My Top 10 Driving Don’ts

Jul 17, 2010 | 2010 Articles, Public Protectors

by Steven Wright,
M.A. in Criminology

badgeThere are many Top 10 lists out there. David Letterman’s is probably the most popular but there are Top 10 lists for just about everything. Mine may not be as entertaining but it could save your life, especially if you drive on the roadways of California. I did something this past Memorial Day weekend I don’t normally do: travel. It was a reaffirming experience as I was continually reminded why I prefer not to travel on holidays. Rest assured, the majority of drivers I encountered were driving carefully, defensively and with caution but several should not have been on the road. Drivers need to know their limitations and fears. If you are not comfortable driving on a congested freeway, don’t. This is a Top 10 list of what not to do while driving; it is not exhaustive but includes those mistakes individuals make that cause the biggest traffic safety issues.

I ran into each of these situations during my recent travels and witnessed their impact. Traffic can be moving along fine but all it takes is one driver to change that; leading to bottlenecks, chaos, slow downs, and other drivers getting frustrated and doing things that put them at risk just to get away from the driver creating the intial problem. A chain reaction is easily started but just as easily avoided as my top 10 driving don’ts show:

  1. Driving Too Slow — Every roadway has a speed limit. Every roadway with traffic also has a flow of traffic speed. Sometimes these two speeds are not the same. When driving, it is important to pay attention to the posted speed limit but also to the flow of traffic. Smart driving should prevail. If you are not keeping up with the flow of traffic, the potential for causing a severe traffic slow down is high which becomes a real problem when the traffic is heavy. If you are driving on a multi-lane road, make sure you are driving in the far right lane. [Back to list]
  2. Driving Too Fast — This is pretty self-explanatory. When driving too fast, reaction time is impacted. Vision and other senses are affected in a negative way, putting yourself and others at risk. Have you ever been driving down the freeway at 70 MPH and had someone pass you as if you were standing still? It only takes one person to create a dangerous situation for many and something bad can happen so quickly. [Back to list]
  3. Not Merging Properly — Have you ever been on a freeway or about to enter one when someone attempting to merge onto the freeway drives 30 MPH up the ramp, failing to get up to the flow of traffic speed by the end of the ramp thus slowing down or even stopping because they cannot get into traffic? This is a significant problem when driving in California. It causes back-ups on freeway on-ramps and traffic congestion when fearful drivers attempt to get on the freeway but drive too slowly as they do. If you do not have the experience and confidence needed to drive on the freeway, DON’T. It is very important that drivers know their own fears and limitations, taking the time to learn the skills necessary. [Back to list]
  4. Not Allowing Others to Merge — This goes along with number three. When you are driving on the freeway, it is important to know where you are and what conditions are ahead of you. The far right lane is for slower-moving vehicles, trucks, towed vehicles, etc. However, the right lane is also the lane used for merging traffic from other highways and freeways as well as surface streets. If you are a slow driver on the freeway and traveling in the far right lane, bear in mind that others need to merge by getting their vehicle up to the flow of traffic speed. If you continue to drive in the far right lane at on-ramps, it is important to pay attention and allow other vehicles to merge. You should either move into another lane or adjust your speed to allow those merging to get safely onto the freeway. If you are not comfortable driving 65 MPH or in heavy traffic, DON’T drive on the freeway. Know your limitations. [Back to list]
  5. Driving in the Wrong Lane — As mentioned, on most multiple-lane roadways, there is a rule that slower drivers keep to the right and faster drivers to the left. It is important to know the speed limit of the roadway you are driving on and keep up with the flow of traffic. If you are someone who drives the exact speed limit or under, regardless of the traffic around you, please stay in the right lane. Drivers often get tunnel vision and can only focus on what is directly in front of them. It is important to know what is going on all around you. Driving slow in the fast lane can cause huge traffic problems by forcing those traveling with the flow of traffic to try and merge into a slower lane to move around slower drivers. When faced with the dynamic of large trucks and other slow-moving vehicles, this can cause big problems. [Back to list]
  6. Not Using Turnouts — This applies mostly while driving on two-lane roads, mountain roads and other places where there are few passing opportunities. When driving in these conditions, it is important to know your own capabilities. If you are not comfortable with mountain driving, on winding roads or cannot drive the normal speed limits, it might be best not to drive in such areas at all or at least not during times when there might be significant traffic. If you do find yourself on such a road, it is important to understand what the turnouts are for. These are for slower drivers to pull over and let other drivers pass. Since there are very few opportunities to pass, this allows passing to be done safely. Whatever you do, DO NOT pull as far as you can to the right and keep driving on the shoulder of the road, hoping traffic will pass you. This is one of the worst things I see people do on two-lane roads as it creates a very hazardous situation. Just pull over in a turnout and stop, allow traffic to continue and pull back out once it clears. [Back to list]
  7. Driving Outside One’s Capabilities — Driving safely requires a certain level of experience in many situations. These can result from road conditions, weather conditions, road type, terrain, traffic, or even vehicle type, such as automatic or standard transmission. It is important to know what your capabilities are under all of these conditions and make sure you are driving under safe conditions, not only for yourself but for other drivers on the road. Mountain driving, for example, not only requires a different level of experience but confidence. Knowing how to navigate hills and turns; using the brake, gas or downshifting under different circumstances is a challenge. If all of your driving experience is in a small rural town and you are planning a trip to San Francisco, you may want to know what to expect. Wherever you go, whatever you do while driving, make sure you are doing it safely, with regard for others and within your skills and capabilities. [Back to list]
  8. Not Allowing Others to Pass When Safe — Although this can happen under many different circumstances, the most common is the two-lane road with few passing opportunities. I have had this happen most often while driving to the mountains or the coast. It is one thing to drive below the speed limit with a line of cars behind you but something else entirely to not let those cars pass when an opportunity arises. Most drivers speed up on straightaways but, if you have traffic behind you and you still speed up when there is no oncoming traffic and the yellow line is broken, you are making it impossible for those behind you to pass. This is a really dangerous driving habit that can lead to driver frustration and those frustrated drivers taking risks just to get away from the situation. One solution, if you’re not the driver who simply needs to let others pass, is to pull over at the nearest rest stop or little market and take about a 10-minute break. That will allow this traffic condition to gain some distance and you can get back on the road with less risk and frustration. [Back to list]
  9. Blind Spot Driving — Every vehicle has blind spots and there is usually one on the passenger side just above the rear tire. There is typically a piece of the car body between the rear window and the side window blocking that view, even from rear- or side-view mirrors. Passenger side-view mirrors are not required on all vehicles (but should be). When driving, it is important to understand when you are in the blind spot of the vehicle beside you. This is one of those “awareness” issues necessary for defensive driving. Unless you are in heavy traffic and cannot help it, it is probably not the best idea to drive directly next to another vehicle anyway. You never know what the other driver is going to do and it is the best practice to play it safe. [Back to list]
  10. Distracted Driving — This one covers a multitude of issues; from spending more time focused on cell phones, radios, iPods and children than the road to talking, texting, reading, putting on make-up, eating, smoking and just generally driving with your HUYA. You can’t prevent accidents if you’re not even watching for them. [Back to list]

This is just a brief overview of 10 of the most common driving don’ts that create dangerous situations. Driving is a full-time job. When you are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, you are responsible for wherever that vehicle goes and what it does. It is an extension of you. If you are not paying attention and driving defensively, the potential consequences are deadly or at least life-altering. Things can happen in the blink of an eye — poof — your life and the lives of others are changed forever. The only factor you can control is yourself, your own actions and behaviors. When you are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, follow the rules, control yourself, drive with caution and regard for others on the road.

Steven Wright is an ongoing contributor to our
Public Protectors section, offering an inside perspective from his 26 years in law enforcement.


  1. Thank you for writing this article. Seeing as I just got my license in April, I’m still quite new to driving. I’ve been driving mostly around Reedley, a little in Fresno, and some on the road trip that my mom and I took a few weeks ago. I must say, though, that being a new driver, and one that does mostly small-town driving, I am not completely aware of all hazardous driving situations. With my permit, I did a lot of driving with my mom and became aware of the rules of the road. But, really, what did all the laws mean to me at the time? Nothing much, I’m sorry to say. They were simply things I should do to prevent having any accidents. But now that I have talked to my other family members (other than my mom) and read articles like this one, I think I have a better understanding of what driving is. I can only hope that other teens come to the realization of these driving hazards and learn to take precautions before it is too late.

    .-= A recent submission from Kristalyn: Russian Legacy =-.

    • Kristalyn,

      It is great that this article had an impact, and actually the impact I was hoping for. Driving is a full-time job and there are so many things a person needs to know to truly be a safe, careful and experienced driver.

      Thank you very much for your comments, and being such a responsible person.


      .-= A previous submission from Steven: TMI: Too Much Information =-.


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