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

Updated: Feb. 06, 2023

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

Older Caucasian woman in convertible car with surfboard on beach
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Taking a drive

Driving in your car can feel like a portable home. It’s comfortable to take your car from point A to point B, but sometimes you may have picked up a few bad habits along the way. From eating in the car to having sex, read on for a few things you shouldn’t do in your car. It’s important to not do these in all driving conditions. Here’s how to deal with these 10 scary driving scenarios.

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. Here are 10 more things you should never do to your car.

Dog by car full of luggage
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Storing unnecessary items

Some people treat their cars like their home away from home, but it shouldn’t act as a storage unit. Richard Reina, product training director at the aftermarket auto retailer CARiD.com, 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.

Eating Hamburger
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Eating a full meal

Almost everyone is guilty of eating or drinking behind the wheel at one point or another. Reina says 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’s why you should never leave food in your car

Relaxed businessman traveling by a car
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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.

Psst! Who drives better: men or women?

Close up of senior man changing radio station while sitting in his car.
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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. Here’s why you shouldn’t use your car air conditioner.

Car Air Conditioner Odor
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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.

Couple holding hands having sex inside a car with a steamy window
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Having sex

Depending on the state, having sex in public—including a parked car—could result in anything from a fine to jail time, community service, or probation, according to Elite Daily. Even worse, some people have sex in their car while driving. According to a study published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention33 percent of men and nine percent of women in the study participated in some sort of sexual activity while driving, Women’s Health reports. Here are 11 more crazy things people have done in their cars.

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. P.S. This is how much nicotine is in a cigarette.

Learn about the the 30 things your car mechanic won’t tell you.

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.

Attractive young woman touching up her make up in a Car looking in the rear view mirror
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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 17 things you actually should keep in your car.

Driving barefooted
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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.” These are the 6 shoes you should never wear while driving.

Young couple fighting in car
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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.

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.


  • NerdWallet: “2017 Driving in America Report: The Costs and Risks”
  • CBS News: “This is why you shouldn’t put your feet on the dashboard, woman warns”
  • Richard Reina, product training director at the aftermarket auto retailer CARiD.com
  • European Respiratory Society: “Pneumonia-causing bacteria can be spread by nose picking and rubbing”
  • Elite Daily: “Having Sex In Public Can Lead To A Year In Jail, According To Legal Experts”
  • Harvard School of Public Health: “Outbursts of anger as a trigger of acute cardiovascular events: a systematic review and meta-analysis”
  • HuffPost: “The Surprising Link Between Road Rage And How Long You’ll Live”
  • The Washington Post: “This surprising activity is more dangerous than using your phone in the car”
  • Essilor USA: “Apply make-up while driving? It’s more dangerous than you think.”
  • Stephanie Schwartz, owner of Roadrunner Traffic School
  • The Zoe Report: “This is what really happens when you leave makeup in the car”
  • Brian Silber: “Exposure of sexual organs”