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Committing to Cautious Driving

As the old saying goes, we are all creatures of habit. It’s true of life—and it’s definitely true of driving.

 For many Americans, driver’s education class may be a distant memory. In the years that have passed since you first reviewed the rules of the road and learned how to operate a vehicle safely, it’s possible that you have developed some bad driving habits.

 It’s therefore crucial to assess your driving habits from time to time. In the past year, can you remember a time when you approached a stop sign, looked around, and kept moving without stopping for a full three seconds? When changing lanes, do you always use your turn signal? When you have a busy day, do you ever eat or drink behind the wheel? If you’re guilty of any of all of these common driving errors it might be time to see how you can become a more conscientious driver.

 Here are five ways you can commit to cautious driving:

  1. Fight fatigue: Drowsy driving is distracted driving. Make sure your sleep routine isn’t affecting your morning commute. Maintain a regular sleep routine in which you get the recommended 7.5-8 hours of sleep every night. Eat breakfast before you get in your car so you’re not scrambling to unwrap your granola bar at a red light.


  1. Plan your route: A key aspect of pre-trip planning, regardless of the drive’s lengths, is selecting routes. This can often lead to a stress-free trip and avoiding potentially dangerous situations. Thanks to 21st century technology there are many web-based resources for navigation that can help you predetermine the safest route to your destination. Moreover, even a little preparation can help you avoid challenging driving situations, such as rush-hour traffic, high-speed roads, bad weather, or dimly-lit conditions.


  1. Know your environment: It’s important to be aware of who is next to you on the road. But no matter how aware you think you might be, always check your blind spots before changing lanes. Do not rely on your mirrors. Also, remember cars aren’t the only travelers on roads. Look out for cyclists in bike lanes and pedestrians in crosswalks.


  1. Mind the gap: Leaving a reasonable gap between your vehicle and those around you creates a helpful space cushion that will help you move or maneuver in case of an emergency or hazardous situation. In general, you should use the three-second rule when following someone. A three-second following distance will help you spot possible driving hazards and give you time to react. To achieve the three-second spacing between you and the car ahead of you, when that car passes a landmark, such as a tree or an exit sign, start counting. If you pass the same spot before you count to three, you’re driving too close to the other car.


  1. Take care of your eyes: Did you know 90% of a driver’s reaction depends on vision? Vision matters for all drivers, regardless of age. So please remember, if your vision is impaired, so is your ability to drive safely. When it comes to driving, good vision doesn’t just mean you can read the stop signs or differentiate green lights from red lights. There are multiple aspects of our vision essential to safe and prudent driving. The American Optometric Association recommends that adults 61+ receive comprehensive eye examples annually and adults 18-60 at least every two years. So next time you’re at your regularly scheduled comprehensive eye exam, ask your provider if you have any problems that might impact your driving and how they can be addressed.


  1. Slow down: Once you get into the habit of speeding, you may underestimate how dangerous it is. Speeding is a contributing factor in as many as one-third of all fatal crashes (NHTSA). In order to prevent speeding, leave plenty of time to reach your destination, so you are not anxious or rushed while driving. Be extra careful in and around school zones.

If you feel you could use a driving refresher, consider taking the AARP Smart Driver™ Course—AARP Driver Safety’s flagship offering and the nation’s first and largest refresher course designed specifically for older drivers. In this interactive and informative course you can learn safe driving habits and even how to assess your own abilities as a driver. The AARP Smart Driver Course is available in a classroom and online, in both English and Spanish. In some states, you may even be eligible for a multi-year insurance discount upon completion of the course.*

 For more information, visit or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).


*The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Please consult your insurance agent for further details.

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