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Stay safe and save money with these driving tips

August 19, 2016
Know the basics of safe driving.

Many people view driving as a chore, a distraction or a waste of time. No matter what your outlook may be, it's a common and unavoidable task for most of us. In addition, a negative attitude behind the wheel may be putting the health of other drivers, and your own safety, at risk.

"Aggressive driving is more than meets the eye.”

A recent study from AAA revealed just how common some bad driving behaviors may be. The research, which pulled data from a survey of more than 2,700 U.S. motorists, found that aggressive driving habits were not only very common, but likely putting the lives of millions of people at risk. That's not to mention the incredible financial toll of aggressive driving, even without an accident happening or laws being broken.

“Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” AAA research director Jurek Grabowski said in a statement about the study. “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”

Aggressive driving behaviors reported most frequently are probably familiar to anyone who has spent enough time behind the wheel. Extrapolating the self-reported data, AAA estimated that more than half of U.S. drivers engage in deliberate tailgating, while a similar number said they had yelled at another driver. Honking, angry gestures and even intentionally blocking another car from changing lanes were other common examples of aggressive driving. Around 78 percent of respondents admitted to having committed at least one of these acts.

Know the true cost

Aggressive driving inflicts terrible harm on not only drivers, but also their passengers and surrounding pedestrians. AAA noted that recent data suggested more than 55 percent of all fatal car accidents involved at least one driver acting aggressively. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated the rate could be as high as two-thirds of every fatal crash.

Unbeknownst to many drivers, though, is that aggressive and potentially dangerous driving isn't limited to threats and intimidation. Speeding, unpredictability and sheer carelessness also account for an untold number of traffic accidents. And even if no crash occurs, drivers who don't proceed with caution can still end up paying a price.

As the U.S. Department of Energy pointed out, Americans waste huge amounts of fuel—and as a result, money—by driving poorly. The DOE estimated that simply observing the speed limit on a road could reduce fuel consumption by nearly 15 percent, the equivalent of a 30-cent discount per gallon. Accelerating and braking excessively could account for another third of wasted fuel.

To improve driving and save gas money, the DOE suggested taking one of a few steps, including:

  • Using cruise control when it's safe to do so.
  • Stick to the speed limit, especially above 50 miles per hour
  • Go easy on the accelerator and brake by keeping plenty of distance between other cars and staying alert.

In the case of more threatening behavior, AAA stated three key rules to stay in a safe mindset on the road. First, drivers should never try to go on the offensive with another driver. That means any act that might force another car to change speed or direction should never be considered appropriate. If a driver finds themselves on the receiving end of offensive driving, AAA urged tolerance and forgiveness. But in the worst cases, it's better to simply remain calm, keep a safe distance and call 911 in an emergency.

Safe driving is more than just a mindset. By following the rules and respecting others, drivers can get where they need to safely and affordably.