Defensive driving involves training that goes beyond the rules of the road and basic driving mechanics—its purpose is to reduce the risk of collision by anticipating dangerous situations, despite the mistakes of others or adverse conditions. Plus, these techniques can even save costs related to vehicle maintenance and fuel consumption.
Many states keep a list of approved defensive driving course providers, and many of them offer online programs for a small fee. You (as well as other drivers listed on your policy) may be eligible for insurance premium discounts, "positive" safe driving points, or other benefits by completing an approved defensive driving course.
Below, we review some defensive driving tips to help keep you and your family safe:
DEFENSIVE DRIVING TIPS
- Stay focused on driving—and only driving. Distractions like talking on the phone, using a navigation system, or eating make it harder to spot potential problems and properly react to them. Even experienced drivers get overconfident in their abilities and let their skills slip. All drivers need to remind themselves to stay focused.
- Don’t drive under the influence or sleepy. Obviously, alcohol or drugs affect a driver’s reaction time, but driving while drowsy has almost the same effect.
- Anticipate bad behavior. Part of staying in control is being aware of other drivers and roadway users around you. Anticipating what another driver might do and making the appropriate adjustment helps reduce potential risks on the road.
- Prioritize your safety. Be considerate of others but look out for yourself. Don’t assume, for example, that another driver is going to move out of the way or allow you to merge. Instead, assume that drivers will run through red lights or stop signs and be prepared to react. Plan your movements by anticipating the worst-case scenario.
- Follow the three- to four-second rule. This rule advises you to keep three to four car lengths between you and the car in front. Just pick a non-moving object along the road, like a speed limit sign or a tree, and when the vehicle in front of you passes that object, start counting. You want to be able to count to three in the time it takes your car to reach the same object. Using this rule will help you establish and maintain a safe following distance and provide adequate time for you to brake to a stop if necessary.
- Adjust for bad weather. Increase your following distance by a few additional seconds for conditions like rain, snow, fog, nighttime driving, or when following a large truck or motorcycle.
Driving is a privilege that requires focus and attention. Remember to take a deep breath, slow down, and always think defensively behind the wheel.