6 driving habits that may get you in trouble with the cops

Korrena Bailie

Even the best drivers sometimes fall back on bad driving habits. Sometimes, drivers break traffic laws without realizing it. Other times, drivers don't realize their bad habits could get them in trouble with the cops. illegal driving habits

According to Distraction.gov, distracted driving is responsible for about 10 percent of all traffic injuries so failing to follow basic safety precautions while driving can also put you and other drivers at risk.

Here are six of the most common bad driving habits that might get you on the wrong side of the law.

6 bad driving habits that may be illegal

1. Using a cellphone

According to Courtney Berger, a liability adjuster for Allstate Insurance in Tigard, Oregon, using a cellphone to talk, text, or look at maps is one of the most common forms of driver distraction. And this may be an illegal activity in your state: Laws in 41 states currently prohibit texting while driving, and 12 states prohibit driving while using a handheld phone.

Although most states allow the use of hands-free devices while driving, it might be best to avoid them altogether. "Hands-free is also dangerous because it takes your attention off of what you're doing," Berger says. Instead, focus on your driving and save your calls for after you stop. If it's a real emergency, pull over to finish your phone call.

2. Driving barefoot

Although it's not technically illegal to drive barefoot in most states, Virginia DMV strongly encourages drivers to wear appropriate shoes at all times while driving. Being barefoot could cause your foot to slip off the gas or brake pedal, causing you to lose control of the vehicle.

It's also not a good idea to wear high heels, sandals or flip-flops while driving. These shoes can fall off and get caught on or wedged beneath the pedals.

Keep a pair of flat-soled driving shoes in your vehicle when you drive to the beach or a cocktail party. It also helps to keep a pair of dry shoes in your car during the winter when the ice and melting snow on your shoes can cause your feet to slip on the pedals.

3. Driving past a stopped emergency vehicle without changing lanes.

Be careful when driving past a police car that's pulled someone over on the highway; you could be next. Many drivers are unfamiliar with the so-called "move over" laws, but that doesn't mean they're not important.

By law, you're supposed to reduce your speed by 20 miles per hour or change lanes away from any emergency service vehicle on the side of the road. These "move over" laws were enacted to reduce the number of police officers and other emergency service personnel who are killed or injured while on duty.

Most states have some version of this law, and it's a good practice to follow wherever you're driving. You can check the details for your state by visiting MoveOverAmerica.com.

4. Eating while driving

Some state officials have begun to crack down on drivers who eat behind the wheel. Even though enjoying a hamburger or a cup of coffee while driving won't get you pulled over, it will earn you a distracted driving charge if you're caught eating while engaging in any other dangerous driving behaviors, like tailgating or failing to signal.

It's best to save the snacks for your rest stops. If you must eat while driving, focus on foods that require minimal attention, have no hard-to-open packaging and won't make a mess.

5. Having pets loose in your car

Taking Fido for a car ride might be fun, but you shouldn't try it without securing him safely first. If you live in New Jersey, Hawaii or Rhode Island, having an unsecured pet in your vehicle may lead to a fine. If you live in Arizona, Maine and Connecticut, you can also be hit with a distracted driving charge if you drive with your pet in their lap. Many states have laws banning unrestrained animals in open areas of a vehicle, like the bed of a pickup, or inside of a convertible with its top down.

Keeping your pet restrained or crated with in the vehicle will reduce your risk of getting into an accident by keeping your pet from jumping on you or squeezing in next to the pedals. Also, it'll keep you and your pets safe if you are involved in a collision.

6. Loud Music

The question of whether loud music is a ticket-worthy offense has been up for debate in the Supreme Court, which ruled that loud music should be legal as a form of self-expression. It's still safer to avoid maxing out your aftermarket stereo and heavy-bass subwoofer, though, as noise ordinances vary between cities and even neighborhoods.

Aside from bothering fellow motorists, your loud music can pose a safety threat. The Governors Highway Safety Association has targeted loud music as one of many dangerous distractions to avoid while driving.

Also, while loud music may not be illegal in all areas, it is definitely against the law to wear headphones while driving in many states.

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