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5 bad habits to break while driving

Bad Driving Habits

Some driving habits can feel so second nature that you might not even realize that some of them are dangerous and against the law. If any of these habits resulted in a collision of some sort, it could also negatively affect your car insurance rates.

The good news is that the following five bad driving habits are relatively easy to break. Now that we're getting close to summer, give this list a quick refresher so you can be sure to be on your best driving behavior next time you hit the road.

1. Not practicing "The Dutch Reach"

When you exit your vehicle, what hand do you use to open the door? Chances are it's your left hand, but this common habit can result in collisions with cyclists known as "dooring."

To prevent this, try "The Dutch Reach" method. A common practice in the Netherlands, opening the car door with your right hand instead of the left encourages the driver to reach across and look over your left shoulder, giving you an opportunity to check for cyclists (or pedestrians) that may be coming up behind you.

As of September 2015, dooring a cyclist can result in a fine of $365 and three demerit points in Ontario under Bill 31. Drivers who contest the charge can see this fine increase to $1,000 on conviction.

2. Not giving cyclists enough space

Also part of Bill 31, drivers are required under this law to keep a distance of one-metre (or three feet) when passing cyclists. Passing cyclists too close can result in a fine of $110. With the warmer weather, more cyclists are sharing the streets so be sure to give enough space when passing your two-wheeled friends.

3. Wearing headphones while driving

Wearing headphones while driving isn't technically illegal. In fact, many drivers choose to wear them as a solution to prevent distracted driving. However, headphones and ear buds block sound out, which can prevent you from keeping both ears on the road.

Ottawa police Sgt. Mark Gatien told the Ottawa Citizen that if you absolutely must wear ear buds with built in mics, only put one ear bud in. This is a grey area though and it's best not to use ear buds at all and instead use a hands-free, Bluetooth device to access your phone while driving.

4. Texting or using your phone while driving

Distracted driving causes an injury every half hour in Ontario, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Penalties can be severe, with fines up to $1,000 and three demerit points for drivers convicted of distracted driving. On top of this, you can face criminal charges including jail time if you're also charged under the Criminal Justice Act.

Working in education, we feel especially strongly about this one. By not texting and driving, we can set a positive example for today's youth.

5. Not realizing that distracted driving includes more than just devices

It's easy to frame the conversation around distracted driving and technology, but the law includes more than just cellphones under this umbrella. Ontario also considers eating, reading and typing things into a GPS (whether that’s a standalone system or your phone) to be activities that count as distracted driving.

This means that if you cause a collision or an incident while eating your morning bagel, you could be charged with distracted driving and face the same penalties as someone who was talking or texting on the phone.

Why breaking these bad habits matters

The bad driving habits we've highlighted in this piece are hardly the only ones out there. Things like not looking in your blind spot, failing to signal and keeping your knees up when driving also pose the same problems.

While it's true that if you're found to be at fault in a collision because of any of these habits it can hurt your driving record and your insurance rates, but more importantly these habits can hurt others on the road, including yourself.

This summer, put a "brake" on these bad habits and help make the roads safer for everyone.