If you follow any routine enough, it becomes a habit. (That means you can do it on autopilot.) This fact applies to driving. Honestly, how often do you think about what you’re doing? Rarely. You can probably change lanes, start the ignition, and pull out of driveways easily. That’s fine. Regardless, it’s smart to improve your driving habits, no matter how old you are. Here are five simple but powerful ways to reduce your risk of traffic accidents in an instant.

1. Mix up your daily commute.

If you take the exact same route to work everyday, you’ll start to feel like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” (In case you haven’t seen that movie, it’s about a guy who is forced to relive the same day over and over again. It’s funnier than I made it sound. Watch it!)

“Monotonous” is a good word to describe this concept. When you’re experiencing the very same sights and sensations on a daily basis, it’s easy to “shut-down” and stop paying attention. This is why you can drive to work or home, without any recollection of the trip.

If your drives start to feel stale, change up your commute. Abandoning your current route for a less familiar one will force you to focus. Expect to remember far more details about your drive.

2. Pretend your car is 2x longer.

Have you ever misjudged how much space is between your vehicle and another parked car? That’s awkward. You might hear a slight “scrape” noise and check their body for signs of paint. No damage? Whew! I guess leaving a note is unnecessary, then…

To prevent this mess, be extra cautious. Pretend you’re driving a big rig, limousine, school bus, or some other long car. They need plenty of room to maneuver. Otherwise, they’d be trading paint all day long!

In general, avoid sudden movements. Other drivers should not feel “surprised” by your actions. They should see them coming. If you’re turning, signal first. And stop using your brakes excessively. Be smooth!

3. Analyze the driving environment.

Don’t get caught-up in your little world. When you’re driving, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Fail to do that and you won’t have enough time to react. Every second counts!

Put away your smartphone. Your emails and Facebook feed can wait until you’re home. Really. Don’t just look at the car immediately in front of you. Extend your vision father down the horizon.

Look at the cars ahead. Notice the road condition. Detect any threats that could put you at risk. The more details you perceive, the better. Let your brain process as much information as it can. You’ll be empowered with a faster (and more confident) reaction time.

4. Check blind-spot, signal, change lanes.

Some drivers have a bad habit of combining these driving habits. That’s not smart. One problem: when you turn your neck to check your blind-spot, your hands might automatically follow suit. Consciously observe your own actions the next time you change lanes. If you’re guilty, correct it.

Other drivers start to change lanes before their turn signal has even been blinking for a full second. Not smart, either. You need to give fellow drivers a better heads-up. It’s for your own good, too! Don’t change lanes until you’re 100% sure it’s safe to do so (and other drivers know it’s coming).

5. Keep a close eye on your mirrors and gauges.

First: make sure your mirrors are adjusted properly. Most drivers fail to do so. If you can see your own car in the rear-view mirror, you’re doing it wrong. Note the image below for an easy fix.

Assuming your mirrors are set-up just like this diagram, you shouldn’t even have a “blind-spot.” All it takes is a few quick glances to be aware of what’s happening behind you. How efficient! 

Also, don’t turn a blind eye to your gauges. They’re there for a reason. Your car “talks” to you. Not in English. Instead, it expresses itself through dashboard lights and indicators. For example, a low fuel light means your car is hangry. Don’t feed it soon and it may go on strike (breakdown).

Follow these tips to instantly improve your driving habits. Want to help your friends stay safe? Share this article on social media. They’ll appreciate the advice!

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