According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), more than 90% of crashes result from human error, but almost three-quarters of drivers think their skills are above average. While driving safety often focuses on what not to do — like using a cellphone while driving— above-average drivers also cultivate positive, safe driving habits that we should all be practicing on the road.
Safe driving habits to practice
Here is a list of good driving habits that you can start today.
1. Have a plan
Good drivers plan every step of the journey. Leaving on time — or better yet, early — means you’re not in a hurry and can help reduce your own aggressive driving behaviors. Planning ahead occurs during the drive, too. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), scanning the road in all directions — and up to a quarter-mile ahead — is a good driving habit that can identify hazards before they become a problem and allow you to decide how to react.
2. Separate risks
It’s easier to deal with obstacles, dangerous drivers, or other risks if you handle them one at a time. According to Kidshealth.org, separating risks is the safe driving practice of moderating your speed, position on the road, and other factors so that you can respond to difficulties calmly, one by one.
3. Remember other road users
Lots of vehicles besides cars share the road, and many of them are harder to see and more vulnerable in a crash. Keep an eye out for motorcycles, electric scooters, and alternative forms of transport like non-powered vehicles such as bicycles that also have a right to the road. Active awareness of all road users is a safe driving practice that can save lives. Learn more about the rules of the road for bicycles.
4. Hands at 8 and 4
Most people have heard the advice to keep their hands at 10 and 2 as if the steering wheel were a clock face — just above the midway point on the steering wheel — but that’s no longer recommended. While it’s important to keep both hands on the wheel, experts at the NHTSA say the safer driving practice is to keep your hands at 8 and 4 – just below the midline of the steering wheel. Also, avoid crossing your arms in front of the steering wheel to minimize injuries in a crash where the airbag deploys.
5. Be courteous
Good driving habits make driving a cooperative activity, not a competitive one. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends being patient and advises drivers not to take things personally on the road. Letting others change lanes, being polite, and not responding when other drivers fail to do the same can help prevent road rage and make the road safer and more pleasant for everyone.
Other considerations for safe driving practices
As we gain more driving experience, many things become second nature. That can be a good thing. Our attention is better spent thinking about traffic and road conditions than how to physically operate the car. However, it can also lead to bad driving habits and inattention. Try to remember what it was like when you were a beginner and the common rules of the road. Odds are you took fewer risks and paid more attention to the act of driving because it was new.