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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 37,313 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2008. If that isn't a reason to become a better driver, then we don't know what is.

In an ideal world, drivers would execute every road maneuver with precision and ease. Sadly, we do not live in a never-never land, and not everyone walks away from metal-to-metal mayhem. Truth is that drivers are not created equal. Some are too brash, others too conservative. Some are even downright clueless. The common thread is that they can all turn a pleasant day on the motorway into a surreal nightmare in the blink of an eye.

And don't just blame it on "them." Everyone is guilty of making common driving mistakes that can endanger us all. Think about it: We'll bet you can recall with vivid exasperation a whole litany of stupid moves you've made throughout the years — some benign, some not so much.

To help you stay safe behind the wheel, here's a list of 10 driving behaviors to avoid.

The No. 1 fatal mistake made by drivers is perhaps the most simple: not staying in their own lane — i.e., running off the road or drifting into the adjacent lane. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2007, 15,574 people died in crashes where the driver simply couldn't stay in the lane.

Driving While Drowsy
"Driving a vehicle when you are fatigued is as dangerous as driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs," National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said after a fatal highway accident in 2003 in which a college student who had been awake for the previous 18 hours was driving a carload of fellow students at 5 a.m. According to the NHTSA, in 2007 fatigued driving caused the deaths of 1,404 people, and more traffic fatalities occurred during the hours when most people are accustomed to being asleep (3 a.m. to 6 a.m.) than at any other time of day.

Drinking and Driving
Every 40 minutes someone dies in a drunk-driving accident. (In all 50 states, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more is considered illegal, but a little-known fact is that you can be charged with driving while impaired even if you're under the legal limit.) Young drivers are particularly prone to drinking and driving: The 21- to 34-year-old set is responsible for well over half of alcohol-infused fatal crashes. Not surprisingly, the decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated is made most often at night and on the weekends. According to the NHTSA, 60 percent of drivers who died after dark in 2007 were legally drunk. Alcohol is also a factor in half of pedestrian traffic deaths — both drivers and pedestrians are the culprits.

You get panicky when the wheels of your SUV hit the rumble patch on the shoulder of the highway, so you throw the steering wheel in the opposite direction to get the vehicle back on the road. This is a classic example of overcorrecting or oversteering, and it's a particularly perilous maneuver when you're behind the wheel of an SUV driving on the highway at high speeds. Consider it a rollover waiting to happen. More than 4 percent of automobile fatalities a year occur because of drivers overcorrecting.

What is the most dangerous thing you've done behind the wheel?

Racing, driving faster than the posted speed limit or simply going too fast for road conditions — i.e., speeding — comprises the second highest cause of death in fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA. Once you hit 55 mph, you're in the danger zone: 30 percent of fatalities occur at 55 or above. The worst-case scenarios invariably involve speeding without wearing a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet. Fatality rates for speeding motorcyclists are shockingly high: In 2007, speeding was a factor in 36 percent of motorcycle fatalities. Of those, 41 percent of drivers and more than half of passengers were not wearing helmets (only 20 states and the District of Columbia require helmets).

Failure to Yield Right of Way
For drivers age 70 and above, failing to yield while merging into traffic is the top cause of crashes. In a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers 80 and older simply fail to see the other vehicle they should be yielding to. Drivers 70 to 79 see the vehicle but misjudge whether they have time to proceed ahead of it. Failure to yield right of way was the fifth leading cause of fatal crashes in 2007.