When you think of unsafe driving practices, cell phones and texting probably comes to mind. Or driving in the rain without your headlights on. (Unlike Maryland, not all states require drivers to activate their headlights when they activate their windshield wipers.)
You may follow the headlight law and the texting while driving ban, but there may be other potentially dangerous habits that you rarely think much about. Are you guilty of any of these not-so-safe behaviors when you are behind the wheel?
1. Improper turning: In making a right-hand turn, check to make sure your blind spot is clear of pedestrians or vehicles and get into position to turn right. In making a left-hand turn, keep your wheels pointed straight ahead while waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. If your wheels are already turned to the left while you are stopped, you could be pushed into traffic if a driver rear ends you. And always signal your turns!
2. Failure to yield the right of way: It goes without saying that you should not run a red light or a stop sign. Even if you have the right of way, the other driver may be trying to beat the light. Look both ways to ensure an intersection is clear before you enter it. And avoid rolling stops — this is one of the most common causes of pedestrian and bicycle accidents. Come to a full stop and look both ways.
3. Driving left of center: Scan ahead for an obstruction in the roadway or for animals. Stay behind cyclists or pedestrians until oncoming traffic clears and you can edge out and pass them safely. On tight curves, it’s tempting to take the angle and cheat over the center line, but don’t do it, especially on a blind curve.
4. Following too closely: Three factors affect how closely you should follow the vehicle ahead of you: perception, reaction and braking distances. In other words, estimate how long it will take to get your vehicle under control if you have to make a sudden stop.
5. Improper passing: You should look ahead, look back, signal left and check blind spots before moving into the passing lane. Make sure that it is legal to pass (dotted line vs. solid line).
6. Improper speed: Know the speed limit where you are driving and adhere to it. Always reduce your speed in school or work zones.
In Maryland, texting or using a hand-held cell phone while driving is prohibited, but these are just two of the unsafe driving practices you should remember if you want to avoid accidents. With summer coming on and many vacationers on the road, safe driving should be top of mind for everyone.
And no matter how conscientious you are, there are a lot of bad drivers and distracted drivers on the road. Practice defensive driving and be careful out there.