Buckle Up: A Guide to Defensive Driving

In the United States, 32,719 people die in motor vehicle accidents each year, and one of the most important measures for reducing this number is practicing defensive driving. Defensive driving involves more than simply obeying the laws of the road: It requires being aware and prepared in order to avoid potential dangers on the road, and it is a crucial skill to have when operating motor vehicles. Drivers need to understand how to drive defensively in order to keep themselves and others safe.

The Importance of a Seat Belt

Using a seat belt is one of the most important aspects of defensive driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of car occupants' death in car crashes by up to 45%, and it is estimated that more than 14,000 lives were saved in 2017 due to seat belt use. Wearing a seat belt also helps drivers maintain control of their vehicle and prevents them from being thrown from the vehicle in case of an emergency. Drivers should ensure that all passengers are wearing their seat belts before driving and continue to check throughout the duration of the trip for maximum safety.

Internal and External Distractions

Distracted driving can easily lead to accidents. Internal distractions include daydreaming, talking to passengers, and drowsiness. External distractions can include texting or using a phone, eating and drinking, adjusting the music or temperature controls, or trying to read signs. To minimize these distractions, drivers should avoid multitasking when behind the wheel and focus solely on the task of driving.

Considering the Weather

Drivers should also be aware of the weather conditions when driving and adjust their speed accordingly. Wet or icy roads can reduce the traction of tires, so it is important to drive at a lower speed than normal. Additionally, drivers should be aware of foggy or snowy conditions, as these can reduce visibility and increase the likelihood of an accident. Drivers should also be aware of strong winds, which can cause their vehicle to drift into another lane.

Communicating Intentions Clearly to Other Drivers

Drivers should use their turn signals when turning or changing lanes, and they should also be aware of the speed and movement of other vehicles on the road. When driving on highways, drivers should try to stay in the same lane as long as possible and allow plenty of time to make their intentions clear to drivers and other road users.

Anticipating the Actions of Other Drivers

Usually, drivers are unable to predict the exact actions of other drivers on the road. However, they can be prepared for unexpected events by remaining aware of their surroundings and being alert for potential risks. For example, if a car is approaching from behind at high speed, it is important to slow down and move to the right, if possible, in order to give them space.

Yielding to Aggressive or Reckless Drivers

Sometimes, drivers may encounter other drivers who are driving aggressively or recklessly. In these cases, it is important to remain calm and yield to the aggressive driver in order to avoid a potential collision. It is also important not to respond or retaliate when faced with an aggressive driver in order to keep everyone safe.

The 3-to-4-Second Rule

When driving in traffic, it is important to maintain a safe following distance. The 3-to-4-second rule states that drivers should leave at least three seconds (or four seconds for larger vehicles) between their car and the car in front of them. This helps to provide ample time for braking or avoiding an obstacle if necessary.

Avoiding Road Rage

Road rage refers to aggressive or violent behavior from drivers aimed at other drivers. In order to avoid road rage, it is important to remain courteous and respectful toward other drivers and obey the laws of the road. If a driver feels that their safety is in danger, they should try to escape the situation as soon as possible.

Resources for Emergencies or Accidents

Sometimes, drivers may find themselves in an emergency situation or involved in an accident. It is important for drivers to know what resources are available to them if they ever need help. Drivers should also keep a list of emergency numbers and their insurance information handy in case of an emergency.