In a survey conducted by Belair Insurance, 93 per cent of Canadian drivers admitted to practicing at least one bad driving habit. While this number may be scary, it’s important to remember that driving is a never-ending learning process, and people are constantly acquiring and practicing new driving skills. By learning what makes someone a “good driver”, and applying said skills to our driving, hopefully we can help to decrease this number.
A “good driver” is someone who practices safe and tactical driving skills. Practicing safe driving habits is of the utmost important to not only you, but to everyone else on the road.
Five habits that good drivers display, and that you should practice while you are behind the wheel
Distracted driving accounts for almost 80 per cent of collisions in Canada. This is because while most people think that they have the ability to multi-task, we actually are only able to consciously attend to one thing at a time.
There are many different ways for a driver to become distracted while on the road. However, the most common habit is texting or talking on the phone. Staying away from any cellular devices is an extremely important habit to practice if you want to become a safer driver. Using a hands-free method to talk on the phone while driving will help to keep you a bit more focused than actually using your phone, but it is recommended to just keep your phone away or turned off while driving. This is because the act of just listening to someone talk reduces the amount of brain activity that is used for driving by 37 per cent.
Other than cell phone use, there are plenty of other things that have the potential to distract you while driving. Examples include your radio, your passengers, your GPS system and any food or drinks. To avoid putting yourself in danger, try to eliminate these distractors, or only engage with them while stopped at a light or parked.
Practice Defensive Driving
Defensive driving is a set of driving skills that help you anticipate the actions of other drivers, and defend yourself against said actions. These skills are critical to your safety on the road, and are practiced by the majority of safe drivers. While defensive driving can be a broad term, here are three skills and habits that fall into this driving category.
1: Observe the roads
Staying aware of your surroundings and constantly observing is a vital defensive driving skill to possess. This means checking your mirrors frequently, looking at your blind spots, observing other drivers and cars around you, and focusing on the road at least 12-15 seconds in front of you.
2: Identify and adapt to hazards
There are many potential hazards that you can come in contact with while driving. It is so important to learn not only how to identify said hazards, but how to adjust your driving to safely avoid them. For example, you identify that road conditions are changing due to a sudden storm. Now your driving must also change. The roads will be slippery from the storm, therefore your speed should decrease.
3: Expect other drivers to make mistakes
You can reduce your risk of being involved in an accident by expecting others to make mistakes, and planning how to react appropriately. Don’t depend on other drivers to ensure your safety; your safety is solely in your own hands. It is up to you to make sure that drivers can see you and are aware of your presence on the road.
Safe Following Distance
We often forget how vital it is to our safety to keep a safe driving distance between you and the car in front of you. The rule of thumb for a safe following distance is to maintain a two to three second gap between cars, or a “car-span” amount of space. This habit is super important to help you avoid getting into a collision. If the car in front of you has to break suddenly, you can easily hit their car if you are following too closely. If you have a wide enough gap between you and them, you will have enough space to make a sudden stop without hitting the vehicle in front of you.
Stay Informed and Knowledgeable
Knowledge is key, especially when behind the wheel of a car. Possessing knowledge of the rules of the road and how to stay safe is an incredibly vital habit to practice. Whether you’re a new driver or an experienced driver, this skill is the key to being a “good driver”.
While it is important to be informed of driving laws and regulations, it is also good to familiarize yourself with the basic knowledge of cars in general. Make sure that you know what all the signs and warnings on your dashboard mean, what type of transmission you have, and all the safety features that your vehicle comes with. Knowing all of this information can majorly help you to prevent an emergency situation or control an emergency situation if it does arise.
Other than knowledge of car operations and rules, staying informed and up to date on the following things will help to make you an overall better driver as well:
- Current and expected weather conditions
- The ins and outs of your car insurance policy
- Roadwork or construction plans on frequently travelled roads
- Traffic updates and route directions
Follow the Law
While this habit may seem to be pretty straight-forward and obvious, many drivers in Canada don’t actually abide by traffic and driving laws while behind the wheel. When driving, it is important to always stop at all stop signs, yield to pedestrians, use proper turn signals and wear your seatbelt.
One traffic law in particular that most people tend to break is following the speed limit. Speeding is one of the main causes of accidents in Canada. Recent studies have estimated that going over the speed limit will increase your risk of getting into a car accident by at least 30 per cent. That’s why it is so important for drivers to take their time. Even if you are in a rush, speeding is not worth your life. In fact, speeding doesn’t even save you that much time overall. For example, a 25 km trip will take you 15 minutes if you are travelling at 100km/hr, and will take you around 13 minutes at 120km/hr. Two minutes of your time really is not worth the risk of an accident.
One thing that many people don’t realize is how hard speeding can be on your bank account. This is because the faster you drive, the more fuel your car uses. You will have to fill up your gas tank a lot more frequently (and spend a lot more money doing so) if you are someone who speeds often.
Rewards for Good Driving
Did you know that your insurance company will actually reward you for being a safe driver? Many insurance companies in Canada offer a “good driver” discount to their clients who practice safe driving habits. This discount is available to drivers who maintain a clean driving record with no claims or accidents over a specific amount of time. The length of time will vary depending on the company your insurance is with. However, in Canada, the average number of years that a clean record must be maintained in order to qualify for this discount is around three years.
In regards to how much money this discount will save you, that also depends on the company who wrote your policy. In general, the discount will be 5-25 per cent off of your car insurance premium. Some companies even offer the incentive of increasing your discount overtime if you continue to maintain you clean record and good driving habits.
Do you consider yourself to be a “good driver’? Have more questions about the “good driver” discount and if you qualify for it? Talk to a BrokerLink broker for more information. Visit us online, give us a call or stop by one of our community branches.