Here’s a sobering statistic from the U.S. Department of Transportation: Ninety percent of car crashes are due to driver error. But being a defensive driver—and an outstanding one at that—can dramatically cut your risk of getting into an accident.
Defensive drivers are always aware of their surroundings, which mainly means other drivers, the weather, and road conditions. You’re alert and ready to take action if needed. You can’t control how other motorists act, but you can control how you react to them.
Many people believe themselves to be skillful drivers. Truth is, though, that they aren’t. Their intentions may be good, but their driving? Not so much.
You can’t go wrong by always assuming that at least one driver in your vicinity is going to make an irresponsible move. Those bad behaviors include changing lanes without signaling, quickly slowing down to make a turn, and abruptly pulling out right in front of you from an adjacent road. The list goes on.
Being a defensive driver is important now more than ever. Many people habitually “multitask” while they drive. They become inattentive and distracted while using their cell phones. They also eat, fiddle with the radio, apply makeup, reach for things in the backseat and, believe it or not, read.
Given all that, here are some ways that help you put yourself in control and be the ultimate defensive driver.
STAY FOCUSED. Make your job of driving be your only concern. You must concentrate on road conditions, your speed, observing traffic laws, your position, signs, signals, road markings, following directions, the cars around you, and your side and rearview mirrors. That’s a lot at one time!
REMAIN ALERT. Being sleepy or under the influence of drugs or alcohol hinders the ability to react sensibly and quickly. Motorists who are drowsy or impaired are among the top causes of accidents—and fatalities.
ASSUME THE WORST. Not everyone behind the wheel is sensible and reliable. There will always be people who cut you off, run a red light, speed, turn without signaling, swerve into other lanes and blow through a stop sign. Plan your movements by predicting the worst-case scenario.
AVOID AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS. They’re nothing but trouble. Don’t react if they try to somehow engage you.
WATCH OUT FOR PEDESTRIANS AND CYCLISTS. This is true, especially at crosswalks. There’s always someone who will try to beat the light.
We’re not trying to squelch any enjoyment you get out of driving. We just want you to drive safely and soundly.