(BPT) - Bad driving habits aren’t just obnoxious, they’re also dangerous — motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 38,000 people having lost their lives and nearly 4.4 million injured in collisions in 2019, according to the National Safety Council.

“Many car collisions are entirely preventable,” said Kevin Quinn, vice president of claims and customer experience at Mercury Insurance. “The simple solution is for drivers to be responsible, obey traffic laws and stay focused on the road. Don't play with your phone while you're driving, don't speed and don't drink and drive. And if you practice these things regularly and keep your driving record free of accidents and traffic violations, it could lower auto insurance rates.”

Quinn recommends the following four tips to stay safe behind the wheel.

1. Remove distractions. Most crashes are caused by distracted drivers. Driver distractions extend beyond texting — anything that takes your attention away from the road is a distraction. While you should put your phone away when behind the wheel, some driving tech can actually help improve your driving habits, such as a usage-based insurance program that comes with a virtual coach to let you know how you can improve behind the wheel.

2. Maintain proper following distance. Following a car too closely reduces the time you have to react if the car you are following suddenly slows or stops. This can lead to a rear-end collision, which is the most common auto insurance claim, according to Mercury Insurance. Make sure you give yourself enough time and distance to react to the car in front of you. You should always maintain at least three seconds of space in between your vehicle and the car in front of you — and during bad weather conditions, five seconds of space is recommended.

3. Be aware of your speed. Speeding is one of the most common causes of traffic-related deaths, so pay attention and stick to posted speed limits — they’re there to keep you safe. Give yourself some extra time for your drive so there’s no need to rush and be sure to exercise extra caution while driving in bad weather.

4. Pay attention to other drivers. Safe driving isn't just about your behavior, but also depends on those around you. Don’t assume other drivers are being attentive — they may be distracted and not see the stop sign or traffic light ahead of them. Use caution when entering and exiting parking spots, turning, entering intersections and changing lanes on the freeway, especially if you’re driving in heavy traffic or late at night when other drivers may let their focus wander.

“Drivers may also want to consider enrolling in a usage-based insurance program to help improve their driving skills,” adds Quinn. “These apps and devices allow drivers to get a crystal-clear view of their behavior and see which areas need some improvement. Plus, auto insurance customers who enroll in these programs may even qualify for a discount.”