Remember the first time you got behind the wheel of a car? Even though it felt exciting and maybe a little scary, it was the beginning of many adventures on the road to come. No matter who taught you how to drive, learning how to remain alert on the road while driving carefully is the most important lesson to master. Driving in this manner has become known as defensive driving. While you can’t control how other people drive, you can control how you drive around them.
What is defensive driving?
It is essentially an attitude and approach to navigating the road, characterized by a few key practices. As a defensive driver, you learn to drive with caution, assessing the actions of others and the conditions around you to lessen the chance of an accident. There are many ways to do this, but some general strategies include:
- Avoiding distractions
- Being ready to react
- Monitoring your speed
These tactics are recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. By putting each into action, everyone on the road benefits from safer conditions as an alert driver is a safer driver.
Avoid distractions behind the wheel
Most drivers today are aware of the danger of distracted driving poses. In 2017, it claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people. It’s more than just looking at your phone. When you’re behind the wheel, it’s best to avoid all forms of distractions. According to the NHTSA, this includes:
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to people
- Messing with the radio or navigation system
That’s not to say you can’t have a conversation with your passengers. Instead, it’s about being able to keep your eyes on the road, while you’re conversing with your passenger(s) in the car.
Being ready to react
In a perfect world, everyone would follow road safety laws. However, we’re all human and sometimes we make mistakes. It’s important to prepare yourself for situations beyond your control. You can do this by:
- Giving yourself plenty of space between yourself and the car in front of you, in case you need to brake suddenly
- Keeping an eye out for people who are driving erratically
- Leaving behind driving expectations of others – the person in the next lane might not drive how you expect
Monitor your speed
It’s simple, but a lot of risks can be mitigated by watching your speed. Some of those things include:
- Slowing down at intersections
- Avoiding following the driver in front of you too closely
- Keeping the speed limits in mind
If you’re feeling a little rusty on the principles we’ve outlined here, there are several online defensive driving courses you can take to brush up on your skills. The National Safety Council offers a few different options including 4-hour, 2-hour, and 90-minute courses. Another perk – enrolling in a course of this nature could save you money on your car insurance!
Now that you’ve had a refresher, we hope you’ll apply these principles the next time you hop in the car. When you’re tempted to check your phone at the traffic light or merge without your signal, remember your choices behind the wheel impact the safety of yourself, as well as everyone on the road.