What Defensive Driving Means and 6 Ways You Can Practice It

defensive driving

Regardless of how many years you’ve been behind the wheel or the amount of caution you use on the road, you have no control over how other motorists behave. You can’t always trust the drivers around you to make the best decisions. Some of them are just beginners at driving. Some engage in dangerous habits like multitasking and chatting on the phone while they’re behind the wheel. Because the roads can be unsafe and accidents can happen, practicing defensive driving is a must for all drivers.

What is defensive driving?

“Defensive driving” refers to a driver’s ability to anticipate risks in order to reduce potential hazards associated with driving. When we engage in defensive driving, we pay attention and stay aware of the vehicles all around us so we can spot potential hazards before they even occur. 

In defensive driving, awareness is vital. Applying defensive driving techniques can help ensure yours and your passengers’ safety. Collisions and other road accidents can happen, but the risk can be reduced when you practice this driving technique.

So, how do you practice defensive driving?

Always be prepared

We can’t predict when collisions will happen, but they can be prevented when you’re well-prepared. So, what preventative actions can you take?

Start by sitting upright in your car with your back straight instead of slouching. Keep your hands on the steering wheel while being mindful of the vehicles around you, as well as the road conditions. When you spot a potential hazard, start to slow down, change lanes, or take other preventative actions to make driving conditions safer. These will all help you avoid the possibility of being involved in a collision. 

Focus on the road and your driving

One of the primary reasons behind road accidents are distractions. Many things can cause us to become distracted while driving. Things like loud music, talkative passengers, a phone call, and things that catch your eye outside the window are just some of the examples of things that tend to distract us when we drive. 

Let’s admit it. Most of us allow ourselves to become distracted by these things at some point or another. However, in order to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you, it’s imperative to focus on the road and your driving at all times.

Drive at a moderate speed

Another common reason behind collisions is driving above the recommended speed limit. The chances of crashing and getting into an accident are higher when you drive too fast. It may not seem dangerous to exceed the limit when there are barely any other cars on the road, but speeding can still increase your risk of being involved in an accident by 50%. 

Be sure to comply with speed limits and adjust as needed based on road conditions. You may need to drive slower than the posted speed limit when the weather conditions are less than ideal. 

Keep an eye on your surroundings

While it’s important to pay attention to the cars in front of you, it’s equally important to also keep an eye on the rest of your surroundings so you can easily spot potential hazards. Continuously monitor all of the traffic around you including the cars behind you, next to you, and the ones passing you. 

Remember that accidents can seemingly come out nowhere from all angles, not just from vehicles in front of you. Make it a habit to check your mirrors regularly and be mindful of your vehicle’s blind spots. There could be hazards very close to your car that are not easily visible because they’re hidden by pillars or not within view of your mirrors.

Keep a safe distance from the car in front of you

Do you tend to drive too close to the car in front of you? What if that driver stops suddenly? Will you be able to respond fast enough to avoid a collision? 

Whenever you’re behind another vehicle, it is best to keep a safe distance in order to make sure you have ample time to stop, in case that driver slams on his or her brakes. 

Communicate with other drivers using signals

Another vital part of defensive driving is using your signals in order to communicate with other drivers. Make sure other drivers understand how you’re maneuvering through traffic by using your vehicle’s lights, turn signals, and hand signals when needed. 

While you can control your own behavior while driving, you have no control over how other drivers behave. Ensure yours and your passengers’ safety by practicing defensive driving. 

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