15 Rules of Defensive Driving

15 Rules of Defensive Driving

Annie Jacobs

Annie Jacobs

1. Pay Attention

Paying attention doesn’t come naturally, however it can become a habit if you work at it. Make conscious, persistent choices NOT to eat while driving, or text while driving, or whatever you do that takes your attention off the road. Make an effort to connect your mind to your eyes and work at consciously analyzing what you see while you drive. This is called “situational awareness.”

2. Trust NO ONE

On the road, you can never know what other drivers will do. While driving, keep an eye on the cars around you and leave yourself plenty of room. Anticipate the mistakes others might make so you can be ready to react quickly.

3. Yield Anyway

Right of way rules are often misunderstood, and there are situations where the rules may not be clear to everyone. If there is uncertainty about which vehicle should have the right of way, give the other driver the road. When it comes to driving safely, it’s not the principle, but the outcome, that counts.

4. Don’t Speed

Consider that speeding usually doesn’t save much time. Driving at a higher than reasonable speed increases your risk in two ways: it cuts your reaction time and results in more “stored” energy (that must be dissipated in any collision). You should consider if the risks are worth the gain. A defensive driver chooses a speed matching traffic as closely as possible without exceeding speed limits. If traffic is moving at higher speed than you should go, keep to the right and out of the way. This is often a legal requirement as well, if you are traveling at a speed less than the flow of traffic. Also, don’t neglect to maintain the correct following distance.

5. Don’t Be Impaired

We all have the obligation to make sure we are able to drive safely whenever we operate our vehicle. Ask yourself, “Am I safe to drive? Am I rested? Am I ill? Have I taken medications that might affect my abilities? Has enough time past since I had that alcoholic drink? Do I have my glasses on, if needed?” Only if you can answer yes to all these questions should you exercise your privilege to drive.

6. Wear Your Seat Belt

Seat belts are the most significant safety device ever invented. Seat belts do several things for you. They provide impact protection, they absorb crash forces, and they keep you from being thrown out of the vehicle. They hold you in place while the vehicle collapses around your “safe” zone. Belts help keep you in your place, in control, and better able to avoid a crash.

7. Don’t Run Red

There are two basic types of red light runners—there’s the daydreamer or distracted driver who just doesn’t see it, and then there’s the driver who’s impatient and accelerates on the yellow signal instead of stopping and waiting the average 45 seconds of a signal cycle. Running red lights is too dangerous, both for you and for others, no matter how pressured or late you are. Pay attention to traffic lights, slow down and be patient.

8.  Drive Precisely

Most everyone knows the basics of the traffic laws, however many drivers ignore them for the sake of expediency every day. Why is it important to follow all the little rules that don’t seem to make much difference? Traffic rules are in place to create the consistency and uniformity that allow us to predict with some degree of confidence what the other driver is going to do, thereby avoiding conflicts and collisions.

9. Create Space

Guard your safety by actively creating space around your vehicle, never allowing yourself to get “boxed in.” Adequate space creates time and helps you avoid collisions. Maintain at least two seconds of following distance. Adjust your position in traffic as necessary to avoid driving in others’ blind areas. Don’t allow yourself to be tailgated—change lanes or adjust your speed to encourage tailgaters to pass you.

10. Always Signal Your Intentions

Be careful not to send the wrong message when you signal. For example, if you are approaching an intersection, and you intend to turn right immediately after the intersection into a service station, be careful not to signal too soon. Oncoming traffic may think you intend to turn at the intersection rather than beyond it, and they may turn left in front of you. Finally, always use your signal before you start a turn or a lane change.

11. Know Your Blind Spots

Where are your blind spots? It depends on the vehicle, but a car typically has blind areas at the sides near the rear of the vehicle, meaning you cannot see anything in these areas by looking in your correctly-adjusted mirrors. Other vehicles may be blind to anything that is directly behind. Vehicles in which the driver sits very high may have forward-quarter blind spots—they may not be able to see anything low to the ground in front or to the sides near the front. It is important to check your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds while driving. At the same time, it’s not enough just to check the mirrors.  The blind areas on most vehicles are large enough to hide other vehicles. Mirrors may not reveal a vehicle that is changing lanes, so before you switch lanes be sure to turn your head to check for oncoming traffic.

12. Avoid Distractions

When we assume our driving “duties,” one of the most important is that we be responsible for our actions and the results of those actions. In almost every case, a driver involved in a collision had an opportunity to avoid the collision—even when the other driver was responsible for the errors that led to the collision. Some of the most common driving distractions are: eating, drinking, applying make-up, talking on cell phones, adjusting the radio or changing CD’s, dealing with rambunctious or misbehaving kids, or even just talking to passengers.

13. Beware of Intersections

Intersections are one of the most dangerous areas for any driver. Over 80% of all city collisions that result in injury or death occur within signal-light intersections. 

The majority of collisions at controlled intersections happen within 4 seconds of a light change.

To reduce your risk, slow down as you approach a green light and make sure to look left, then right, then left again. The first danger to you is the traffic approaching from your left. If the intersection is a “blind” one – where you can’t see the traffic on the cross street until they are very close, slow down even more.

14. Slow Down in Rain or Snow

The first thing to do when the rain (or snow) starts to fall is slow down. The standard rule of thumb is to slow down by a third in the rain, and by at least half in the snow. Slow more if ice may be present. Make sure your tires are in great shape and that they are inflated properly.

15. Be a Safe Passer

If you decide to pass another vehicle, visually clear the road ahead and behind you first. On one-lane roads, make sure you have enough clear space ahead to pass without interfering with oncoming vehicles. Only pass when it is legal to do so.

Do not tailgate prior to passing — maintain your following distance so you can see what’s ahead. Furthermore, don’t speed while passing. Finally, make sure you give the overtaken vehicle enough clearance when returning to your lane — you should be able to see the front of the vehicle and its tires on the pavement in your mirrors. Finally, remember that not all no-passing zones are marked with solid yellow stripes or signs — there are places where you are expected to know that passing is not allowed; some of these are near hill crests, approaching bridges, and approaching intersections.

Create good driving habits by following these 15 rules every time you are behind the wheel, whether for work or a family vacation. Stay safe!

Source: Road Trip America

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