3 Defensive Driving Techniques to Dodge Accidents and Bad Drivers
What annoys you most about driving? Is it traffic? If you live in a big city, that could certainly be a source of frustration for you. What about all the bad drivers out there? Does it upset you when someone cuts you off or follows you too closely? There are no surprises if you feel that way. Hopefully, you don’t allow these drivers to get you too frustrated. Admittedly, it’s not always easy to stay calm on the roads, but you can avoid getting into accidents by countering driver offenses with defensive driving techniques. You’ve probably heard the term before, but it’s worth taking a deeper look to see what it entails.
What is Defensive Driving
You might not find the term in many older dictionaries, but there is a definition for it. Wikipedia labels it as “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.” In other words, it’s really a form of selflessness – driving for the sake of keeping everyone around you and yourself safe (an important factor we’ll discuss soon). It’s a concept your parents and driving instructors most likely taught you, but it’s easy to forget some of these principles over time.
1. Put Safety First by Following to the Rules
The most important aspect of driving defensively, is the practice of safe road habits. You won’t grasp this concept until you obey the rules of the road, and minimize the risks you take. It starts here. Fortunately, safe driving is one of the easiest ways to improve your defensive driving skills. The rules are strictly enforced in many areas, and disobeying them could mean heavy fines and penalties if you were caught by the police. You won’t be able to make an entire highway safe, but you can at least make the conditions better for yourself and other drivers around you.
Basic Safety Reminders
- Don’t Speed!
- Double check your blind spot when changing lanes
- Obey traffic signs and lights
- Tailor your driving for weather conditions and construction zones
- Don’t drive under the influence or sleep deprived
2. Be Courteous & Watch out for the Other Guy
One of the hardest factors to grasp when it comes to defensive driving, is courtesy. It’s natural for us to lookout for ourselves when on the road. And then we all want our rights respected. For this very reason, people will retaliate towards one another when a driver does something to offend or endanger another. But safe driving will sometimes mean overriding human nature. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to cross an intersection while someone made an unsafe left turn, merely because it’s your right of way. A collision between you and the other driver could be catastrophic, so the best thing would be to brake immediately. And even less dramatic situations may require us to think of others.
- Let someone who’s about to miss their exit ahead of you
- Let someone who’s in an ending lane fit in ahead of you
- Give up your right of way if it means avoiding an accident
- Don’t retaliate if someone provokes you on the road
- Be patient with elderly or student drivers
3. Maintain Your Vehicle
The reliability of your vehicle is the third factor that determines whether you are a defensive driver or not. There may not seem to be a link between reliability and defensiveness, but there is. A car that doesn’t meet safety standards automatically puts you and everyone else around you in danger. It doesn’t matter how skilled of a driver you are. For example, your ability to avoid collisions isn’t all about you – much of that depends on how well your car is functioning. And the only way to keep your car at an optimum level, is by regular maintenance. Defensive maneuvers such as quick braking and swerving (remember, only necessary to avoid danger) are the by-products of a car that meets its performance standards. Again, you’ll need to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape to keep it there.
Car Maintenance Reminders
- Follow your car’s maintenance schedule (provided by your manufacturer)
- Don’t ignore strange noises or unusual occurrences while driving
- Conduct Self-Checks for things like your lights, wipers, engine oil and tires
- Don’t take chances with repairs; rely only on a trusted mechanic
- Replace car parts with suitable matches
The Consequences of Failing to Drive Defensively
If we were to get technical, the use of defensive driving techniques is not a law. You most likely would never get pulled over by a cop to get a ticket for “failing to drive defensively”. But failing to drive defensively can get you a ticket, and much worse if you’re not careful. It’s safe to say many accidents could have been avoided if drivers made better choices for themselves (and for others) while on the road.
Tickets and fines are the least of your worries. You might receive a ticket for doing something aggressive (ie. speeding or following someone who cut you off), and you’ll have to pay a few dollars and deal with a few demerit points. These “punishments” eventually fall off your record. However, a death caused by a car accident is something you can never “pay off”, and the emotional toll lasts for life. That’s why every move you make on the road should feel like a game of chess; you should be strategic, recognizing that everything you do can either bring you home, or leave you stuck at the scene of an accident.
Defensiveness is the Key to a Safe Drive
It doesn’t matter what car you drive, neither what route you take, driving with others in mind is what will get you to your destination safely. You will encounter frustrating drivers from time-to-time, and they will test your patience. You will come across people who challenge you and take unnecessary risks. Your goal should be to steer clear of such people without causing injury to yourself or them. Even if you forfeit your right of way, it will be worth it if you avoid an accident, and arrive alive.