You may have heard of defensive driving, but what is it? Defensive driving is all about doing what you can to limit your risk of accidents while driving. Paying attention to the road, being mindful of other drivers, and maintaining your vehicle are all essential to having a safe trip. No matter your age, it’s always a good idea to brush up on your defensive driving techniques. Here are a few good tips to keep in mind for the next time you hit the road.
Defensive Driving Tips
Follow the 3-4 second rule
The 3-4 second rule says that you should always stay at least 3 to 4 seconds behind the driver in front of you. Some say it is good practice to drive behind other at least 1 second per 10 miles per hour. So if you drive at 60 miles per hour on the highway, you should have at least 6 seconds worth of buffer between you and the next car.
This rule makes it safer for you in the event that you need to stop quickly. You never know when the driver in front of you may hit their brakes, and you need to be ready. The more time you have to react, the better for everyone.
There are plenty of things vying for your attention all day, and the distractions don’t stop while driving. Music from the radio, a ringing cell phone and billboards on the road are just a few things that could pull your attention from the road. When your focus is off of your driving, you run a higher risk of accidents.
It is best practice to not use your cell phone in any way while driving (in fact, it’s illegal in many areas). Set your radio before starting to drive and leave it alone, or adjust it from the wheel. Don’t try to read every sign and billboard you pass by if it’s going to take your eyes off the road. Always remember the most important part of driving is the driving part.
Be aware of your surroundings
With all of these distractions, it can be easy to forget to keep track of things around you. How many cars are near you? Are they slowing down? Is there a construction zone up ahead? Know what’s going on so you can react quickly and efficiently. Conditions are constantly changing due to vehicles, weather, and quality of the road itself. The more you know about your immediate surroundings, the better.
Watch out for the other guy
More specifically than being aware of your surroundings, be mindful of the other drivers. Some drivers will switch lanes suddenly without using a signal. Others will speed up or slow down just as quickly. Others could sway in their lane and come to close. Just because you are driving defensively does not mean they are, too.
Even when you are surrounded by good drivers, something unexpected can happen. Car issues can arise for the other drivers and you will have no idea why they cut you off. If you are driving safely, you will have time to react to these kinds of problems.
Watch out for changing road conditions
In addition to distracted drivers, changing road conditions can cause problems, too. The road can become very slick when it begins to rain. Heavy downpours can start suddenly. Even leaves in the autumn can cause tons of issues on the road. Beyond this, you can find yourself in a construction zone, in a neighborhood with tight roads, or at an intersection with a broken traffic light.
Car conditions can also lead to problems. Be sure to keep up with car safety maintenance so as to not break down. If your tires are not properly inflated, you could have a hard time controlling the vehicle. If you haven’t had an oil change in a long time, your engine could stall. If your brakes are old, you could lose the ability to stop quickly. Taking care of your car maintenance is an essential aspect of defensive driving.
Follow the law
It may seem obvious, but following the law is a good idea when driving. Speed limits are there to keep drivers safe from moving too quickly in areas where they may need to have time to react and slow down. Driving drunk will obviously make it harder to stay focused. Driving without insurance is also against the law for your own good, as the cost of car repairs and injuries can be overwhelming. Always follow the laws of the road, even the ones that don’t directly affect your driving.
Be sure to use common sense
We all know our own abilities and limitations behind the wheel and we should always act accordingly. Know when you are too tired to drive. Know how much music you can handle while driving. Know what types of roads you are confident with driving.
In addition to these, be sure to use your turn signals whenever you change lanes or make a turn. While traveling through a green light, take a quick look to ensure no one else is ignoring their red light. Generally, you should have an awareness of what’s going on within a 50-foot radius around your vehicle at all times.
A lot goes into defensive driving, but every bit is well worth it. You’ll have fewer accidents (major or minor), lower car insurance rates, and lower car repair bills. Most of all, you’ll be able to enjoy your vehicle for years to come.
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