Driving to Save Lives: How To Be a Defensive Driver

young man driving holding steering wheel of the car

Did you know that about 6 million automobile accidents occur every year in the United States? That means there are over 16,000 collisions every single day.

Although car accidents are common, they can be dangerous and even fatal a good portion of the time. That is why driving instructors and the DMV stress the importance of being a defensive driver.

If you want to avoid accidents as much as possible, you should use the defensive driving method. Defensive driving is when you drive in a way that allows you to shield yourself in many different situations on the road.

Would you like to improve your driving skills and be safer? Here are some tips to make sure that you use defensive driving techniques at all times. 

Learn How to Drive in All Weather

Your car will behave differently when roads are wet or icy, so be sure to follow guidelines on driving safely. Conditions such as fog can cause detrimental errors in driving. You should drive below the speed limit in these weather events if it is recommended.

You should also ensure you have tools in your vehicle for inclement weather. For instance, if you live somewhere that snows, you should keep snow chains in your trunk during the colder months of the year.

When driving in abnormal weather conditions, you should be extra careful and assume other drivers do not know what they're doing. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles and be prepared to act quickly.

Be Respectful of Other Drivers

Although drivers can be aggressive, it is important to maintain your cool so you do not end up in an accident. Road rage can cause unnecessary collisions that could have been prevented with defensive driving.

You should let other drivers know your intentions by using your turn signal to indicate turning or changing lanes. This is one of the most common driver errors. It is easily fixable and can turn into a good habit.

Use your horn when appropriate to signal to other drivers. For example, if you try to merge on the freeway and a driver suddenly swerves in front of you, a horn blast can get them to pay attention. Try to only use the horn when necessary, but not aggressively.

Limit Cell Phone Use While Driving

It is best to avoid cell phone use as much as possible while driving to avoid potential accidents. In 2018, almost 3,000 people died in car accidents from distracted driving. This type of driving includes eating and drinking, talking to passengers, or cell phone usage.

If you use your phone for directions, program your destination address before you begin driving. Make sure that you can hear what your GPS is saying so that you can concentrate on the road without looking at your phone screen. 

Cell phone holders have become popular options for people who frequently use their phones for navigation. You can stick one to your dashboard and mount your phone so that you do not have to look down to see the screen.

Look Out for Motorcycles

While driving, it is important to constantly scan your surroundings for other vehicles. However, sometimes motorcycles and bicyclists can be difficult to spot due to their size and agility.

When scanning for bikers, you should always check your blind spots, as they are often difficult to see in rearview mirrors. Since motorcyclists like to weave through traffic, make sure that they see your indicator lights if you want to switch lanes or make a turn.

Maintain Distance to Avoid Collisions

One of the most commonly cited defensive driving tips is that you should try to leave space between your car and others on the road. Tailgating on the road can cause aggression between drivers.

The amount of distance you should keep from other vehicles depends on your speed. A good way to judge this is by staying about two seconds behind the car in front of you.

If the car in front of you stops for any reason, you will still be liable for damage if you do not stop in time. The two-second rule gives you enough time to hit the brakes and slow down, without causing a car accident in the process.

If you are being tailgated by someone while driving, it is best to switch lanes if possible. This is the best way to avoid getting into an accident, and you can feel much safer while driving.

Do Not Make Assumptions About Drivers

Although everyone on the road has presumably passed a driving test, you should not rely on the good judgment of other drivers. By assuming the worst, you will always be on your guard and be a much better driver as a result.

A good defensive driving strategy is to actively scan your surroundings and what other drivers are doing. For example, if someone indicates that they want to change lanes, give them enough space to do so.

Follow the Rules of the Road

When learning how to be a defensive driver, you should always try to follow the official driving handbook of your state. You can even print out a copy to keep in your vehicle as a reference in case you need information on something specific.

You can also find the resources you need on many different websites. For instance, defensivedriving.org has a lot of good tips and resources for you to drive defensively.

Government guidelines are designed to make driving a safe experience for everyone. By following these rules, you are doing your part to make sure the road stays safe for all drivers.

Always Be a Defensive Driver

By being a defensive driver, you can feel more confident in your skills and safer while on the road. With these tips, you will be able to handle almost any situation while you drive.

Would you like to learn more about driving and cars? Check out our Automotive section for answers to all of your questions.


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