Driving Safety Tips: Five Common Driving Mistakes to Avoid

The thrill and challenge of driving come from involvement. Driving is all about control, and whether you reach your destination safely is mostly up to you.

A 2015 NHTSA study suggests that human error accounts for 94 percent of car crashes. While this data presents a powerful argument for the development of self-driving technologies, it also highlights the importance of the decisions you make on the road.

Automotive safety technologies alone won’t make our roads safer. That’s because safety begins with identifying and correcting dangerous driving mistakes. Here are five of the most common ones.

Disregarding Speed Limit

Speed limits are vital because they help regulate how fast cars operate on specific roads. They also provide a more uniform traffic flow and create a delicate balance between travel time and safety.

Speed limits are legislated per state for specific road types — and for a good reason. It adjusts based on key parameters and creates a safe environment for all, including motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

For example, densely-populated areas such as neighborhoods, school zones, and accident-prone areas tend to have lower speed limits. Serpentine roads also impose low-speed limits because of the inherent risk of winding roads and vehicle limitations. Going too fast on tight curves is an easy way to lose control of your vehicle.

Similarly, driving too slow on the highway means the traffic around you moves faster, forcing other cars to overtake you or slow down. The more times cars pass each other, the greater the risk of a collision, especially when coupled with other poor driving habits such as improper turn signal use, tailgating, and abrupt braking.

Improper Turn Signal Use

Turn signals are a key function of your vehicle because they show other drivers the direction you intend to go. Predictability is a key component of road safety because it gives other drivers ample time to adjust to your change of direction.

Sudden turns and lane changes leave little room for a calculated reaction and will often cause other drivers to overreact. Always use your turn signals before changing direction. Also, it’s best to give other drivers a fair warning about the direction you plan to take. Misusing a turn signal is considered a form of negligence, which means you can be held liable for causing a car accident.

Improper turn signal use includes:

  • Not using the turn signal at all
  • Turning in the direction contrary to the signal used
  • Changing lanes without using the proper signal


Tailgating happens when two cars traveling in the same lane are too close to each other. If your front bumper is too close to the rear bumper of the car ahead, you may not have the stopping distance to effectively avoid a collision if the car in front brakes hard.

Tailgating is dangerous because it leaves little room (both literal and temporal) for reaction. It is especially dangerous on the highway, where speed exponentially increases the force of impact of a collision, and the number of vehicles concurrently traveling the same area increases the risk of a pileup.

A key thing to remember is that vehicle weight significantly influences braking distance, with heavier vehicles like commercial trucks needing a greater gap. Road conditions also play a vital role in determining stopping distance. For instance, wet roads double the gap needed to stop, while icy roads will require at least ten times the normal stopping distance.

We get that computing stopping distance while on the road is just as challenging as it is dangerous. A simple way to know if you’re driving too close to the car ahead is to pick a stationary object ahead, such as a tree or road sign. As soon as the vehicle ahead passes the object, say, “Only a fool breaks the two-second rule.” If you pass the object before you finish your sentence, you’re likely too close and need a greater gap.

While modern cars come with safety features like adaptive cruise control, it’s still important to understand the dangers of tailgating should your systems fail to make the necessary adjustments. These safety habits are applicable even on minor roads.

Sudden Braking or Brake-checking

Sudden braking at high speed is the perfect recipe for a rear-end collision. That’s because slamming on the brakes in moving traffic leaves little reaction time for the cars behind you.

That said, things aren’t any better at lower speeds. At low speeds, the suddenness of the forces at play can cause considerable damage and put drivers at risk for serious injury or death. Brake-checking is illegal in most jurisdictions and can lead to severe legal penalties, hefty fines, and even jail time.

Use your brakes reasonably by applying them gradually. Emergencies are the only time hard braking is acceptable, and even then, the dangers are present.

Driving While Distracted or Fatigued

Distracted driving is among the leading causes of car crashes because it impedes our ability to detect and react to danger.

Distracted driving leaves little room for a calculated reaction, and survival hangs by split seconds. The reason is simple — our brain loses valuable seconds as it switches its focus between tasks. A fatigued person won’t fare any better, with a poor perception and sluggish reaction.

Dedicate your full attention to driving. Also, put away your phone, finish eating or drinking, and set up your music playlist before leaving. Plan your trip and get enough rest between long driving sessions.

Caliber Cares

The road can be a dangerous place. So we all need to do our part to make our roads safer for everyone. It’s why efforts such as Distracted Driving Awareness Month and National Teen Driver Safety Week exist.

A sustained information campaign is vital to changing driver behavior. We can make our roads safer by identifying dangerous practices while helping drivers develop safe driving habits. Driving is primarily about control, and like many things in life, whether we make it safely to our destination is up to the habits we build and the decisions we make.

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