Defensive Driving 101

You’ve definitely heard the term before: defensive driving. This is covered in pretty much every driver’s ed class as the standard for how to approach driving and getting behind the wheel. Yet as quickly as we learn about it, we often forget how incredibly valuable this method of driving can be. Between all the other information you learn and the excitement of getting your license, it can easily slip through the cracks. Not to worry, though! We’ve put together a guide to help you understand the basic concepts of defensive driving and their importance to you every time you get behind the wheel.

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What Is Defensive Driving?

Defensive driving is a method of driving that reduces the risks involved with operating a vehicle, despite your surroundings, the current conditions, and the actions of those around you. It is a way to utilize safe driving strategies that will then enable you to better and more predictably identify hazards. This is not just a list of the basic traffic laws you need to follow; instead, these are skills you can use to improve your driving skills while reducing risks to make safe and well-informed decisions.

Defensive driving aims to help you enhance not only how you drive a vehicle, but also your driving skillset. Defensive driving classes teach drivers proven tactics on how to consciously avoid dangers on the road and how to drive defensively and reduce the likelihood of collision and other driving-related accidents. 

The Basic Concepts

When you learn about defensive driving, you’ll be given a lot of advice on how to drive safely to prevent accidents and reduce your overall risks. Some of the basic concepts you’ll take away include:

  1. Secure each passenger with a seat belt, including children and pets. Safety belts save 13,000 lives each year, and it is reckless to drive without one on. A seat belt will allow you to move with the car in the event of a crash, whereas if you don’t put it on you will simply be tossed around inside the car. Even accidents at slower speeds can result in fatalities from no seat belts being used. Safety belts are the most common vehicle equipment. However, items such as airbags and child safety seats are also meant to protect you and your passengers and reduce the risk of fatality during crashes or other accidents.
  2. Always leave space around you. This gives you the option to escape any type of dangerous situation that might arise. Create your own “safety bubble” by having a safe and practical distance from other road users. If the car ahead of you suddenly stops, you’ll have enough time and space to avoid a collision.
  3. Slow down during situations where visibility is lowered, especially during inclement weather conditions or at night. Your reaction time will be less during these times, so driving slower will give you more time to decide the best plan of action in the event of an emergency.
  4. Always obey speed limits. They are in place because they have been deemed the fastest possible speed you can go while remaining safe in that particular area. Plan your trip to ensure that you have enough time to safely arrive at your destination. Other drivers beat the red light or drive beyond the speed limit to avoid getting late to work or an appointment. Also, do not go slower than the speed limit, especially if driving on highways and freeways. 
  5. Concentrate on driving at all times. Driving is the worst time to try to multitask, whether it’s putting on makeup, texting, or eating. Eliminate any and all distractions and also keep a watchful eye out for pedestrians and animals along the road.
  6. Expect the unexpected. This sounds like an impossible task, but it just means to plan escape routes. Make mental notes of what you would do in certain situations so that if and when they occur, you’ll be ready. Don’t put too much trust in other people on the road and take steps to anticipate the possible mistakes and behavior of other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. 
  7. Never drive if you feel tired or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You might think that your driving is fine, but in an altered state, it’s hard to tell. More than ⅓ of people admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel and an estimated 32% of fatal car crashes involve someone who is intoxicated. Do not become one of these statistics.
  8. Check your mirrors often. This will allow you to know what other cars are on the road and help you to prepare (remember number 6!). There’s a reason why regularly checking your mirrors is taught and reiterated in defensive driving tests – it keeps you fully aware of what’s going on around you. Keeping you safe from blind spots when changing lanes or overtaking another vehicle.
  9. Assume that other drivers will not follow the rules of the road. Don’t just hope that people will stop at stop signs or red lights or yield properly. Unfortunately, humans make errors, but when it comes to operating a car the consequences can be quite awful. If you prepare for other drivers to drive poorly, then you’ll be prepared if and when it does actually happen. Never assume that other drivers will behave and act properly and will follow traffic rules at all times. There’s always a possibility that another driver may be driving under the influence, is distracted, and not driving safely as you do.
  10. Follow the laws set in place by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Yield correctly to those who have the right-of-way, pass cars only in authorized passing zones, and ensure your car is in safe and working order. Also avoid high-risk situations as well, like a motorist who wants to race. What it comes down to is being respectful of other motorists.

A defensive driving course will go into these topics in much more detail, giving you the strategies to accomplish each one with ease.

Why Should I Learn More About Defensive Driving?

If driving safely is something that intrigues you—as it should—then you might want to look into a defensive driving course. The benefits of doing this go well beyond making you a better driver. First of all, certain traffic violations can be waived with the completion of a state-mandated defensive driving course. Once you’ve completed the class, you can provide the information to the court and not have to worry about points being added to your license. 

Moreover, defensive driving also ingrains useful habits that can help you save costs on vehicle maintenance and fuel consumption by teaching smooth and steady driving. If you already consider yourself a safe driver, you can use a defensive driving class to help lower your insurance premium. Check with your insurance provider to see how the course can positively impact your monthly costs. But of course, most importantly, a defensive driving class will give you useful tools for driving in the safest way possible.

This can save you loads of time and money down the road, as well as people’s lives.

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