Bad driving habits and how to fix them

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The Highway Code
Careless driving
Dangerous driving
Damaging driving habits

After passing your test, it can be easy to let your standards drop a little and pick up some bad habits on the road. Some are minor, others are serious - but all should be cut out.

Here are some examples of bad driving habits, plus some tips on how to fix them 👇

The Highway Code

You should already be familiar with the Highway Code from your theory test. It’s essential reading for all road-users, because knowing and applying the rules keeps our roads safe.

Many of the bad habits in this article breach some aspect of the Highway Code, and can lead to various penalties or fines, so it’s best to know the ways to avoid this. Many of these bad driving habits can be broken down into two categories: careless driving and dangerous driving.

We’ve also included a selection of bad driving habits that can damage your car without you even realising it.

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Careless driving habits

Careless driving is when the standard of your driving falls below what should be expected, and you don't show consideration for other road users.

Consequences of a careless driving conviction

Careless driving convictions can result in up to nine points on your licence and fines of up to £5,000.

The penalties for causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving can be up to 5 years in prison, and a driving ban for a minimum of one year. It’s serious stuff.

Bad driving habits - like checking your phone at the wheel - can have serious consequences
Bad driving habits - like checking your phone at the wheel - can have serious consequences

Examples of careless driving habits

1. Tailgating

Not leaving enough room between you and another driver can lead to crashes. Always give your vehicle space while driving and try to avoid impatience on the road - it’s a leading cause of this sort of bad driving habit. You should try to leave a two second gap between you and the car in front - and at least double that if it’s bad weather.

2. Slowing down to look at things

Slowing down to look at a crash, or even some construction work, can lead to traffic or collisions. It’s a bad driving habit and doesn’t help anyone. It’s best to ignore these distractions and carry on driving safely.

3. Splashing pedestrians

That’s right! Purposely splashing a pedestrian can lead to a £100 fixed penalty fine and three points on your licence - or up to £500 if the case goes to court! It's a pretty nasty habit, too. Be considerate when driving - to pedestrians as well as other drivers.

4. Driving while tired

It’s best to avoid driving when you’re tired (or unwell) - even if you really have somewhere to be. We tend to make the most mistakes when we’re not feeling 100%, and tiredness on the road is a major cause of accidents, so this is a very serious bad habit you should avoid. At the first sign of tiredness at the wheel, you should stop at a safe place, drink some coffee and take a nap if possible.

5. Failing to indicate

Indicating while driving lets pedestrians and drivers know your next move. Just because you think nobody will be impacted if you don’t, doesn’t make it true. Always indicate even on quiet roads.

6. Flashing headlights unnecessarily

The Highway Code states: “Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.” This means that you shouldn’t actually flash your headlight to say thanks to another driver. It might seem polite but it’s actually a habit you should try to kick. Only flash to indicate your presence.

7. Beeping your horn for the wrong reason

Like the last point, beeping your horn unnecessarily is actually a bad driving habit and a sign of careless driving. It could be misinterpreted or make a situation wore. The Highway Code says: “Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively.” Don’t beep to say thanks, to let your friend know you’re outside their house, or for any other reason but to let other drivers know of your presence.

8. Middle lane hogging

It can be tempting to just sit in the middle lane of a motorway - you aren’t bothered by slower cars on your left or faster cars on your right. But it’s a major bad habit and can cause delays and frustration. Always keep in the left hand lane of a motorway unless you’re overtaking.

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Dangerous driving habits

Dangerous driving habits are even more serious than the above. Dangerous driving is when your driving risks the safety of others.

Consequences of a dangerous driving conviction

The consequences of dangerous driving can be severe. They include an unlimited fine, between 3 and 11 penalty points, a minimum two years disqualification and, in the worst case scenario, a prison sentence.

Examples of careless driving habits

1. Driving while using your phone

This is a bad one - but still very common. Despite severely compromising their attention to the road, some drivers still check their messages or maps on their phone. Since last year, it’s been against the rules to use your phone for any purpose while at the wheel - so keep it in your pocket.

2. Speeding

We all want to get where we’re going faster - but driving higher than the speed limit is a terrible habit to fall into. Failing to obey speed limits can lead to accidents and get you in trouble. Speed limits are designed for the safety of drivers and pedestrians - obey them.

3. Not checking blind spots

This is lazy and dangerous - always check your blind spot before switching lanes.

4. Ignoring dashboard warning lights

It’s tempting to ignore that random dashboard warning light, especially if it’s always going off, but doing so could put your car - and yourself or others - at risk. We’ve got a separate guide on car dashboard warning lights for what these signs actually mean. Make sure you understand them, and get them sorted as soon as possible.

5. Not wearing a seatbelt

Seatbelts are there for our safety! Not wearing them can be fatal - for yourself but also for others. Incredibly, some people still refuse to wear their seatbelts - a bad habit left over from years back when they weren’t mandatory. Don’t be selfish - always wear a seatbelt.

Bad driving habits can be dangerous - and also damage your car and cost you money
Bad driving habits can be dangerous - and also damage your car and cost you money
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Bad habits that can damage your vehicle

There are some habits that can just cause unnecessary strain to your vehicle. Here’s some examples.

1. Resting your hand on the gearstick

By resting your hand on the gearstick, you risk applying pressure to the selector fork, causing premature wear and tear. This can be very expensive to fix! Once you’ve switched gears, bring your hand back to the wheel.

2. Riding the brakes

Keeping your foot on the brake causes excess strain on the mechanism. Brake sensibly.

3. Sudden stops and fast starts

Braking suddenly and pulling away in a screech of tyres and smoke might work for James Bond, but it's not great for your car. Pull away and brake gently, if safe to do so.

4. Overloading your vehicle

Your owner's manual will tell you your car's maximum load weight - the greater the weight, the more strain you’re placing on the brakes and suspension. So, that heavy bag of books you’ve been meaning to donate? Head to the charity shop or leave it at home! It’s better for your car, and also saves fuel too. Don’t lug around pointless items.

Always get car insurance

Unless you’ve SORNed your car, you must have valid insurance. Knowingly driving without insurance is one of the worst driving habits you can adopt - but forgetting to update your policy or accidentally letting it run out is just as bad.

The police could give you a fixed penalty of £300 and 6 penalty points if you’re caught driving a vehicle you’re not insured to drive. They also have the power to seize or destroy the vehicle that’s being driven uninsured. Plus, if things end up in court, you could get an unlimited fine.

It’s also worth noting that if you get caught without car insurance, this will have an impact on the cost of future premiums you take out, or your ability to get insurance at all.

With the advent of temporary car insurance, like the hourly policies offered by Cuvva, there really is no excuse to drive uninsured.

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Updated on 14th February 2023