We all have bad habits, like eating junk food, not exercising, listening to too much talk radio or thinking time spent with social media is doing something constructive.
But few of us resolve to be better drivers, to change our behavior so that driving becomes something to look forward to, not dread. After all, bad habits cost motorists millions of dollars in hospital costs, legal fees and fines. For some, it even costs them their life.
But by making a few easy resolutions, you can end up on the road to happiness, rather than the Highway to Hell. Here’s how.
Using your turn signal
You remember that stalk on the left side of the steering column? You might not be familiar with it. Most motorists signal their intentions with all the openness of Vladimir Putin. The Society of Automotive Engineers reported in 2019 that 2 million accidents occur annually because drivers fail to signal. Now would be a good time to resolve to use your turn signals, avoiding a costly date with negligence.
Move out of the left lane so others can pass
If you are not law enforcement, do not try to enforce a speed limit by driving slowly in the left lane. Be considerate and follow the law: stay to the right unless you’re trying to pass. Thirty-eight states fine drivers, some as much as $1,000, for loitering in the left lane, while 22 classify it as a misdemeanor. So move the heck over. It’s not just a matter of safety or saving money, it also helps prevent driver rage.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all need our space. That’s particularly true when driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end collisions account for roughly 23% of all motor vehicle crashes, and causing 2,000 deaths and 950,000 injuries annually. Resolve to do better. Leave a safe following distance, or use automated cruise control, if possible, to maintain a set distance.
Put away your cellular phone
Eight people die every day due to distracted drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. It seems certain that they all thought that text or email was important. But was it worth their life? Taking your eyes off the road for five seconds at 55 mph is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Be smart, give your smartphone a time out when driving in 2021. That text or email can wait, your safety cannot.
Stop on red
Although society has become too impatient to wait for anything, COVID-19 is helping many to relearn that trait. Now, we wait for the Amazon delivery. We wait for take-out food. We wait until one of our co-workers learns how to use Zoom properly. If you haven’t learned patience, you might join the 939 red-light runners who never reached their last appointment in 2017, according to NHTSA. Stop on red, and you’ll be here in 2022.
Take it slower. Look, it’s fun to drive fast. But it also takes prodigious skill, considerable concentration, and the appropriate setting – like a racetrack or closed road course. Speeding down a pokey parkway can kill you. In 2018, it killed 9,378 drivers who considered themselves mostly a Moss, practically a Petty, or virtually a Vettel. Speed limits exist for a reason; please resolve to heed them in 2021.
Every 50 minutes, someone dies from a drunk-driving crash in the United States. Resolve to use Uber or Lyft to get home after a night on the town; you can always pick your car up in the morning when you’re sober. No night out is worth being charged with anything from a misdemeanor to a felony offense, in addition to having your driver’s license revoked, landing in jail and amassing fines and legal fees of as much as $10,000 — or worse.
Share the road
In 2019, more pedestrians and cyclists died in the United States than in any year since 1990 despite automakers adding safety features designed to mitigate such accidents. It’s important to remember than bicycles are vehicles, and they are legally allowed to share the road with motorcycles and cars. And pedestrians have the right of way in many states. Resolve to be considerate and share the road.
Maintain your vehicle
When was the last time your vehicle was checked? It’s not a refrigerator with a set of Goodyears. It requires regular inspections to ensure it’s working properly, especially if it’s been sitting for most of the past nine months. If you’re not sure of what to do, take it to your mechanic, and have its tires, brakes, cooling system, belts, battery, and other systems checked. It could save your life — as could keeping these resolutions.