When it comes down to it, most people think they're good drivers. But are they, really? With the countless hours the average commuter spends behind the wheel, it's easy for bad habits to slowly sink in. These habits can become so second-nature that we're no longer aware of them. And, unfortunately, they're often contributing factors in devastating accidents.
So how do you objectively evaluate your own driving? Here are some warning signs that you may need to break some bad habits:
- Other drivers frequently honk at you: Sure, some drivers are rude and will honk at you for no good reason. But if you regularly find yourself a target, it just might be you, not them. Perhaps you have a tendency to cut people off or not let them in. Or maybe you aren't paying attention at intersections when the light changes. Look for any patterns that may point to a bad habit, and don't assume you're in the right.
- You routinely get frustrated with traffic: On the flip side, if you find yourself frequently honking or becoming frustrated with other vehicles, you may just need to back off. Traffic is annoying for everyone at times, especially during rush hour (and road construction season) in the Twin Cities. But if your stress levels are constantly elevated when you're behind the wheel, you may end up making rash decisions that lead to unsafe driving. Take some deep breaths when frustrations arise and try to keep the situation in perspective.
- You're always in a hurry: Does it seem like traffic is always moving too slow? Are you continually looking for ways to weave in and out of lanes? Do you hug the taillights of other vehicles until they move over and let you pass? If you're always in a rush, you're more likely to sacrifice safety for speed. Getting to your destinations a few minutes early simply isn't worth the risk.
- You give into distraction: Many people overestimate their ability to stay focused while multitasking. They think they can quickly glance at a text while remaining in command of their surroundings. In reality, any momentarydistraction - whether visual, tactile or mental - endangers your life and the lives of others on the road. Get into the habit of putting your cellphone away when you're driving.
- You drive drowsy: We all know about the dangers of drunk driving, but drowsy driving can be just as deadly. If you frequently find yourself struggling to stay awake behind the wheel, it's time to make a change. Maybe you need to get more sleep at night. On road trips, perhaps you need to take more breaks or pull over for the night. If you work the graveyard shift, consider taking the bus, carpooling or finding other strategies to avoid a dangerous commute.
None of us are perfect drivers. But with a little effort, we can all strive to build safer habits for ourselves and others on the road.