Driving Safety Tips and Tricks
Not everyone on the road is a good driver, even though they might think they are. Sometimes, people drive too fast, veer into other lanes, or make sudden turns without signaling. Aggressive drivers cause a third of all traffic crashes, and distracted driving is quickly becoming more of a problem as people try to multitask as they drive. Luckily, you can lower the chances of getting into an accident by being a defensive driver. Defensive driving means looking out for and being prepared for the actions of other drivers. You can’t control what other drivers do, but when you drive defensively, you can help to avoid an accident.
Skills That Put You in Control
Cars are essentially a two-ton machine made of glass and steel, so it’s important to keep control of the vehicle at all times and do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Here are some tips that may help:
- Stay Focused. It may not seem like it at first, but driving is a thinking task first and foremost. There are a lot of things to consider behind the wheel, such as your speed, your position in the lane, traffic laws, road conditions, road markings, signs, signals, how to get where you’re going, and being aware of the vehicles on the road around you. It’s important to stay focused on the task of driving because it’s critical for safety. Distractions like eating or talking on the phone while driving can make it easier to miss potential hazards and react to them in time.
- Stay Alert. When you’re not driving tired or under the influence, it’s easier to react to potential problems quickly. While it’s well-documented that drugs (including over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications) and alcohol can affect your judgment and reaction time, drowsy driving can also have the same effect. Driving while tired is one of the leading causes of car crashes, so always make sure to get some sleep before your trip!
- Keep an Eye Out for Other Drivers. Being in control means being aware of what other people on the road around you are doing so they don’t take you by surprise. Anticipating what other drivers may do and acting accordingly can help reduce the risk of an accident.
Eight Secrets of Good Driving
The goal of defensive driving is to be cautious and be ready to take action in an instant if you need to, so you’re not putting your fate in the hands of all of the other drivers on the road. After all, 90% of all crashes are due to human error, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. By following a few helpful defensive driving tips, you can reduce your risk on the road and stay safe:
- Be a Safe Driver. Start with yourself: Think about any tendencies you might have toward aggressive and inattentive driving, and do what you can to develop better habits. Also, follow basic safety advice like leaving enough space between your vehicle and the one in front of you and always wearing your seat belt.
- Pay Attention. Scan the road ahead of you and check your mirrors often. Your eyes should always be moving to see what other cars around you are doing, as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, or animals, so you can be prepared for what they might do.
- Don’t Be Dependent On the Drivers Around You. When you’re on the road, it’s important to be considerate of others, but always put yourself first. Never assume that other drivers will move out of the way or give you the chance to merge. Always assume that they will make mistakes, and prepare yourself to have to react. Your movements should always be in anticipation of the worst-case scenario.
- Use the 3-to-4-Second Rule. You are most likely to collide with the car in front of you on the road, so you should keep 3 to 4 seconds behind them. Look at something on the side of the road ahead of you, like a sign, watch the vehicle in front of you pass it, then start counting: You should get to at least 3 seconds before you pass the same object. This gives you plenty of time to brake if they stop or slow down suddenly. If the weather is bad, increase this distance.
- Slow Down. You shouldn’t speed, but you should also keep in mind that speed limits presume that the road conditions are ideal. If you’re driving at night, through fog, in the rain, or in wintry conditions, drive slower. Remember that going too fast makes your car harder to control.
- Always Have a Planned Escape Route. No matter what kind of driving situation you’re in, you can defend yourself from potential danger by positioning your vehicle to give you the best chance of being seen by other cars and seeing what’s happening around you. You should also always look for an alternate travel path so there’s a way out if the road ahead is blocked suddenly.
- Take Challenges One at a Time. If there are multiple risks presented to you while on the road, do your best to deal with them one at a time. Trying to deal with too much at once can be overwhelming and can lead to an increased risk of mistakes.
- Get Rid of Any Distractions. Distractions will divert your attention away from driving.
A defensive driving course can help drive these points home and sharpen your knowledge and skills. There are a variety of programs available in every state, including online programs. Taking a defensive driving class can also make you eligible for insurance discounts and safe driving points, so while it may cost money, it may be worth the investment.
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