Defensive Driving Techniques

According to Google, defensive driving can be defined as:
driving to save lives, time, and money, 
in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”
It goes without saying, that there are plenty of people who drive like crap.
One of my biggest pet peeves (it’s SO much more than a pet peeve – let’s be real) is bad drivers.
They’re everywhere.
On the highway, the back roads, and clogging the city streets.
Sitting in their cars, doing their makeup, posting to Facebook, reading the paper, and wearing improper footwear for driving.
Just a few examples.
I have often considered petitioning the government to make it harder to get a license, and easier to lose.
I have also seriously considered becoming a police officer, so I can be as effective as possible in pulling over bad drivers and issuing tickets.
Both of these things are huge undertakings
Neither of which I can actually pursue right now.
Instead, I studied and trained, and earned my CDL (Commercial Drivers License).
It is my opinion that EVERY driver should have this training.
While training, I learned valuable techniques which help ME, at least, be a safer driver.
It doesn’t reduce the number of idiots on the road, but it does help me manage my own automotive environment, and lessens the chances that I find myself in a bad situation.
When you travel as much as we do,
you will inevitably encounter drivers of all shapes and sizes, and need to act and react accordingly.
Here are my tips for becoming a better defensive driver in all situations.

Good luck and Drive Safe!

1. Maintain a Safe Following Distance

When you’re cruising along the highway at 70mph, it is NOT prudent to drive on someone else’s bumper.
I say it’s not prudent to EVER tailgate.
If the driver ahead of you has to slam on their brakes, you may not have adequate time to stop yourself, thus, a rear end collision may occur.
My personal rule of thumb is this:
3-5 seconds behind on town/city streets
5-7 seconds behind on the highway
7+ in rain, snow, or ice.
How do you calculate how far behind you are?
It’s fairly simple.
Look for a fixed object – a street sign, for example.
Once the car ahead of you passes said street sign, count the seconds until you pass the same street sign.
One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi
This will give you a loose idea of how far behind you are.
Sometimes, you may think you are 5 seconds back, but you are really closer to 3 seconds back.
Over time, you will learn to know what each distance looks like, however, it is a good habit to count from time to time.
When the weather and visibility are poor,
you should be even further back, as in the snow, for example, it is harder to stop!
Maintaining a safe following distance should be common sense, and widely practiced.
Sadly, It is not.
If I had a dollar for every driver I saw following another WAY TOO CLOSELY…
I see it constantly on the highway,
and almost everywhere, for that matter.
Be safe, people!
And maintain the safest following distance for the road conditions.

2. Avoid Distracted Driving

Nowadays, it is hard to drive with zero distractions.
The kids in the backseat, the music on the radio, the sandwich you just grabbed at the drive through, the texts coming through to your cell phone.
I understand.
Safe Driving should be your #1 Priority, well, while you’re driving!
There is enough clutter going on OUTSIDE the car, that the inside should be as distraction free as possible.
Everything else should take a backseat to safe driving (no pun intended).
Pull over to eat or do your makeup.
Turn the radio down if it’s distracting you.
The texting can wait, and in fact, texting while driving is illegal in 47 states.
Laws vary from state to state regarding phone usage, but the texting while driving laws are pretty clear:
Don’t do it!
Follow the link below for more info per state 🙂
While this may seem unfair, think how many seconds it takes to send a text.
Think now, how many seconds it takes for the car in front of you to stop short, or for a little kid to run out from between parked cars on the side of the street.
This happens ALL THE TIME.
A lot of people think that they can do both.
I’m sure you can, and maybe you’ve sent 200 text messages while driving with no international incidents.
See this:
This is a ratio that my instructor drilled into my head.
It means:
For Every 300 unsafe actions that you take,
you will have 29 minor incidents and 1 serious incident.
Maybe you will manage to avoid accidents constantly, but eventually, the odds will mount against you and you may kill someone.

3. Leave Yourself an Out

This ties in with some of the other tips,
but, in short, always have an escape plan in place.
This can be as simple as leaving room to pull out, should you get stuck behind someone at a red light.
Or, as complicated as backing off on the highway so you don’t get trapped between two tractor trailers.
Any number of scenarios can play out on the road around you, and while you certainly can’t predict every one, by paying attention and planning properly, you can definitely avoid most of them!
By constantly maintaining a safe following distance, you set yourself up for success.
Now, begin to pay attention to who or what
is on your sides and behind you.
You may have a cliff to your right and heavy traffic to your left.
Where will you go if a deer runs into the road?
Is there a breakdown lane or a solid shoulder?
If you are stopped at an intersection, and the car in front of you stalls, how will you get out if you are stopped inches from their bumper, and the car behind you does the same?
The scenarios are endless, but, with some observance, and planning, you can increase your odds of always getting out safe!

4. Look Ahead

Look ahead.
Far ahead!
Sure, it’s important to know whats happening in front of your car, but what is unfolding 1/4 mile up the road?
Is there a mail truck stopped dead in the road?
Or Is traffic backed up?
A school bus with it’s reds on?
Is there flooding?
Will you have to change lanes or stop to avoid a hazard?
It may not come naturally, but looking as far ahead as possible can make the difference between a collision and not a collision.
If you’re able to see whats going on 100 yards away, you have more time to plan for it NOW, than when that same goings on is suddenly 10 yards away.
See what I mean?
Even if you are the only person on the road, you can and should still look far ahead.
One of my biggest nerves is stalling in a puddle, as I like to drive lowered Hondas with cold air intakes, and have stalled in a huge puddle before.
Now, if I’m trucking along in my lowered Honda, looking as far ahead up the road as possible, I will probably see the ginormous puddle much sooner than if I wasn’t looking and was quite suddenly in or at the puddle, and by then, it may be too late to act.
Looking ahead is helpful for so many situations.
It definitely helps to have a much time as possible to act safely while driving.

5. Get the Big Picture

If you are constantly paying attention, with your eyes always scanning the immediate area in your field of vision, and as far ahead as humanly possible, you will be able to get the big picture of what’s going on on the road.
You will know how fast or slow traffic is moving, if there is an erratic driver or even a pedestrian, ahead of you or behind you.
And when you are in tune to the big picture, you will be better armed against potential hazards.
Usually, you can anticipate how other drivers may react, and plan accordingly.
If there is road work, or someone being pulled over, you will be able to put all of the pieces together, and respond safely.
Road and weather conditions, the flow of traffic, people/things in the roadway, accidents, stale green or red lights –
these are all parts of The Big Picture.
They are pieces to the whole of what is going on, and they are always changing.
Driving can be maddening, and frustrating.
It can be very dangerous, and very scary.
There are tons of ways to be a safe driver,
but these are my top 5, and they are taught fairly universally.
Like I mentioned before, I wish that every driver on the road had to have professional training before getting their operator’s license.
Do yourself, and everyone on the road a favor, and DRIVE SAFELY!

What About You? Have Any Tips on How to Be A Safer Driver?

Feel Free to leave them in the Comments Below!


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