I will never forget when I moved to the metro NYC area (New Jersey to be exact) and had to drive my mother to the airport after we got all of my car unloaded and moved in. Little did I know it would be my first experience driving IN downtown Manhattan. My mom said to me, “you’re going to have to learn to be a defensive driver.” I had only been driving about 4 years; I really didn’t have a lot of experience with being a defensive driver because I was a Utah driver and it was mostly wide-open spaces I had been driving in. From that day I never had an issue driving in “the city” and would much rather drive there than on a freeway in Utah.
From then on, I’ve always been aware of things around me while driving. I’ve taken the 2000 mile cross country trips on my own, needless to say I am not scared of the road. On the other side of it, at times I am petrified of other drivers. Go figure. It got me thinking what makes a defensive driver? Here are some collective tips and ideas on being a defensive driver.
First we have the general tips. . .
Blind Spots. All cars have them. They usually are in the back and the sides of the vehicle. While driving always make sure to check these spots before merging. Another way of making sure they are clear is keeping a safe following distance.
Avoid Slamming Breaks. A local attorney said many of the fender benders they see is from people that slam on breaks at lights. To avoid doing impulsive braking, maintain a two-car distance at the rear of the car in front of you. If another car follows too closely behind your vehicle, calmly but constantly step on your brakes to give the other driver a fair warning. This should capture his consciousness and give him adequate time to move back.
Blinkers. Blinkers are not a courtesy. Waiting til the 11th hour does not leave for enough reaction time for other drivers around you. Drivers are not mind readers! Being an indecisive driver and not using the signal creates road rage and accidents. Make sure you are using your signal far enough in advance that it captures the attention of other drivers. Also, don’t forget to turn it off after.
Stop Lights. We are all in a hurry once that light turns green. It is natural instinct to put your foot to the floor and be on your way. However, to be a defensive driver, you should take just a couple of seconds to watch around you. There have been many cases where people have been t-boned because someone barreled through the intersection. Also, leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you that you are able to see their rear tires. This will give you enough reaction time.
Now for the tips less thought of…
Give some space. Give aggressive drivers plenty of room to move around you. This is a tip from Dr. Leon James a Professer at the University of Hawaii who publishes DrDriving.com. He tells AOL Autos: “One thing to remember is that there is a diversity of drivers on the road. They have different goals for being there — some are in a hurry to get somewhere, others are just looking around or don’t know where they are going exactly and have plenty of time. Others are challenged by sickness, age, drugs, anger, depression, etc. So the best defensive driving advice is to give them more latitude. Let them do what they want at all times.”
“The Crazy Driver Pursuit”. It is so easy to want to follow someone too close, speed up next to them, and on many occasion flip the other off in the “Crazy-driver pursuit.” Remember… don’t take it out on others.
Right of Way. Never assume that people are going to give you the right away. It might be lawful and common sense that you are doing right, but it is a good idea to buckle your ego into the seat next to you and just let the other person have the right of way. Frustrating, I know. Better you safe, than sorry.
Lose the Ego. It is suggested that over confidence is the root of the majority of problems on road ways. Of course you are the best driver out there. No tickets, no accidents, well… maybe that one fender bender. However, if you completely erase all of that from your mind, your drive will be full of awareness. Slow down, obey the laws, and wear your seat belt.
Be aware of surroundings. Texting, putting on lipstick, yelling at the kids in the back seat, these are all things that drivers around you (and you) may be doing. A great way to be a defensive driver is to be on alert and scan the cars and people around you and behind you.
Tired Driving. NHTSA reported that more than 56,000 crashes a year are because of sleepy drivers. Before you decide to go on that road trip and keep on driving, ask yourself if you really want to be as dangerous as a drunk driver.