How to Drive Defensively

Defensive driving is the key to avoiding crashes and lowering your risk behind the wheel, and it is all about expecting the unexpected. We’ve gathered some of the best safe driving tips from around the web, so you can do everything in your power to avoid car accidents:

Step 1: Plan Ahead

According to Geico, defensive driving starts before you even leave home. Check weather conditions before you go out, so you don’t get stuck in a rainstorm or slide around icy roads.

Give yourself enough time to make your commute and other important trips, so you’re not rushing.

Be aware of traffic and construction zones, so you have plenty of time to navigate road hazards safely.

Step 2: Stay Focused

Driving doesn’t take much physical strength, but it takes a lot of mental energy. When you are behind the wheel, focus on driving. Avoid distractions – like cell phones, food, cosmetics, and even deep conversations – and keep your mind on:

  • Road and traffic conditions
  • Your speed
  • Where you are in the roadway
  • Stop signs and traffic lights
  • The cars around you
  • Checking your mirror
  • Obeying traffic laws
  • Keeping a safe following distance

When you are driving, your eyes should always be on the road, observing the car in front of you, or scanning your surroundings. NEVER look down to send a text message and do not take your hands off the wheel or your mind off the road for any reason.

If you need to take a call, adjust the stereo, or complete any other task that takes your focus off driving, pull over or wait until you are stopped and away from other vehicles.

Step 3: Don’t Drive Drowsy or Drunk

You cannot focus on driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so don’t do it. ALWAYS drive sober.

Getting enough rest is just as important. Drunk or drowsy driving does not allow you to react quickly to potential hazards, like someone slamming on their brakes. Never get behind the wheel after drinking or using drugs – even prescription drugs – and get plenty of rest before long drives.

If you ever feel sleepy behind the wheel, pull over for a coffee, a walk, and even a quick nap. If you’re really tired, you may want to spend the night in a motel before continuing your journey.

Step 4: Watch Out for Other Drivers

Planning your route, focusing on the road, and staying alert are 3 important steps, but you also need to watch out for other drivers. Assume that other drivers are not focusing on safety and try to anticipate their actions. For example, if you notice someone weaving in and out of traffic, assume that they will try to cut in front of you and give them extra space.

Scanning can be a great way to keep an eye out for other drivers. Always know what the conditions are 20 to 30 seconds in front of you, check your mirrors regularly, and watch for pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals along the side of the road (and in your peripheral vision).

Step 5: Anticipate the Worst-Case Scenario

When you are behind the wheel, assume you are the only person looking out for you and your passengers. Be courteous of other drivers whenever possible but anticipate the worst-case scenario in every interaction. If you see a driver approaching a stop sign, for instance, assume that they will run the stop sign and wait until they stop to proceed. If you see someone signaling, assume they do not see you and give them extra space. Always enter intersections slowly with the assumption that other drivers run red lights.

If you see a driver whose behavior worries you, slow down and stay out of their way or give them plenty of space to pass you. If you fear for your safety, turn right or take the next exit as soon as it is safe and consider reporting the behavior to your local police station.

Whenever possible, drive near the shoulder so you can pull off the road safely in case of an emergency.

Step 6: Keep Your Cool

Other people can be frustrating, especially when they are not prioritizing safety. Unfortunately, you cannot control other people’s actions, but you can protect yourself. Always put safety first and do not engage with aggressive drivers or fall prey to aggressive driving behaviors yourself.

Avoid speeding, tailgating, punishing other drivers with your brakes or bright lights, and never prevent another driver from changing lanes.

Put safety ahead of your emotions to reduce your risk of car accidents.

Step 7: Have an Escape Route

Keep in mind that you may have to brake abruptly, change lanes, or avoid an accident at a moment’s notice. Try to keep a “cushion” of space around your vehicle, so you can pull over, switch lanes, or change your route in an emergency.

Keep 3 to 4 seconds of distance between you and the car in front of you and let the rear driver pass if you are being tailgated. When driving near large trucks, motorcycles, or in bad weather, give yourself even more space.

Step 8: Always Wear Your Seatbelt

Your seatbelt is your best defense against drunk, distracted, aggressive, and otherwise unsafe drivers. Buckle up for every drive – no matter how far the drive is or how fast you are going.

If the worst happens, and you do get in an accident, wearing a seatbelt can keep you inside the vehicle and save your life.

Bonus Tip: Know Who to Call

Defensive driving can help you prevent the majority of accidents, but sometimes, there is nothing you can do to avoid a crash.

If another driver hits you, call the police (or 911 if there are any serious injuries), then your doctor (or the nearest hospital), then your attorney. You can call your insurance company, as well, but keep in mind that your adjuster may not have your best interest at heart and always speak to an attorney before signing anything from your insurer or making a recorded statement.

Should your car accident occur in or around Marietta, make Busch, Reed, Jones & Leeper, P.C. the attorney you call. Our team has more than 150 years of combined professional experience and offers free consultations to help you explore your rights and legal options.

Learn how to protect your future today. Call us at (770) 629-0154 or contact us online.