Common Mistakes People Make When Driving and How to Fix Them

Male driver was backing up and hit another car in the parking lot. The concept of negative emotions and insurance in case of damage to the vehicle

Rear-end collisions involving two vehicles are the most common at fault driver-related auto insurance claim, according to Allstate data.

Maria Bagdonas, operations manager for Young Drivers of Canada and a driving instructor for the past 35 years, says a big factor impacting road safety nowadays is driver complacency that comes with advancements in vehicle technology. With more safety features being available in cars, the less people are paying attention to defensive driving habits, which is a worry, she says.

“We’ve got cars with new technology, and we have drivers that may or may not completely understand how the new technology works, and that it’s not a replacement for proficient driving skills,” Bagdonas says. “A blind-spot indicator is a fabulous piece of technology but it’s not a replacement for doing a blind-spot check yourself.”

Instructors like Bagdonas aim for education and improving driving skills beyond just passing a test with an examiner. She says her defensive driving course is dedicated to teaching skills that drivers don’t need 10 to 15 years to acquire.

That “gives them a bit of a head start,” she adds.

Allstate Driver Safety Quiz: How Do You Fare?

What Does Allstate’s Data Reveal When it Comes to Road Safety?

After rear-end collisions involving two vehicles, Allstate data has found the next most common at fault driver-related car insurance claims involve the insured hitting a parked vehicle, backing up into another car, single-vehicle accidents, and vehicle collisions while changing lanes.

Rohan Thompson, deputy commissioner of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and co-chair of the CACP’s Traffic Safety Committee, says Canada has one of the highest motor-vehicle fatality rates among high-income countries in the world. The CACP says that, in 2021, the rate was 4.7 motor vehicle deaths per population of 100,000.

According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, in its Road Safety Strategy 2025 document (which, as one of the road safety stakeholders, the CACP contributed to), about 2,000 people are killed and 165,000 injured (10,000 seriously) on the roads each year in Canada, costing society $37 billion, or 2.2 per cent of Canadian GDP, annually.

“Not only that, but we continue to see a rise in the number of fatalities as well as serious and non-serious injuries on Canada’s roads,” Thompson says. The CACP’s Traffic Safety Committee implements two national public awareness campaigns to remind people of the importance of being a defensive driver:  Canada Road Safety Week in May and Operation Impact in October.

How Can You Reduce the Likelihood of Being in a Collision?

Don’t engage in dangerous (and illegal) behaviour

The CACP focuses its efforts on behaviours that put drivers, passengers and pedestrians most at risk, which include:

  • drug-impaired driving
  • alcohol-impaired driving
  • fatigue-impaired driving
  • distracted driving (particularly through the use of cell phones while behind the wheel)
  • aggressive driving
  • driving without a seatbelt

“Canadians need to remember that collisions are not accidents; they are generally situations within a driver’s control and are the result of the conscious decisions made, and behaviours adopted, by those who get behind the wheel,” says Thompson. 

Watch your speed

You need to regulate your speed according to road conditions, especially in construction zones or where there might be potholes. One good tip is not to “overdrive your headlights” – which refers to driving at a speed in poor-visibility conditions such as fog or darkness that does not allow time to stop to avoid obstacles on the road. 

“You can’t drive faster than you think,” Bagdonas says. “Just because the speed limit sign says 100 km/h doesn’t mean you have to go 100 km/h, if there’s an adverse condition relating to visibility or relating to traction.”

Keep an open line of sight

To be safe, drivers need to be able to see what’s going on around and in front of them, and have enough visibility to respond to hazards.

  • If you’re driving up against something that blocks your vision, you need to back away, because you need to see what’s ahead.
  • A general visibility rule is to be able to see what’s going on ahead of you by about two blocks in the city and about three quarters of a kilometre on the highway.
  • Use your high beams when travelling in rural, woody areas.
  • Avoid blind spots – make sure you’re not in another driver’s blind spot and take care to ensure no one is in yours.

Give yourself and others enough space

  • Distance ahead: Always keep at least a two-second distance behind the vehicle in front of you, which gives enough time to react if something happens ahead. And remember that large vehicles like trucks take longer to stop than smaller vehicles.
  • Distance behind: Don’t tailgate and if someone is following you too closely, change lanes and let the tailgater pass.
  • Distance on the side: Do not drive beside other vehicles if you can avoid it. A vehicle in the next lane could move into your lane without warning. Vehicles in the next lane also block your escape if you run into danger in your lane. Drop back or speed up until you find a place that is clear on both sides.

Be predictable

  • Don’t make sudden stops or lane changes.
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • Fully stop at stop signs and red lights.
  • Always signal so that other drivers know your intentions.

Keep your vehicle in good condition

  • Make sure tires are properly inflated and hubcaps and bolts are secure to avoid blowouts, and if one occurs try to maintain control of your vehicle and pull over safely.
  • Make sure your windows are clean and wiper fluid is topped up.
  • Ensure brakes are in good working order.
  • Make sure all your headlights and brake lights are functioning properly.

“These are the safe driving tips for the ages … We all just need to be more attentive to the driving tasks. It is a job, a responsibility,” Bagdonas says.

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