Driving Safely: Deadly Mistakes To Avoid

Plus: Tips to tune up your driving smarts.
Think you're a pretty good driver? Not so fast. Even if you've never gotten so much as a speeding ticket, you may have forgotten some traffic rules -- and that could put you at risk for an accident. Here are the most common -- and dangerous -- mistakes drivers make, plus tips on tuning up your driving smarts.

You multi-task while driving

Inattentive driving is something of an epidemic, no thanks to rampant cell phone use behind the wheel. And there's no denying its danger: Studies found that driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near crashes. So when you're on the road, get off your phone -- it's not the time to chat, text or read your email.

You don't look far enough ahead on the road -- or far enough to the side

Yes, you should look at the back of the vehicle in front of you to respond quickly if necessary. But you also need to look at what's going in front of that vehicle -- and regularly scan both the rear-view and side mirrors to find out what's happening all around you. If vehicles are blocking a portion of your vision, assume something is there to be safe.

You follow other cars too closely

It's crucial to have a cushion of space all around your vehicle in case you need to move quickly out of harm's way. Stay three to four seconds behind the vehicle ahead of you, and one car-size space to the side. Reducing your speed a little bit will give you more room and help you avoid fender-benders.

You slow down or stop when entering a highway

It's easier to merge with other motorists if you're driving up to their speed as you enter the expressway. You also risk getting hit from behind if you slow down, because the drivers behind you won't expect it.

You drive too fast in bad weather

In fog, rain, storms or snow, forget the speed limit signs and slow down to improve your visibility and traction. The traction your tires have on a wet road is about 30 percent less than on a dry road, so reduce your speed by 30 percent to maintain the same level of safety. Plus, it'll also give you time to respond to anything that suddenly pops up in front of you.

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