Defensive Driving is Safe Driving

Young female practicing defensive driving

Always practice defensive driving by being aware of what is around your car!

“Defensive driving is driving your car in such a way that you avoid collisions and accidents regardless of the conditions and/or actions of the other drivers around you.” This term was first used by the National Safety Council when it launched back in 1964 a systematic driving course based on the experience and safety guidelines set forth by professional drivers. It implies that you are a defensive or safe driver if you observe more than traffic laws but also the laws of physics, — that is, by keeping a trained eye on other moving vehicles and evaluating driving options in tight situations.


There is no question that driving is fraught with risks. One of the primary risks is posed by other drivers who act as if they own the road. There are speed maniacs who like to overtake everyone. Some people speed aggressively. Others wander into another lane because they may not be paying attention. Drivers may follow too closely, make sudden turns without signaling, or weave in and out of traffic. Thus, such aggressive drivers are said to account for one-third of all car accidents. Also becoming more of a problem is inattentive driving which applies to multitasking people who while driving talk on their mobile phones, send or check text messages, snack or even watch TV.


You can’t control the actions of other drivers. But updating your defensive driving skills can help you avoid the dangers caused by other people’s bad driving and drive safely on the road. So before you get behind the wheel of that two-ton frame of glass and steel, here are some tips to help you be a safe driver.


Keep focused. Driving is primarily a thinking task, and you have a lot of things to think about when you’re behind the wheel: road conditions, your speed and position, observing traffic laws, signs and signals, following directions, being aware of the cars around you, checking your mirrors, and so on and so forth.   By avoiding distractions, such as talking on the phone or eating, you can see potential problems develop and properly react to them.


Be alert. Being alert while driving allows you to react quickly to potential problems, as when the car ahead of you suddenly brakes. Obviously, alcohol or drugs affect a driver’s reaction time and judgment. Driving while drowsy has the same effect and is one of the leading causes of crashes. So rest up before your road trip.


Think safety. Avoiding aggressive and inattentive driving tendencies yourself will put you in a stronger position to deal with other people’s bad driving. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front. Always lock your doors and wear your seat belt to protect you from being thrown from the car in a crash.


Have an escape route. In all driving situations, the best way to avoid potential dangers is to position your vehicle where you have the best chance of seeing and being seen. Having an alternate path of travel is essential, so take the position of other vehicles into consideration when determining an alternate path of travel. Always leave yourself an out — a place to move your vehicle if your immediate path of travel was suddenly blocked.


Follow speed limits. Posted speed limits apply to ideal conditions. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your speed matches conditions. In addition, higher speeds make controlling your vehicle that much more difficult if things go wrong. To maintain control of your vehicle, you must control your speed.


If you’re interested in taking a defensive driving course to help sharpen your driving knowledge and skills, contact National Traffic Safety Institute. In some states, you may be eligible for insurance premium discounts, “positive” safe driving points, or other benefits. These courses do cost money, but it’s worth the investment to be a smarter and safer driver.

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