There’s no doubt about it; our roads are dangerous places. Traffic accidents claim more than 30,000 lives each year in the US alone.
However, you can take action as a driver to lower the chances of becoming involved in a road traffic collision. Defensive driving techniques can help to enhance your safety as well as protecting others on the road.
You may be wondering to yourself, “what is defensive driving?” Therefore, it’s worth just taking a few moments to explain the concept before running through five tips for driving defensively.
What is Defensive Driving?
Defensive driving is a set of road skills, techniques, and strategies that help you defend yourself against potential collisions. Not everyone on the road is competent or safe behind the wheel. What that means for you is that you must be aware of potential incidents before they happen to protect yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle.
You can develop strategies for all kinds of situations, such as driving on a highway or driving in the snow. The point is that if you work on developing defensive driving habits now, by the time they become second nature to you, they could save your life.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top five defensive driving tips to protect you and other occupants of the vehicle.
1. Be Wary of Blinkers
Just because the car in front of you is indicating left, it doesn’t mean it will actually turn. Think about how many times you’ve seen a car with their turn signal blinking, unaware that it’s even turned on. A turn-signal is merely an indication of a driver’s intention to turn, not confirmation.
Thus, unless you can physically see the vehicle turning, that action hasn’t been confirmed. Wait and see what the driver does rather than making the presumption that they know what they are doing. You can then avoid one of the thousands of accidents that occur because someone was incorrectly using their blinker.
2. Constantly Observe and Anticipate
Merely looking at the road is not enough to protect yourself from a collision. You’ve got to be anticipating what happens next so that you can react before it’s too late. For instance, if you’re driving by an elementary school at the end of the school day, you have to expect kids to make poor decisions crossing the road.
You might not be able to even see them emerging from behind a parked car until it’s too late. However, by reducing your speed and hovering your foot over the brake pedal, you can instantly react if required.
3. Maintain Space on All Sides of Your Vehicle
A fundamental tenet of defensive driving is making allowances for those making poor choices around you. That’s why you should maintain as much space as possible (within reason) between you and other vehicles. That way, you’ve got room to maneuver if someone makes a mistake.
Remember, no matter how hard you are concentrating on the road, those around you may be on their smartphones or distracted by their in-car stereo, so you need the space to provide a reaction time buffer should they get it wrong. That goes for behind your vehicle too. If you come to a stop and the person behind you collides with your car, then your efforts will have been in vain.
4. Keep a Close Eye on Trucks
Large vehicles such as semis and other trucks present a particular danger to other road users. Firstly, most of the time, these vehicles are heavily-laden, meaning they cannot react quickly to events taking place further down the road.
Secondly, these vehicles’ operators often drive several hours at a time without rest, meaning their concentration levels may naturally dip. Hundreds of commercial vehicle accidents occur each year due to driver tiredness, so it’s always best to be on high alert in their presence. For example, according to a truck accident attorney in Atlanta, 4,889 truck and bus fatalities occurred in 2017 and has seen an increase in injuries since 2009.
Another critical facet of defensive driving is assessing the weather conditions. Wet or icy roads can dramatically increase the amount of time it takes your vehicle to come to a safe stop. Research suggests braking distances can be doubled in wet conditions – and multiplied by ten on snow or ice.
If you’re on the highway in snowy conditions traveling at 70mph, it could take you the length of seven football fields to come to a stop. Therefore, in sub-optimal weather conditions, you must adapt your driving style to ensure that you can come to a halt without becoming involved in a collision.