Defensive Driving

Defensive Driving

Defensive Driving for the Holidays

As we approach the busy holiday season, many of us find ourselves out and about on the roads more. Weekend and evening traffic tend to pick up as people start their Christmas shopping, more out of town or out of state license plates can be seen on the road, and everyone seems just a bit more distracted than normal. With the hustle and bustle of the most wonderful time of the year quickly descending upon us, it is important to take a crash refresher course on defensive driving. Other drivers on the road may be distracted, but you don’t have to be.

It all comes down to the simple rule of awareness. Get distractions out of the way so you can take in the road-scape around you. It’s not enough to just practice the rules of the road; you must also be able to avoid accidents that could be caused by other drivers who are not following the rules of the road. It is much better to avoid an accident than to be in an accident, even if it’s not your fault.

Here are the top tips for driving defensively:

  • Put Your Phone Away

    It’s so tempting to pick up our phones while sitting at red lights or even while driving, especially if we receive a notification. Take the temptation away by putting your phone on silent or do not disturb so you won’t be distracted by any incoming messages or calls. If you opt to leave your phone notification sounds on, avoid texting while driving or checking social media. Limit yourself to only taking important calls.

  • Leave Enough Space Between You and the Car In Front of You

    This defensive driving rule of thumb is easy to ignore but is so important to roadway safety. You never know when the person in front of you may slam on their brakes or realize they need to make a turn. Allowing enough space between yourself and the car in front of you gives you plenty of time to react should they make an unexpected move. The general rule is to leave two seconds worth of space between yourself and the car in front of you. Choose a stationary marker, like a light pole, and count the time between the car in front of it passing it and when you pass it. If it is less than two seconds, ease up on the gas until you reach the recommended two second spacing.

  • Keep Your Eyes Up

    While driving, we often lower our gaze to the car or road directly in front of us. By keeping your eyes up, you get a bigger picture of your surroundings. You never know when something further up ahead will be what causes a potential accident for you. Keep your eyes up and looking ahead of you so you can anticipate any hazards that may get in your way.

  • Use Your Mirrors

    Many accidents happen from behind or from the side. Using your mirrors will not only help you make safer moves on the road, it will also keep you aware of the movements of the cars around you. If you are braking or stopped but notice the car in your rearview mirror is not stopping fast enough, move into the lane next to you if it is safe to do so or pull into an emergency lane to give them extra space to stop. Use your mirrors to always find an escape route for any direction an accident may occur. Mirrors are a driver’s best way to get a full picture of what is happening on the road around them.

  • Understand the Rules of Right of Way

    Right of Way is a key rule of the road that helps us avoid crashes in vulnerable areas, mainly intersections. Pedestrians always have the right of way. As a rule of thumb, the first car to pull up to a four-way stop has the right of way. From there, the person directly to their right obtains the right of way, and so on. If you have a yield sign, the main way traffic has the right of way. Cars already driving through a parking lot have the right of way over someone trying to pull out of a parking spot. If you want to turn left at a green light (when there is no left green arrow), wait for all opposite direction through traffic to pass before you attempt to turn. Following the rules of right of way will help you avoid many stressful interactions on the road. Check out dmv.org for a more in depth look at intersections and right of way.

  • Stay Alert and Aware of Your Surroundings

    The point of defensive driving is to help you avoid the potential mistakes of other drivers on the road. You may be a great driver, but there will always be other drivers on the road that are not driving according to roadway safety rules and standards. Staying alert at all times will help you avoid dangerous situations as you drive. Alertness and awareness is the number one rule of defensive driving because, as long as you are aware of what is going on around you, you have the chance to stop an accident from happening. If something may distract you while you’re driving, like the radio, turn it off. If you are especially tired or emotional, don’t get behind the wheel. Always make sure you put yourself in the optimal situation to be an alert and aware driver.

This busy holiday season, make it a priority to drive defensively. There will be drivers on the road who are unfamiliar with the traffic patterns if they are visiting from out of town, parents, exhausted from a week’s worth of holiday activities, just trying to make it to the mall to pick up gifts before it closes, young drivers out of school and drumming up some fun, and impaired drivers, especially on the weekends and in the evening. All of this is inevitable. But when you drive defensively, your safety is in your hands.

It’s up to you to drive like your life and the lives of your passengers depends on it, because it does.



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