12 Things You’re Doing in Your Car—But Shouldn’t

You're probably guilty of at least one of these.

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Woman is holding cup of coffee inside of car. Travel lifestyle. Legs on dashboard
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Putting your feet on the dashboard

Whether you’re in the passenger seat or driving your car, your feet should stay off the dashboard. In a 2017 NerdWallet report, three percent of American drivers admit to putting their feet on the dashboard or out the window while driving with cruise control. Although this is a relatively small percentage, there is no reason for keeping your feet up—even if you’re sitting shotgun. In 2015, a Georgia couple was in a car accident where the passenger had her feet on the dashboard. She broke both of her legs in several places and urges people not to make the same mistake. Plus: Did you know doing these things will actually shorten the life of your car?

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Close up of driver's hand at the wheel while eating food in the traffic

Eating a full meal

Almost everyone is guilty of eating or drinking behind the wheel at one point or another. Richard Reina, product training director at the aftermarket auto retailer CARiD.comsays sipping on a cup of coffee or soda is generally fine; just make sure you’re able to grip the wheel and keep your eyes on the road. “However, the more involved a snack or meal gets, the more distracted you might become,” he says. It might be tempting to reach for a fallen French fry, but it’s also incredibly dangerous. Here are 10 more things you should never do to your car.

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Man in the car outside
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Using headphones

Music during road trips and long commutes aren’t a problem, but using headphones isn’t the best thing to do while driving in your car. “Headphones decrease your awareness even more by filtering out other noises more than just your car’s speakers,” he says. Although it’s safer to make calls with headphones rather than taking a hand off the wheel, Reina says to be extra cautious since outside sounds will be harder to hear.

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trunk of the car very overloaded with luggage before the summer holiday departures

Storing unnecessary items

Some people treat their cars like their home away from home, but it shouldn’t act as a storage unit. Reina says large items in your car could block your visibility, creating dangerous blind spots and limiting your view for backing up. If there’s an emergency or an accident, anything not bolted down could easily move around your car and injure someone if you brake rapidly, he says. Plus, storing items in plain sight can make you a target for theft. These are the 20 things you should never leave in your car.

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African Male hands on the steering wheel of a car while driving.Driver holding steering wheel. Black Man hands holding a steering wheel confidently. Hands on wheel - Man driving car - Africa
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Blasting music with the windows down

In addition to annoying other drivers, playing loud music with your windows down in your car serves as another distraction. Much like earphones, driving with loud music distracts drivers from hearing important noises going on around you, Reina says. Having the windows down isn’t dangerous on its own, but drivers who blast the AC or heat at the same time could be even more distracted.

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Young woman holding her nose because of bad smell in car

Picking your nose

Digging for gold isn’t something people should do in or outside of a car. In addition to the obvious sanitary issues and the fact that seeing other people pick is distracting, picking your nose could also be dangerous. Research published in the European Respiratory Journal shows that picking your nose could easily spread a dangerous pneumonia-causing bacteria. Nose-picking could also lead to frequent nosebleeds, respiratory infections, and even septum issues.

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Man driving lighting a cigarette


Smoking health risks are generally well-known. If you do decide to smoke, however, there’s research showing you should especially avoid doing so in your car. After just half a cigarette burns in a car, the quality of the air can reach levels 10 times over what the United States Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous. Plus, smoking in a closed environment like your car increases third-hand smoke exposure. When people sit in a car that someone smoked in, the nicotine and other pollutants covering the car release into the air and get on your skin and mouth, according to Psychology Today. These are the 30 things your car mechanic won’t tell you.

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Many shirts hang in the car.
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Changing clothes

It’s not automatically illegal to change in your car. However, you could get in trouble for public nudity or indecent exposure depending on where you live, if anyone sees you, and the local and state laws. One law firm website explains that changing in public must usually be “vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious” to qualify as indecent exposure. It’s better to be safe than sorry and change in an appropriate, private place instead, if possible.

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Attractive young woman touching up her make up in a Car looking in the rear view mirror
Deborah Kolb/Shutterstock

Doing your makeup

Focusing on anything other than driving means you’re distracted and more prone to accidents. “Putting on make-up while driving, along with any other distracting activities, doubles the reaction time a driver needs to put their foot on the brake,” says Stephanie Schwartz, owner of Roadrunner Traffic School. Most people also adjust their mirrors to see themselves while they’re putting on their makeup, which means you’re not using your mirror to look at the cars around you. Even if you’re parked, keeping your makeup in your car could actually damage some of your products and make them vulnerable to mold growth, per the Zoe Report. Check out these things you actually should keep in your car.

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Close up driver's bare foot on pedal in car ,Safety to driving concept.

Driving without shoes on

Many drivers might be guilty of this, according to Reina. It’s not necessarily the least safe thing you can do behind the wheel, but it still isn’t a good idea. “For instance, you might need to brake very hard suddenly and find yourself unable to apply the proper force with a bare or socked foot as you would with a shoe on,” Reina says. “Additionally, if you need to step out of the car in an emergency, you run the risk of injuring your feet or wasting precious time putting shoes back on.”

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Couple arguing in a car
Eva Chamosa/Shutterstock


Road rage, angry outbursts, and arguing in your car can make you vulnerable in more ways than one. According to a 2014 research review from the Harvard School of Public Health, it’s possible angry outbursts both on and off the road can trigger a heart attack or stroke hours later. The psychological stress can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which other research found can have adverse effects up to six years later. Even if you’re having a more mellow conversation with someone in your car, you still put yourself at risk. More than half of distracted driving accidents are because of talking with another passenger, per federal data, the Washington Post reports. Check out these 11 driving etiquette tips you’ve forgotten since driver’s ed.

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Businesswoman adjusts power seats, seat in the car
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Driving with your seat far back

Drivers should be in the best possible position to control their car—and people don’t have that same control if they’re too far from the wheel. “Aside from your ability to reach the pedals and react quickly to road events, you may need to control your lights, wipers, or other systems at a moment’s notice and have a hard time doing so if you’re seated too far back,” Reina says. Now that you know the things that can damage your vehicle, check out these 100 car repairs you don’t need to go to the shop for.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest