Defensive driving is the best way to avoid being involved in traffic collisions, and here in this post we go into greater detail about what defensive driving is and how to practice it at all times so that you can be safer on the road.
What is defensive driving?
Defensive driving is a set of skills which allow a driver to defend themselves against possible collisions against uncontrollable factors such as bad drivers, poor weather, drunk drivers, etc. It is defined under the Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations as "driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others."
"Defensive" does not mean to react to aggressive drivers in a reactionary manner, nor does it mean to be passive and waiting for something to happen. On the contrary, one of the most important aspects of defensive driving is being aware of your surroundings at all times and to take steps to put yourself in a safer position on the road as to decrease chances of collisions.
Why should I drive defensively?
If you practice defensive driving correctly at all times it will absolutely decrease your odds of being in a car accident. Remember that, even if you are a perfect driver, unknown and uncontrollable forces may still cause you to collide with another vehicle or object. By being a defensive driver you can put yourself in a safer space away from drunk, aggressive, and erratic drivers.
Another benefit to defensive driving is that many auto insurance carriers offer a discount if you take a course in defensive driving. Ask your auto insurance agent. You can save time and potentially lives with a simple course which can often be taken online.
How do I drive defensively?
Remember that the more you practice defensive driving the more you will become mindful of potential dangers on the road.
- Always think safety first. Leave plenty of space between you and other cars. Lock your doors to prevent being thrown in case of a crash. Always wear your seat belt.
- Avoid and eliminate distractions. This includes using of cellphones, eating foods, putting on makeup, reading, or even using the on-board car navigation system while driving, which has been shown to be as dangerous as using a cellphone.
- Have an escape route. Never put your vehicle in a situation where you cannot easily get to an open and safe space, i.e., do not drive between two large trucks while tailgating a moving truck on a narrow bridge.
- Never depend on others. This obviously applies to other drivers -- never expect other drivers to follow traffic laws or even to be alert, conscious, or sober. Also, do not depend on your passengers -- many accidents occur where drivers make last minute turns due to passengers reading navigation directions a little too late.
- Isolate and manage risk. When a crisis arises, try to prioritize and deal with the most pressing issue first. A very typical scenario is when you are driving and the car in front of you suddenly stops. Your top priority should be to avoid hitting the car in front of you and so you should brake immediately without hesitation. Do not worry about the car behind you hitting you unless you absolutely have the time to account for it.
- Always be in control of your speed. This is not as simple as how hard you press the gas/brake pedal. You must be aware of road conditions (is it wet?), tire conditions (are the treads worn out?), elevation (is it downhill?), and emergency factors (is there an ambulance behind me?), to always be in control of your speed.
- Respect others on the roadway. When you see that other driver speeding and not using his turn signal, give them the benefit of the doubt and do not react with anger. They may just be driving a pregnant woman to a hospital or have a similar medical emergency.
Stay safe on the road!