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7 Bad Driving Habits to Break

Rolling through stop signs, failing to signal, riding the brakes... these bad driving habits may seem harmless in the moment, but they can cause unnecessary wear and tear on your car and may increase your risk for a ticket or accident. Whether you just got your license or have been driving for decades, it's important to practice good driving habits. These are some bad driving habits to kick to the curb:

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  1. Failing to signal. You pull up to a stop sign to turn right, but no other cars are at the intersection, so you skip signaling. No big deal, right? Over time, however, skipping signals can go from occasional to repeat – leaving other drivers and pedestrians guessing your next move. Make it a habit to always signal 100 feet in advance, even if no other drivers or pedestrians are in sight.

  2. Riding the brakes. "Riding the brakes" refers to keeping your foot on the brake pedal for a prolonged period of time, often during an extended downhill stretch of road. This creates friction that can cause the brakes to overheat and also increases the risk for excessive wear and tear on brake pads and rotors. Try to maintain a steady, consistent speed on the road. Be alert for road signs that warn about upcoming downhill stretches or curvy turns and gradually lower your speed in advance.

  3. Tailgating. Getting stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle can certainly be frustrating, but tailgating the vehicle is unlikely to make it move any faster – and doing so could result in an accident. Rather than trying to force the vehicle in front of you to drive faster or change lanes, focus instead on maintaining an appropriate following distance and wait until it's safe to pass. When we're in a rush somewhere, we're more likely to tailgate, so practice calming your mind down with deep breaths. It's much better to arrive at your destination safely than to save a minute or two by tailgating or passing when it is unsafe to do so.

  4. Rolling through stop signs. A stop sign means just that: stop. Even if you don't see any oncoming traffic or pedestrians, always come to a complete stop and check the intersection. The same goes for making a right turn at a red light. If a right on red is legally allowed at the intersection, you still must come to a complete stop before turning.

  5. Speeding over speed bumps. Speed bumps are in the road for a reason: They're a traffic-calming measure to keep vehicles from moving too quickly through an area. Not only does speeding over a speed bump defeat their purpose but doing so can also put unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle's alignment. Keep an eye out for road signs alerting you to the presence of speed bumps ahead and slow down in advance.

  6. Sudden starts and fast stops. Flooring the accelerator at an intersection or slamming on your brakes at a red light puts extra strain on your vehicle. Traffic lights on city streets are often synchronized to allow the maximum number of cars to pass through when driving the street's speed limit. Speeding up quickly and rushing to the next light only to slam on the brakes won't get you to your destination any faster but does waste gas and may increase the risk for an accident. Get in the habit of gradually accelerate and decelerating. Practice defensive driving skills so you're prepared to slow down or stop safely in response to other drivers.

  7. Driving with an almost-empty gas tank. Running out of gas on the road can be a stressful experience. When we're busy or running late, however, it's tempting to ignore that low fuel light on the dashboard. But running out of gas is more than an inconvenience. If you make driving with a low fuel tank a habit, you can also damage your fuel pump and fuel filter. The fuel pump uses gas in the tank to cool and lubricate itself. When there is only minimal gas in the tank, the fuel pump is unable to perform these functions, and it may overheat and fail. That's a costly repair you could avoid simply by not letting the gas gauge dip below one-quarter empty.

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