We’ve discussed how car crashes in the United States each year impact our economy and society. Sure, they lead to higher car insurance costs for each of us, but their impact goes much deeper, and they remove almost 2.5% from our gross domestic product (GDP) each year. We’ve also discussed how they can impact individuals on a deeply personal level, since crashes can result in the loss of life. But despite all of the statistical data that gets thrown our way, one thing is perfectly clear: the vast majority of these crashes, collisions and so-called accidents are preventable.
We’re not kidding. Most automobile accidents are preventable. If every single driver employed the basic techniques of defensive driving, the number of crashes would be dramatically reduced.
WHAT IS DEFENSIVE DRIVING?
If you’re like a lot of people, you may be wondering what the actual definition of defensive driving even is. To put it simply, defensive driving is the act of applying driving rules and techniques that can help motorists reduce risks and anticipate dangerous situations. Below are some tips on how to be a better defensive driver.
FOCUS ON THE TASK AT HAND: DRIVING
The first step in becoming a defensive driver is to recognize that you can control how you drive. You should be thinking safety first. You can’t rely on others on the road to make your safety a priority. That’s your job. So, wear your seat belt, don’t drive aggressively and keep your full attention on the task at hand: driving.
Constantly scanning the road with one’s eyes is another habit of good, defensive drivers. This means checking the front, left side, right side and rear with all of your mirrors. Make sure you’re scanning far ahead, not just casually looking around you. This will give you time to react to any situation that could be coming your way. Keep your eyes peeled for other vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles or pedestrians even pets and wildlife should be on your radar.
ALWAYS HAVE AN ESCAPE ROUTE
This means not following too closely and not getting boxed-in. On multiple lane roads, such as freeways, center lanes are preferred, as they maximize your ability to go left or right.
Most driver guides insist on leaving a two-second space between yourself and cars you are following. This doesn’t go far enough. Allow for at least three-to-four seconds of space between yourself and the car you are following. Anything less is too close. Having this space cushion will allow you to react to any situation.
Your speed should always match conditions, which means sometimes the posted speed limit is too fast. Wet or icy roads and limited visibility may decrease the time you have to react to other drivers, so keep that in mind as you’re driving.
BE AWARE, NOT PARANOID
Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by dealing with too many risk factors at the same time. Only concentrate on those that seem to have the biggest chance of disaster.
DON’T BECOME DISTRACTED
A defensive driver is not a distracted driver. Anything that takes your mind off of the task of driving is a distraction.
Overall, these are the basics of defensive driving. Remember, you are in control of your own outcomes. Take matters into your own hands and don’t rely on other drivers to always do the right thing. In addition to being much safer, employing these practices will also help your auto insurance policy by helping reduce the number of claims on your file.