As a defensive driver, you can avoid crashes and help lower your risk behind the wheel.
If you've been out on the roads, you know that not everyone drives well — but most people think they do. Some drivers speed aggressively. Others wander into another lane because they aren't paying attention. Drivers may follow too closely, make sudden turns without signaling, or weave in and out of traffic.
Aggressive drivers are known road hazards, causing one third of all traffic crashes. But inattentive or distracted driving is becoming more of a problem as people "multitask" by talking on the phone, texting or checking messages, eating, or even watching TV as they drive.
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.
Skills That Put You in Control
Before you get behind the wheel of that two-ton frame of glass and steel, here are some tips to help you stay in control:
Stay 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, signals, road markings, following directions, being aware of the cars around you, checking your mirrors — the list goes on. Staying focused on driving — and only driving — is critical to safe driving.
Distractions, like talking on the phone or eating, make a driver less able to see potential problems and properly react to them. It's not just teen drivers who are at fault: People who have been driving for a while can get overconfident in their driving abilities and let their driving skills get sloppy. All drivers need to remind themselves to stay focused.
Stay alert. Being alert (not sleepy or under the influence) allows you to react quickly to potential problems — like when the driver in the car ahead slams on the brakes at the last minute. Obviously, alcohol or drugs (including prescription and over-the-counter 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.
Watch out for the other guy. Part of staying in control is being aware of other drivers and roadway users around you (and what they may suddenly do) so you're less likely to be caught off guard. For example, if a car speeds past you on the highway but there's not much space between the car and a slow-moving truck in the same lane, it's a pretty sure bet the driver will try to pull into your lane directly in front of you. Anticipating what another driver might do and making the appropriate adjustment helps reduce your risk.
Eight Secrets of Super Driving
When you drive defensively, you're aware and ready for whatever happens. You are cautious, yet ready to take action and not put your fate in the hands of other drivers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 90% of all crashes are attributed to driver error.
Following these defensive driving tips can help reduce your risk behind the wheel:
If you're interested in taking a defensive driving course to help sharpen your driving knowledge and skills, contact your local AAA or your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Many states keep a list of approved defensive driving course providers, and lots of these offer online programs. 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, safer driver.
B. Continually scan the road, looking ahead, to the sides, checking side and rear mirrors and anticipate what may happen.
ComedyTrafficSchool.com How To Scan For Hazards On The Road
To avoid last minute moves, look down the road 10–15 seconds ahead of your vehicle so you can see hazards early. Constantly staring at the road just in front of your vehicle is dangerous. As you scan ahead, be alert for vehicles around you. Watch for parked vehicles that are moving into traffic.
Use your mirrors. Allow enough space between you and the vehicle ahead to give yourself an “out.” Mistakes cause collisions. In the city, 10–15 seconds is about one block. On the highway, 10–15 seconds is about a quarter of a mile.
Take in the whole scene–If you only look at the middle of the road, you will miss what is happening on the side of the road and behind you. Scanning helps you to see:
Before changing lanes, look into your rear view mirror for nearby vehicles and also over your shoulder to check for blind spots. Blind spots can hide a motorcyclist, a vehicle or a bicyclist. Watch for things about to happen, like a ball rolling into the street or a vehicle door opening.
Watch for hazards–Look beyond the vehicle ahead of you. Do not develop a “fixed stare.” Keep scanning. Check your rear view mirrors every two – five seconds so you know the position of vehicles near you.
On the freeway, be ready for changes in traffic conditions. Watch for signals from other drivers. Expect merging vehicles at on-ramps and interchanges. Be prepared for rapid changes in road conditions and traffic flow. Know which lanes are clear so you can use them if necessary.
Be careful of an inattentive or erratic driver. If you notice that a car near you is driving in a manner that is unsafe, make yourself aware of their situation, and how it may affect you. Will they be able to see the red light? Will they weave into another lane? Consider what could happen if they did. Find the best course of action to take to avoid a potential hazard. Should you move to another lane? Should you decrease your speed? Know what to do to avoid conflict or collision. Since you are the alert driver, be ready to avoid the predicted errors that inattentive or erratic drivers may make. Be prepared to hit the brakes if needed, or step on the gas to get out of the way.
Do not be a tailgater! Many drivers do not see as far ahead as they should because they follow too closely (tailgate), and the vehicle ahead blocks their view.
The more space you allow between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead, the more time you will have to see a hazard and stop or avoid that hazard.
Most rear end collisions are caused by tailgating. To avoid tailgating, use the “three-second rule.” When the vehicle ahead of you passes a certain point such as a sign, count “one-thousand- one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three.” This takes about three seconds. If you pass the same point before you finish counting, you are following too closely.
If you follow too closely and another driver “cuts” in front of you, just take your foot off the gas. This gives you space between your vehicle and the other driver, without having to slam on your brakes or swerve into another lane.
Any time you come to a place where people may cross or enter your path or one line of traffic meets another, you should look to the left and right sides of your vehicle to make sure no one is coming. Always look to each side of your vehicle at intersections, crosswalks, and railroad crossings.
To maintain a space cushion on each side of your vehicle:
It is very important to check behind you before you:
Check traffic behind you often to know if you are being tailgated (another driver is following too closely). If you are being tailgated, be careful! Brake slowly before stopping. Tap your brakes lightly a few times to warn the tailgater you are slowing down.
“Lose” the tailgater as soon as you can, by changing lanes and allowing the tailgater to pass you or slowing down to allow enough “cushion” between you and the car in front of you. If this does not work, pull off the road when it is safe and let the tailgater pass.
CONTRIBUTING FACTORS THAT CAN CAUSE COLLISIONS
There are many contributing factors that can cause collisions. We will discuss these in further detail later, but for now here are some of the most common causes of collisions:
When you enroll in a traffic school program, you will learn about the topics mentioned above and more. A motor vehicle can be a safe mode of transportation, or it can be a very dangerous weapon. If you want to learn how to increase the chances of making it to your destination in one piece, complete our traffic school online today. The program is ComedyTrafficSchool.com. Take online traffic school the fun way with our award winning course. Our traffic school course is the perfect choice for anyone who recently received a traffic ticket; keep your driving record clean, your auto insurance rates low and become a better, safer driver!