What Is Defensive Driving?

Think Ahead to Stay Safe In Your Car

Defensive driving tips and examples (for teenagers and beyond!)

What can you do to reduce your chances of being in a car crash? A lot, as it turns out. Learn these defensive driving tips and how they can save both your car and your life.

What is defensive driving? Oh, just one of the most important techniques to avoid car crashes. According to the Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operation, defensive driving is defined as "driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others."

Consider this fact: If you remove your attention from the road for 4.6 seconds while traveling at 55 miles per hour (we swear this isn't a ninth-grade math question, stay with us), it is the same as traveling the length of a football field with your eyes blindfolded.

Did you know that 4.6 seconds is the average time it takes to send or receive a text?

When you drive defensively, you know the risks involved with driving and you understand that other drivers, environmental conditions and other hazards can pose as potential threats to your body and life. You are employing good driving practices to minimize the potential for danger. The following methods are defensive driving tips that you can use in your daily life.

Always wear a seat belt

Some people think seat belts are irritating. However, accidents are bound to happen, and a seat belt is one of the best ways to protect yourself. Among people who routinely wear them, the rates of serious injury and fatality are sharply reduced. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that seat belts save approximately 11,000 lives each year.

Avoid distractions

You cannot prevent other motorists from driving distractedly, but you can take steps so that your full attention is on the road. Do not apply makeup, read, change clothing, eat, make phone calls, or text when driving. Distracted drivers are one of the leading causes of accidents. By focusing on the task at hand, you are less likely to cause a crash yourself and more likely to avoid distracted drivers.

Maintain safe distances between vehicles

When traveling on crowded roads, try to keep plenty of distance between your car and other vehicles. A useful tip is to pick a landmark ahead of the vehicle in front of you – once the vehicle has passed that landmark, start counting seconds until you pass it yourself. In good weather, at least two seconds should pass between you and the vehicle in front. If it's raining, snowing or you are following a vehicle like a motorcycle or semi-truck, allow for at least three to four seconds.

Avoid speeding

According to the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration, speeding was a factor in almost one-third of all fatal crashes in 2008. Keep to the speed limit and don't hesitate to reduce speed in bad lighting or inclement weather. If the car behind you so desperately needs to get to work, they can feel free to pass you whenever possible. Don't allow other drivers to make tactical decisions for you.

Keep your cool

Many drivers are aggressive or have little regard for others on the road. If you encounter one of these lovely specimens, stay calm. Don't bait the driver, and don't get drawn into any dangerous games like having an impromptu drag race down Main Street. If possible, simply jot down their license plate number and contact your local highway patrol or local police department to report their behavior.

Remember to maintain your vehicle

Proper maintenance of your vehicle goes a long way toward preventing crashes, and it helps to keep you safe if one does occur. Make sure your brakes are checked annually, and replace the pads when they become too worn. Make sure your traction control system is in good working order (if you have such a system). Ask your service department to make sure your airbags are fully functional and that your headlights, turn lights and taillights are functioning as intended. You can do your own part by stopping by the gas station to make sure your tires are fully inflated.

Heeding this advice will greatly lower your chances of being involved in a car crash. If you are unfortunate enough to experience one despite your best efforts, your best chance is to contact a car crash attorney who can help to protect your interests and deal with insurance companies on your behalf.

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