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By Julie E. Lee,
Vice President, Driver Safety, AARP Education and Outreach
As the old saying goes, we are all creatures of habit. It’s true of life-and it’s definitely true of driving.
For many middle age or older Americans, driver’s ed class may be a distant memory. In the years that have passed since you first reviewed the rules of the road and learned how to operate a vehicle safely, it’s possible that you have developed some bad driving habits.
It’s therefore crucial to assess your driving habits from time to time. In the past year, can you remember a time when you approached a stop sign, looked around, and kept moving without stopping for a full three seconds? When changing lanes, do you always use your turn signal? When you have a busy day, do you ever eat or drink behind the wheel?
In addition to these common driving errors, here are five “bad driving habits” you should break today:
1. Distracted driving: Distracted driving includes more than just texting or talking on a cell phone-it consists of anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off the task at hand. Avoid eating and drinking, tinkering with a map or a navigation unit, and of course, keep your cell phone turned off until you’ve arrived safely at your destination.
2. Failure to check blind spots: It’s important to be aware of who is next to you on the road. But no matter how aware you think you might be, always check your blind spots before changing lanes. Do not rely on your mirrors.
3. Following too closely: In general, you should use the three-second rule when following someone. A three-second following distance will help you spot possible driving hazards and give you time to react. To achieve the three-second spacing between you and the car ahead of you, when that car passes a landmark, such as a tree or an exit sign, start counting. If you pass the same spot before you count to three, you’re driving too close to the other car.
4. Failure to yield the right of way: At an intersection, in a parking lot, or at a crosswalk, do you always know who has the right of way? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 35 percent of traffic violations for drivers age 55+ are due to a failure to yield the proper right of way.
5. Speeding: Once you get into the habit of speeding, you may underestimate how dangerous it is. Speeding is a contributing factor in as many as one-third of all fatal crashes (NHTSA). In order to prevent speeding, leave plenty of time to reach your destination, so you are not anxious or rushed while driving. Be extra careful in and around school zones.
For more tips and information on how to stay safe on the road, consider taking a driver improvement course, such as the AARP Driver Safety course, available in a classroom or online setting, in both English and Spanish. In some states, you may even be eligible for an insurance discount upon completion of the AARP Driver Safety Program.*
For more information, visit www.aarp.org/driving45 or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).
*The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Requirements vary from state to state. In some states, separate rules may apply to online driver improvement courses. Please consult your insurance agent for further details.
Julie Lee, Vice President of AARP Driver Safety, has more than 30 years of experience in management, strategic planning, transportation and safety. With AARP for over eight years, Lee directs the largest driver improvement course designed for driver 50 and over.