It’s not too early to start thinking about what we want to change in the coming year. After all, New Year’s resolutions give us something to work toward. With the increasing amount of time we spend in our cars, however, maybe now’s the time to think about 10 driving habits to quit this New Year. Addiction to Electronic Devices – As a nation, we’ve become so attached to our smartphones and electronic devices that they’re literally an extension of our hands while we drive. This is a dangerous distracted driving practice that leads to countless accidents and fatalities each year. It’s even worse among young people as drivers in their 20s account for 20 percent of distracted drivers in fatal crashes. Put curbing our addiction to taking and making calls, texts, updating our social media and checking email and surfing the Internet first on our list of things not to do this coming year – at least while we’re driving. Speeding – There’s no getting around the fact that speed kills. In 2012, speed was a contributing factor in 30 percent of all traffic fatalities. A total of 10,219 lives were lost due to speeding that year, the latest for which statistics are available. Key takeaway here is to slow down and do the speed limit, conditions permitting. Going 10 or more mph over the limit won’t get you there any faster, but might ensure you never get where you’re going. Slow down to live. Drinking and Driving – Having a few beers and getting behind the wheel is a recipe for disaster. Not only are you endangering your own life, but those of other drivers and pedestrians. In 2012, 10,322 people lost their lives due to alcohol-impaired driving. That’s 31 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the U.S. If you’re going to drink, arrange for a ride home or take a cab. Better yet, don’t drink at all when you need to drive. Remember, not only is drinking and driving a bad habit to quit, it’s against the law in all 50 states to drink above the legal limit of .08 BAC and drive. Changing Lanes Without Signaling – The drivers in vehicles behind you or alongside you on the freeway or street aren’t mind readers. That’s why cars have turn signals, to indicate when you, the driver, intend to switch lanes. Failure to do so can result in a nasty fender-bender or worse so, for the New Year, make it a point to get your turn-signal finger ready to use – and use it. Tailgating – Maybe you’re always in a hurry. That should tell you something right there, but one sign that you’re awfully impatient is the bad habit of tailgating. The problem with this driving behavior is that it leaves you little to no room to safely stop if you need to. Suppose the driver ahead suddenly slams on the brakes or swerves abruptly to avoid a collision. If you’re too close behind him you’re likely to plow right into the obstacle or hazard. Too late then to do anything about it. Best strategy is to allow proper distance between you and the vehicle ahead so you can safely stop. Driving When Tired or Sleepy – If you find yourself nodding off at the wheel often, this is a sign that there’s something wrong. You may be burning the candle at both ends or just not getting enough sleep. In any case, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel when you’re too tired or sleepy. If you are driving and this happens, pull off the road to rest, stretch your legs, or grab some coffee. Eating While Driving – That one-pound burger and fries may be oh-so tempting, but don’t even think about scarfing it down while you’re attempting to drive. This is another form of distracted driving that takes your mind off your primary focus of driving. It’s a bad habit you’d be well to quit this coming year. Being Distracted By Others in the Car – While it’s great to have family or friends visit and take them around to see the sights or go out for a meal or other entertainment, the tendency to become distracted catching up on all the news is just too great when you’re driving. The bad habit is quite common around holidays and contributes to other drivers’ frustration on the road as well as more than a few accidents. When you have multiple passengers, keep your attention on the road. There’ll be plenty of time for talking when you arrive at your destination. Failing to Check Tire Pressure – We tend to put off some car care basics that could save our lives, like checking the tire pressure on all four tires. Failure to do so could result in worn, damaged or uneven tires. Even worse, a tire blowout could cause a serious accident. Make it a New Year’s resolution to stop being a procrastinator and start regularly checking tire pressure, filling to appropriate PSI levels, and replacing tires as needed. Not Making Sure Everyone’s Buckled Up – Another driving safety basic is ensuring that all occupants in the vehicle, you included, are properly buckled up or secured in child safety seats. Seatbelts can save lives that would otherwise be lost. Why take the chance? Make it a point to buckle up, every time, and be sure others traveling with you do too.    

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