Defensive driving is a recurring theme of driver safety courses and traffic
enforcement everywhere because it can help prevent serious
car accidents from occurring. In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the less
obvious tips and suggestions for handling tricky situations while on the road.
First, let’s try to change the negative stereotype that is commonly
associated with defensive drivers. A defensive driver is not an overly
worrisome driver who drives 10mph below the posted speed limit. Defensive
driving indicates a driver is alert at all times. Paying attention and
anticipating danger or uncertainty requires sharp mental processing and
habitual familiarization. However, it can become second nature to any
driver willing to put forth the effort.
3 “Best Practices” for Effective Defensive Driving
1. Don’t Tailgate: It is important to avoid following too closely and discourage other drivers
from following too closely behind you. In flowing traffic, give yourself
a full 2-second count in distance between you and the car in front of
you. Be sure to remain calm if you are behind a driver who is driving
well below the speed limit. First, slow down and give that driver a cushion,
then begin preparing to pass the car once it’s safe to do so. If
you have a tailgater behind you, temporarily ease off the accelerator
and allow your speed to drop 5-10 mph temporarily. The tailgating driver
will likely pass you ASAP. Keep looking ahead, but anticipate that he/she
will likely pass you with haste. Let them do it. In all cases, never use
your brakes to discourage, warn, or intimidate a tailgater.
2. Take in the Big Picture: While it is important to look forward, you want to utilize your peripheral
vision while looking down the road. Don’t solely focus on the car
directly in front of you. If you’re behind a truck or SUV and cannot
see past it, it might be a good idea to signal and change lanes as soon
as it’s safe to do so. Try to scan at least several car-lengths
ahead of you. Often times, you can look through the windows of the car
in front of you and still see what is in front of that car. This can help
you to better prepare to stop, as you may see cars or objects in front
of the other driver at the same time he/she sees them.
3. Stay Out of Blind Spots: Always be sure to check over your shoulder so you can see your blind
spot before changing lanes and keep your car out of other drivers’
blind spots. It may seem safe for you to make a lane change, but be sure
to look just slightly ahead and two lanes over.Are you going to be changing lanes and moving right into another driver’s
blind spot? Avoid this at all costs.
If you are passing slower moving cars in adjacent lanes, minimize your
time in that car’s blind spot. Speed up so the front of you vehicle
passes through the blind spot and is at least even with the other car’s
front wheels. This should place your car within the other driver’s
peripheral vision, but you may still want to look over at the other driver
briefly to determine if your presence has registered. Accelerate safely
to avoid riding alongside a potentially distracted driver.
Alert & Aware Driving
The 3 preceding tips cover a broad range of specific defensive driving
tactics and examples. Additionally, it is important to keep the simple
basic in mind. These include looking before you turn, signaling single
turn and lane change, and checking your rear/side view mirrors once every
30-60 seconds. These basic items, along with the practices listed above,
can help to prevent at least 50% of the immediate causes of traffic accidents.
Defensive driving takes practice and discipline, but these habits can
help keep drivers of all types safe an alert.