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How to Be a Defensive Driver

Want to make the roads safer while protecting you, your loved ones and your car? Take the first step by honing your driving skills. Defensive driving is defined as driving safely as possible in order to save lives, time and money. It’s also about being aware so that you’re able to react safely in any situation.

Take a look at these tips to help you become a more fully engaged driver and stay safer behind the wheel, wherever you’re headed.

Be Aware of Your Blind Spots It may seem overly basic, but one of the best ways to keep yourself and your fellow drivers safe out on the roads is to simply be aware of what is going on around you. Here are a few ideas to help you manage blind spots:

  • Check your rear and side-view mirrors frequently until it becomes second nature

  • Use your mirrors to verify the area’s clear before making a turn or changing lanes

  • Stay aware of your surroundings and know vehicle positions in adjacent lanes at all times

  • Keep an eye out for any potential obstacles or obstructions at least a quarter mile down the road

New advances in lane departure warning systems and crash prevention technologies are becoming standard in newer vehicles and can really help you stay safe. According to a 2015 Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) study, systems like these cut lane departure crash fatalities by a whopping 86%. That’s tech really worth having onboard when you’re buying a new car.

Don’t Text and Drive It’s true: text messages and smartphones are an ever-present part of everyday life. And honestly, you’re a safer driver when you’re not texting and driving. According to a National Safety Council report in 2016 , cell phone use while driving led to more than 1.6 million accidents in one year alone.

Don’t Rely on Other Drivers It may seem counterintuitive, but you may be best to assume that other drivers around you will make mistakes. This is the essence of defensive driving. Anticipate issues before they arise and think up a plan to prevent small miscalculations by others from turning into major pileups. Expect drivers to run red lights and miss stop signs. By slowing down in intersections, you’ll be safer and so will other drivers around you. Minimum auto coverages vary by state, but with added uninsured motorist coverage on-board, you’ll be even better protected.

Adopt the 4-6 Second Rule When you’ve got time to react, you’ll be better able to maneuver out of trouble and safely avoid multi-car accidents. And it’s as simple as following at a safe distance. Allow for 4 -6 seconds of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you. Count the number of seconds it takes you to arrive at a marker on the road in front of you. Start counting as the vehicle ahead passes that marker, it should be no sooner than 4 seconds. And build out a bigger time buffer when traffic conditions are degraded like when it’s snowing or raining.

Slow Down Arriving on time is frequently out of your hands. This is particularly the case when traffic is snarled due to rush hour or when an accident closes a lane or two on the way to your destination. By reducing your speed, you’ll help keep traffic flowing safely and you may be able to react more readily to changing conditions.

Always Have a Plan to Avoid Accidents One great way to stay safe is to keep thinking about ways to avoid potential accidents that may pop up while you’re driving. And it’s a fantastic way to stay present and engaged when you’re on the road. Anticipate how drivers might mess up and drift into your lane and come up with an escape route that allows you to exit safely. Look for alternative routes out of a situation and be ready for the unexpected when you’re on the road. You’ll have a better chance of making the right quick decision when seconds count.

Split up Individual Risks When Driving Road hazards, bad weather, poor visibility, slippery conditions — sometimes, you get to drive with all of these factors in play at the same time. By separating these risks and having a plan for each of them on their own, you’ll be more prepared for issues where these problems surface at the same time.

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