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Defensive Driving

Defensive driving goes beyond the basics of motor vehicle operation on public thoroughfares. By educating drivers on how to be proactive in their use of mirrors, headlights, and seatbelts, as well as teaching them concentration skills necessary to focus on the constant changing view around them, a defensive posture is learned and applied behind the wheel.

Most adults do not take continuing driver’s education courses unless they are required by the courts, as in the case of traffic school to avoid points from their driving record. Young drivers do not have the experience to apply what they have recently learned in driver’s education classes, but experienced drivers are often overconfident and fail to employ all the tactics they know in order to navigate safely out of a potential traffic problem. Too much multi-tasking in today’s society offers more distractions than ever before with cell phone calls, text messages, and a host of other activities that should not be combined with driving.

If car donations made to charities as a result of accidents are any indication, the skills needed to drive defensively are sorely lacking. Insurance rates continue to rise. It is estimated that 91% of all traffic collisions can be contributed to driver error. Though it costs money to take these courses, many insurers will offer a discount for successful completion of one of their approved schools. There are many states which allow online courses to be completed. A final test at the end of any driving course will determine pass or fail.

A look at some of the techniques taught in these courses will reveal some strategies you may have forgotten and many never learned. To put yourself in control, follow these simple strategies:

Stay Focused. With the key things a driver must constantly be checking, mirrors, speed limits, road conditions, traffic around them, and many more, focus must be maintained. It is a requirement for safe driving. Do not allow anything else to draw your attention away from the road. It takes only seconds for you or the other guy to make a mistake.

Be Alert. Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not only illegal, it is literally putting your life on the line. Reaction time and vision are affected to some degree and even prescription drugs can cause this. Lack of sleep and feeling tired also cuts down reaction time and drivers who push themselves to keep on going is one of the major causes of road crashes.

Watch Out For Other Drivers. The view outside your windows and within your mirrors is a constantly changing moving picture. Potential problems and objects to be observed come in and out of view in an instant. By scanning all of this using mirrors and windows, a defensive driver can take steps to avoid potential danger by adjusting speed, changing lanes, and give themselves a way out.

Follow the 3-Second Rule. When following other vehicles in traffic, pick a stationery object ahead, like a speed limit sign. As soon as the person in front of you passes it, begin counting “one-on-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one thousand.” If your vehicle reaches the object before you finish reaching three seconds, you are following too close. Back off and allow yourself an out should the other guy have to stop, has a blowout, or any other event.

Watch Your Speed. Remember that posted limits are suggested for ideal weather conditions. In rain, snow, or going through road construction, it is important to slow down and expect other drivers not to. Always think in terms of worst-case.

See the following resources for additional tips and assistance:

  • Kids Health Organization – an excellent site for teen drivers to learn advanced skills in defensive driving.
  • DMV – ORG – is a private corporation which allows drivers who have lost their licenses, had suspensions, or have been mandated by local courts to take a driving course, to find all about their options from this site.
  • Edmunds – an eye-opening article on young drivers and defensive driving courses activities.
  • National Safety Council Defensive Driving Course – fee-based online course anyone can take and get a certificate of completion to submit for insurance reduction.
  • Wiki-how – a complete listing of how-to articles on safe driving techniques.
  • Blackwater USA – a video overview of the types of training offered at this facility.
  • Auto Tips & Advice – basic driving skills with a defensive driver slant.
  • Comedy Defensive Driving School – this online course is approved in all courts and uses comedy as a way to make the course interesting.
  • Carjunky News – even if you have been involved in a collision, you’d be surprised to learn the benefits of car donation. Not only do you get a tax break, but there are even charities that repair and give them to needy families.
  • GMAC – play this insurer’s online game for free to see how you fare as a defensive driver.

Remember that safety comes first; yours, your family, and the other drivers around you. Always be prepared by expecting the worst. Those are foremost in the mind of a defensive driver.