Spring Cleaning Your Bad Behind-the-Wheel Habits

Spring Cleaning Your Bad Behind-the-Wheel Habits

As the summer months near, I’m reminded that spring cleaning is long overdue for many of us. Not just any spring cleaning though; I’m talking about a real purification of things we do (that we shouldn’t) while driving.

I received “a love tap” while driving in rush hour traffic earlier this week from the lady driving behind me, which provided me a jolt to refresh my commitment to be a safer driver.

Let’s face it. We’re all guilty of doing things we shouldn’t when behind the wheel. I’m not going to point any fingers (except maybe toward those pesky Maryland and Florida drivers who didn’t seem to get the same set of driving lessons the rest of us did). I digress. I’ve created a list of bad behaviors and quick ways to fix them.

Bad Behind-the-Wheel Habits and What We Can Do to Clean up Our Acts:

The Mess: Driving 10 mph below what the rest of us are because your cell phone is glued to your ear.I have driven by a multitude of people lately who have been driving like idiots because they weren’t paying attention to the road or their speed. Instead, they were locked into whatever was happening on the other end of their cell phones, which subsequently caused them to go 10 miles per hour slower than the rest of us and frustrating everyone behind them.
How to Clean it Up: There are two easy solutions to this common problem.
  1. Don’t talk on the phone while driving.
  2. Buy a hands free device like a Bluetooth earpiece or even one that has a cord connecting to your phone.

Helpful Tip: If you absolutely MUST talk on the cell phone while driving, here’s what you can do to help yourself and those driving around you.

  1. Put the phone on speaker so that you can set it down on the console and still speak. This will enable you to keep both hands on the wheel and focus your eyes ahead – a key part of successful safe driving.
  2. Get in the right-hand lane. People expect you to drive slower over there so you won’t be disrupting the rest of us and our need for speed.

The Mess: Not using your turn signals.Listen, auto manufacturers would not spend money to fit your vehicle with turn signals if you didn’t need them (or if they weren’t required to by law). But the point is I need to know if you’re turning or if you’re planning on coming into my lane. I’ll be much more obliging if you just flash that little yellow light on the backside of your car.

How to Clean it Up: This is the simplest of fixes. Use the round, black knob protruding from your steering column to indicate to other drivers that you will be changing lanes or turning.

The Mess: Yes, that sign said “Yield!” For some reason, people in Northern Virginia never fully understood the concept of yielding. I’ve been so frustrated by this awful habit that I’ve threatened to start a “Yield NOVA” campaign making drivers aware of what the upside-down-triangle really means.This picture is proof of the problem. It was taken just about a mile from my residence in Arlington.

How to Clean it Up: Yield to oncoming traffic. If there’s no traffic, then please, by all means, proceed. You may also read the excellent explanation of yielding or “giving way” in this Wikipedia article.

The Mess: Not knowing where you’re going.Some folks live their lives by this mantra. It’s great to be a free spirit and all, but it’s annoying if you’re driving in front of me. Being oblivious to your surroundings is never good, and it can be dangerous when you’re poking along in traffic or in the middle of the street.

How to Clean it Up: The immediate solution is to pull off to the side of the road if you’re lost. According to this article, 75% of Americans have Internet access. Combine the ability to use Google Maps for free with the dozens of GPS systems available for purchase, and you’ve got zero excuse for not knowing how to get from point A to point B.Helpful tip: Just because you buy a GPS doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how to get places without it.

The Mess: Not realizing that you need to change lanes…NOW! We’ve all been there. We forgot that the lane ended ahead or that our exit was coming up so quickly, and we need to get over…pronto! I typically try to have sympathy on those who’ve mistakenly not gotten into the appropriate lane in a timely fashion because I’ve fallen victim to the same forgetfulness.

How to Clean it Up: I hate to say it, but you probably missed the road signs designating your upcoming exit or lane closure because you were partaking in one – or (gasp) more – of the previously listed “bad habits.” Try paying closer attention when you’re on the road…simple as that.If you need to get over, kindly use your turn signal to indicate so. Oh, and after I so nicely let you in front of me, I’d appreciate a wave of gratitude.

The Mess: Wearing your iPod/MP3 player while driving.This is absurd people! Isn’t it illegal to drive with headphones in? I see way too many people plugging along in traffic wearing their iPod ear buds or something equivalent. It is extremely risky to be driving without the ability to clearly hear what’s happening around you.

How to Clean it Up: Most newer make vehicles include an AUX connection for iPod and MP3 players. (Heck, my car’s CD player reads MP3’s so I can just burn a data CD and play hundreds of songs from one disc!) Automakers are providing the appropriate technologies to make it easy for you to plug that device into your vehicles’ stereo system, so you should use it.Buy a connector, burn a CD, or listen to the radio while driving. Reserve the iPod for your gym routine, not your commute.

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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Matthew C. Keegan at 11:41 AM

    Sound advice, Melanie! I probably belong to a small group of people who thinks that chatting on the cell phone while driving should be banned completely. And this is from someone who doesn't care all that much for government intervention.Cell phone use while driving is distracting. I'm not a huge fan of Oprah but I like that she is behind the "No Phone Zone" day which will be held on April 30. Experts compare distracted driving with driving drunk. Why are we so permissive when it comes to cell phone use?http://www.oprah.com/packages/no-phone-zone.html

  2. BeCarChic at 1:37 PM

    Matthew-I agree that cell phone use should probably be banned, although it'd be difficult to enforce effectively. Admittedly, I think of myself as being the "exception to the rule" when it comes to successfully multitasking behind the wheel. I've weaned myself from texting/emailing while driving, but do chat from time to time – typically wear an ear piece.Thanks for the Oprah heads up, too. I don't watch her either so I hadn't noticed. I'll be sure to share your link with my Twitter followers as well.