8 Dangerous Mistakes Even Safe Drivers Make

There are bad drivers, and there are good drivers. There are reckless drivers, and safe drivers. Most of us, hopefully, fall into the latter category. But how many of us are making dangerous mistakes even though we think we're actually safe drivers?

Take a look through some of the findings at the National Safety Council's Distracted Driving Research Studies, and you might be surprised that the answer is: many of us. But are you one of them? As you look through the following list, how many of these eight dangerous mistakes are you making?

1. Hitting the Gas on Green

Wait a minute; green means go, right? Well of course, but red also means stop, and that doesn't seem to make much of a difference for some very bad drivers out there. Whether they aren't paying attention, drunk, or even evading the police, thousands of drivers run red lights every year. If they happen to be very late, and you hit the gas the second the light turns green, you could get into a major accident. It's not your fault, but that doesn't make the consequences any less severe. So, when the light turns green, look left and right, and make sure the path is clear before you pull away. Blindly accelerating could be dangerous, or even deadly.

2. Driving Drowsy

I was talking to my father-in-law once about some of the long road trips he used to make, and he said he would often pull his nose or arm hair out when he was getting drowsy, and the sting would wake him up. We all laughed, but drowsy driving is no laughing matter.

In a 2005 study, over 103 million U.S. drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel. Fatigued driving results in around 100,000 police-reported accidents every year, with over 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and over $12.5 billion in losses. This is completely unacceptable. If you feel yourself getting sleepy while driving, you must pull your car over when it is safe to do so, and rest. Take a nap, drink something with caffeine, or even go for a walk. You need to be completely alert before continuing your journey.

3. Poor Mirror Positioning

Look in your side mirrors — what do you see? Most likely, you'll see some of your car. This is not necessary, and means you are missing some of the road; which can lead to accidents. The idea of side mirrors is obviously not to check to see if your car is still there, but to look behind you without having to take your eyes of the road for longer than necessary. By adjusting your wing mirrors so that your car is no longer visible, you can eliminate the blind spot. You also want to make sure your rear view mirror is angled correctly for you. If you share a car with someone else, this often goes out of alignment. Check it every time you drive.

4. Driving Too Slow in the Left Lane

There is a speed limit. There is also a minimum speed limit on some roads. You may think that by hitting that limit, say 55, you are being safe and have no reason to worry. But by maintaining the bare minimum speed in the left lane, you are forcing other drivers who want to go the maximum allowed speed to pass you. Any time you force people to change lanes, you are making the roads less safe, and can actually contribute to road rage if you create backed-up traffic. By all means go the safe speed you want to go, but do it in the far right lane. Or, if you see someone coming up fast in your mirror, prepare to move over safely and let them pass.

5. Poor Signaling Habits

Your indicators are there to tell other drivers what your intentions are. When you use them incorrectly, or forgetfully, you are being a poor communicator. This can lead to accidents, especially if you plan to keep going straight at a turn, and the other driver pulls out. You should be using your turn signal at least 100 feet before changing lanes or turning (it can be 200 feet in some states). Once you have completed the turn, you must turn off the signal. Loud music or forgetfulness can be at fault for signals that stay on longer than necessary, and this can lead to accidents when other drivers wrongly assume your intentions.

6. Driving With Loose Objects in the Car

Your car is not a home for books, toys, gadgets, and other devices. Yet if you take a look in your car, how many of these items are just strewn around in there? During the course of everyday driving, it's no big deal. But if you are involved in a crash, even at lower speeds, these items can become projectiles that can cause injury, or even death. You should make sure anything unnecessary for the journey is stored securely in the trunk. Pets need to be harnessed, and cell phones should be in a secured holder.

7. Talking on the Phone

You may think that you are perfectly capable of talking and driving at the same time, but you are being distracted. Some people say it's the same as listening to music, but it's not. Music is a passive experience, but a conversation is active, and the person on the other end of the phone has no idea of your surroundings. Even if you are using a hands-free set, you are not reducing the risks of an accident. Your car is there to get you from A to B. It is not a phone booth. If you must make a call, you should safely pull over and do so. Yes, it adds time to your journey, but if we all did this we'd make the roads much safer. And of course, texting is akin to drunk driving; don't even go there.

8. Speeding up Through Yellow Lights

It seems that drivers have two different interpretations of the yellow light. Some think it means "prepare to stop" and others think it means "floor it, a red light is coming." If you are close to a traffic signal, and the light changes from green to yellow, then you are fine to keep going. But if you see the light change and have to hit the gas to scrape through it, you are being a dangerous driver. All it takes is for another driver to be a little premature on their green light (see point #1), and you have a major accident. You could also hit a pedestrian.

Which of these do you do on a regular basis? Do you know any other dangerous moves that even your "safest" friends or relatives make? Let us know.

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