The Most Common Dangerous Things to Do While Driving

What You Should Never Do Behind the Wheel

Teens in a car
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Every parent worries when their child learns to drive. This is especially true for parents of children with learning disabilities. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for example, are four times more likely to be involved in an accident than those without the disorder. It is not uncommon for children with learning disabilities to have perceptual and coordination problems as well as difficulty with left/right orientation. There may be many unique aspects of your child's disability that his or her driver's education teacher may need to address. At a minimum, here are some things that should be addressed in a driver's education program for your child or additional programs designed to teach teen driver safety.

Safe Drivers vs. Driving Safely

Most drivers on the road would say they consider themselves to be safe motorists. But that doesn't mean they drive safely by any means. Many people assume that—because they have not been in an accident—they must be doing things right.

The absence of accidents is not what distinguishes a safe driver from an unsafe one.

Here are the most common and dangerous things a motorist can do on the road. Hopefully, none your children will engage in any of these activities, and if they do will correct their ways once instructed to do so. We'll end with the relative risk of some of these behaviors.


There are very few things that are as dangerous for drivers as reading while behind the wheel. Whether that be a text message, magazine, book, or even directions that are held in the hand or on the dashboard. Reading robs you of your focus, attention, sight, and ability to respond quickly when the need arises. So if you have any regard for your life or that of anyone else, avoid reading while driving. You would also do well to tell others you know who read while they drive to cease, as it is perhaps the most dangerous thing a person can partake in while behind the wheel.

If your children make a fuss, share with them some of the statistics (listed below.) If they don't listen, take away the keys. Some may argue that they need directions. That is what the speaker function on google maps is all about—but of course, you must push that button before the car is moving, or pull over to do so. It's better to go a few miles out of your way than to risk never returning home. And if they are concerned about missing a call? It's not worth creating an emergency in the process of determining if a phone call is by outside chance an emergency.


Everybody knows writing and reading texts are dangerous when driving, yet countless people continue to do it. It not only steals your attention, but it robs your sight from the road, and hands from the wheel. When you are concentrated on your phone—for that instant—there is nothing else on your mind. Meanwhile, you are barreling down the road in a multi-ton vehicle, and it is at this point that undivided attention to the road alone keeps you from an accident.

If you text and drive, you should be ashamed and cease immediately. Even if you don't value your own life, there are others who may whose lives you are endangering.

Parents, you may also wish to learn how to complete a cell phone contract with your teen.

Driving With Your Knees

Driving with your knees is a very poor driving habit. Generally, people drive with their knees while they do something else, which is always unnecessary and dangerous. By never driving with your knees, you will be avoiding an inevitable accident.

Driving With a Dog or Child in Your Lap

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. You glance into a nearby car to see a driver petting and adoring the dog in their lap—perhaps even allowing it to stick its nose out the window and let its ears blow in the wind. You don't often see children sitting in laps, but when you do, the adult in question probably means well, allowing the youngster feel what it's like to control an automobile. But driving with a dog or a child on your lap allows for nothing but potential disaster.

Dogs are uncontrollable and unpredictable, and allowing them free reign in a vehicle is a mistake. In some places, it is even against the law, for good reason.

There are safety measures you can take if you will be spending time traveling with dogs. For children, it's simply illegal and unsafe to transport a child in a car without an appropriate car seat.

Driving With Headphones

There are only two ways we are able to determine what is going on around us when we drive, those being sight and sound. If you are driving with headphones or earbuds in place, you are tossing your sense of sound out the car window. You may wonder how deaf people drive then. Well, they are used to being deaf and are more alert as a result. Someone who wants to listen to Ricky Martin with headphones while driving probably isn't used to not hearing what is going on around her. She is not as accustomed to the lack of surrounding sounds, as is someone who is deaf, and as a result is probably not as focused as she needs to be.

In addition to interfering with roadway sounds, or even the sound of a car beginning to ail, headphones may prevent you from hearing an emergency vehicle approaching. There is a reason that emergency vehicles have a collision rate much higher than normal despite specialized training to drive the rigs. No matter how carefully we drive, none of us can control the driving habit of others on the road, including those wearing headphones. Being unable to hear on the road not only raises your own risk of being involved in an emergency but interferes with emergency personnel responding to another person's emergency as well.

Changing Clothes

There is not a single article of clothing that should be put on while driving. That's it. Period. Changing clothes involves taking your foot off the brake, hands off the steering wheel, and eyes off the road. Not to mention there are very few with the skill of an escape artist such as Houdini, so if you become entangled in your clothes while changing, there's a decent chance you won't escape unscathed.

Putting on Makeup

Ladies, we all want you to look pretty too. But putting on your makeup while driving is a danger not worth risking. Is it that bad to wait till you get to where you are going to put on your face? If you get into an accident as a result of doing this, you may not have a face to dazzle up anyhow. The process of putting on makeup allows for many opportunities for something to enter your eye and blind you. So again, be patient and either be late to where you are going by doing your makeup beforehand, or do it once you arrive at your destination.

Grabbing Something Out of Reach

We've all had moments where we want something from the back seat, on the floor, or in a purse, but only the most daring would twist their whole bodies around to fetch it.

At this point you are driving distracted and have no ability to see what is occurring on the road, nor do you have your hands properly placed on the steering wheel to respond to something if it were to happen.

Patience is a virtue, and you have to remain alive to be virtuous, so be patient, and wait until it is safe to pull off the road to retrieve your items.


Now, for most people, eating out of a bag of chips or an apple in itself may not cause an accident. But if your child's driving skills are already weakened simply by inexperience or by a learning disability, this is certainly riskier. That moment when your child sighs and looks down because she's spilled sauce on herself is a moment she is not paying attention. That moment can often be the difference between life and death. Inexperienced drivers (both those with and those without learning disabilities) were almost three times more likely to have a crash or near crash than those who refrained from eating.

Road Raging

It's a common occurrence for people to become upset while driving. In addition, think of how many people are upset even before they enter a car—they go for a drive to think and mull over some trauma or disappointment in their life. You don't have to have been upset by another driver to experience road rage. You simply must be in a negative mindset. Driving in this state is dangerous and causes a distraction, which, in turn, affects a driver's ability to concentrate. If you do become upset with another driver, you may tend to start driving aggressively. This situation is an accident waiting to happen. So before you start driving, or even in the midst of driving, be sure you are calm and collected.

There is no need to put anyone's life in danger because you are having a bad day.

Weighing the Risks

A 2014 review published in The New England Journal of Medicine evaluated the seriousness of some driving distractions, weighing how dangerous these were for inexperienced drivers with regard to the risk of a crash or near crash. They found that:

  • Dialing a cell phone raised the risk of a crash or near crash 8-fold (Those who simply dial a number on a cell phone are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash.
  • Reaching for a cell phone increased risk of crash or near crash by a factor of 7.05.
  • Sending or receiving text messages raised the risk by a factor of 3.87.
  • Reaching for an object other than a cell phone was eight times more likely to result in a crash than waiting until they reached their destination.
  • Looking at roadside object raised the risk 3.9 times.
  • Eating brought a risk 2.99 times higher than those who refrained from eating. (In other words, you are three times more likely to be in a crash if you eat and drive.

There are many reasons why these distractions can lead to crashes. Computer simulations found that inexperienced drivers had increased lane deviation and had their eyes off the road much more than those who did not have distractions.

Is Your Child at Risk?

Who is texting and driving? If you're wondering whether or not your child would choose to text and drive, it can be hard to know. Only you know your child, and many parents are surprised to see that their children engage in these risky behaviors. Yet it's been found that teens who are more attached to their phone (what is called "possession attachment" among researchers,) increases the likelihood. Unfortunately, though our kids hear about the dangers repeatedly, magical thinking often assures them that it will be somebody else.

As a final note, it's not just distractions which can lead to fatal accidents. Sleep deprivation, so common in our teens, is another serious factor.

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  1. Klauer, S., Guo, F., Simons-Morton, B., Ouimet, M., Lee, S., and T. Dingus. Distracted Driving and Risk of Road Crashes Among Novice and Experienced DriversThe New England Journal of Medicine. 2014. 370(1):54-9. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa1204142

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