Automotive Safety

10 simple habits to help make you a safer driver

Woman driver adjusting rear-view mirror in car

As a licensed driver, you have a responsibility to keep yourself, your passengers, other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians safe. Each year, some 38,000 people die in car crashes nationally, and millions more require medical attention.

Safer driving can also save you on your insurance premiums with usage-based insurance (UBI). Insurers are increasingly offering UBI insurance programs, such as AAA OnBoard®, that reduce premiums for drivers with safe driving habits. Learn more about AAA OnBoard.

To provide a refresher and offer new safety tips you may not have taken into consideration on the road, here are 10 habits to help make you a safer driver.

1. Don't drive 'intexticated'

There's a reason texting and driving is banned in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and restricted in 2 others: It's one of the top causes of collisions, injuries, and fatalities. Studies show texting makes a crash up to 23 times more likely, as it takes a driver's eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off driving more than any other potentially distracting activity.

Do yourself, your passengers, and others on the road a favor by putting your phone on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode before you start your car. Better yet, put your phone in the back seat or somewhere out of reach so you won't be tempted to use it while driving. Learn more about "intexticated" driving and get tips on how to avoid it.

Car keys with beer bottles

2. Don't drive under the influence

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense that can lead to serious injuries and deaths. Furthermore, a DUI conviction can make it hard to get into college or find a job. There's no way to predict how many drinks it takes to reach a .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) level, the federal standard for impairment. If you’re planning to drink, don’t drive. Make plans ahead of time to have a sober driver, or use a taxi or ride-hailing service to get home safely. 

Cannabis is legal for recreational use in an increasing number of states, but like alcohol, that doesn't mean it's legal to drive under the influence. There's good reason for this, as marijuana causes cognitive impairment. Even over-the-counter and prescription drugs can impact your ability to drive safely. Learn more about how drugs may impact your driving.

3. Don't drive while drowsy

Driving drowsy can be the same as driving with a .08% BAC level. It can delay your reaction time and impact your decision making, which can be dangerous when you're behind the wheel. If you start to nod off, have trouble keeping your eyes open, drift in and out of lanes, or can’t recall the last few miles driven, you should always pull over and let someone else take the wheel or rest until you feel comfortable driving again.

To prevent driving drowsy, we recommend stopping for a break at least every 2 hours or 100 miles. A nap and/or a cup of coffee can help, too. Since it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream, find a safe place to take a nap for 20-30 minutes while you’re waiting for the coffee to take effect.

RELATED: AAA takes an eye-opening look at drowsy driving

4. Wear a seatbelt

Simple enough, right? Studies show seatbelts reduce the risk of death or bodily injury by half in the event of a crash. It's also the law. Make certain all passengers wear seatbelts and pets are also secured each ride, every time.

Hand adjusting stereo radio controls in a car

5. Turn down the music

We're not saying you shouldn't be entertained while driving, but make sure the volume isn't so high that you're unaware of your surroundings, such as emergency sirens and other vehicles. Don't be distracted by the stereo controls while driving—always keep your hands, eyes, and ears on the road.

6. Look both ways

When the light turns green, don't just take off. Look both ways first and make sure nobody is hurrying to make the light that just turned red. Be on the lookout for bicyclists and pedestrians, too. Share the road and save a life.

7. Brake & accelerate gradually

Braking earlier and accelerating gradually won't just make you a safer driver, it'll also reduce wear and tear on your engine, help conserve tire tread, and improve your fuel economy.

The view from a car's side mirror

8. Check your mirrors beforehand

Whether it's a car you regularly drive or not, get into the habit of checking the rearview and side mirrors before you start your vehicle. These are important in keeping an eye on your blind spots. Checking before you even start your engine means you don't have to make adjustments while you're driving. When renting a vehicle or driving someone else’s, always take the time to adjust mirrors correctly before setting out.

9. Be aware of the weather 

Avoid driving in bad weather if you can. If you must go somewhere, make sure you slow down for extra stopping distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, and leave early so you won’t be in a rush. Be sure to use headlights and windshield wipers in inclement weather and always know how and when to use your vehicle hazard lights.

10. Don't speed

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding is a factor in about a third of all motor vehicle fatalities. Speeding gives you less time to react to danger, increases the distance you need to stop, and leads to more severe crashes. To avoid speeding, keep an eye on your speedometer (in case the flow of traffic becomes too fast) and always be aware of the posted speed limit wherever you're driving. 

Hands on a steering wheel looking out through the windshield

How you drive could save you money on auto insurance

Save up to 30%1 on your next auto insurance renewal with AAA OnBoard®

AAA OnBoard allows auto insurance policyholders in select areas to receive a discount on their insurance premium based on their good driving habits.

Learn more

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