minimize these dangerous and costly disruptions? Well, beyond the obvious, like remembering to stop at STOP signs and yield to emergency vehicles, the best way to avoid costly driving errors is to pay more attention to how you’re driving.
The 10 Most Common Driving Mistakes
Most people already know that it’s a mistake to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs or to disregard a STOP sign. But the fact that other factors on this list contribute to so many collisions may be more surprising, particularly for drivers who haven’t taken one of our excellent courses in driver's education! The factors listed below are ranked in order of total crashes. Do you know when you’re making these driving mistakes?
1. Failure to Control Speed
This all-encompassing error includes everything from driving too fast down a hill or through a curve to going too fast in the rain or fog — even if your speed happens to be below the speed limit! Driving at a speed that’s unsafe for current road, weather, and lighting conditions can make it impossible for you to stop safely or steer clear of a hazard. You may even completely lose control of your car!
2. Driver Inattention
There are three things you need when you drive: your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, and your mind on the drive. A distracted driver lacks some or all of these essentials. You may think it’s safe to divide your attention between the driving task and other activities, but you’re wrong. Emergencies can and do happen without warning, and when they do, you need to be ready to respond immediately, thoughtfully, and precisely. You can’t do that if you’re reading a text or holding a cheeseburger in one hand.
3. Failure to Drive in a Single Lane
Drifting out of your lane is a surefire way to get honked at or, if you’re not lucky, cause a collision. Whether it’s due to inattention to their car’s position, confusion about road markings, or unskilled maneuvering while turning or changing lanes, many drivers accidentally and unexpectedly cross into an adjacent lane. Except when safely executing a lane change, always strive to stay entirely within your lane.
4. Unsafe Lane Changes
A safe lane change involves several critically important steps: activating the appropriate turn signal, checking your mirrors and blind spots for other vehicles, finding an acceptable gap in traffic, adjusting your speed, and smoothly steering into the lane. Always remember to look carefully for motorcycles, as they can easily be hidden in your blind spot and their riders are especially vulnerable in a collision.
5. Following Too Closely
Many people follow other vehicles too closely, a behavior known as tailgating, without knowing it. At 30 mph, a safe following distance is about five car lengths (80 feet), and at 65 mph, you should maintain at least 18 car lengths (285 feet) in front of you. The best way to establish a safe following distance is to wait until the car you’re following passes a fixed point on the road ahead, then start counting to three; if you pass the same point before you reach three, you’re following too closely! Remember to increase your following distance in bad weather, at night, or when driving behind a motorcycle or large truck.
6. Driving Too Slowly
It’s not an obvious fact, but even driving too slow can be dangerous and illegal. When you drive below the speed limit and slower than the traffic around you, you force other drivers to either slow down or pass you, and the more often cars pass each other, the more likely they are to collide. Don’t disrupt the flow of traffic — it just isn’t safe.
7. Faulty Evasive Action
This driving mistake highlights the importance of being attentive at all times. A large object falls off of a truck and into your path — what are you going to do? Are both your hands on the steering wheel? Did you see the hazard with enough time to evade it properly? Do you know where there’s an open space that you can escape to? When the time comes to evade a hazard, you need to be prepared. Learning defensive driving is one of the best ways to be safer behind the wheel.
8. Driving While Tired
It can be difficult to get enough sleep, but that’s no excuse for driving while tired. When you’re in control of a motor vehicle, just keeping your eyes open isn’t good enough. You need to be alert, attentive, able to think clearly, and able to exercise fine control over your muscles at all times. Fatigue deprives you of these skills.
9. Driving Too Fast (Speeding)
Speed limits are designed to keep drivers safe, and even in perfect conditions, it’s dangerous to exceed them. Speeding disrupts traffic flow, creates more opportunities for collisions with vehicles being passed, and results in exponentially more severe impacts in the event of a crash. Moreover, when you speed, you’ll have less control over your vehicle and less time to react. Never drive over the speed limit.
10. Cyclist Failing to Yield to a Motor Vehicle
On the road, you must always yield to avoid a collision, no matter what form of transportation you’re using. Remember that bicyclists have all the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. Bicyclists are particularly vulnerable in collisions with motor vehicles, so whether you’re on a bike or in a car, make sure to follow the rules of right-of-way at all times.
Avoid Driving Mistakes With Online Traffic School
Did any of these driving mistakes remind you of your own driving behavior? The best time to improve your habits is right now! You’ll save money on fines and tickets and avoid angering other drivers. Most importantly, you'll learn to keep yourself and others safe.
Have you gotten a ticket or made a driving mistake? Learn to be a better and safer driver with online traffic school.