The Top 5 Defensive Driving Tips

Distracted Driving Tips

These 5 defensive driving tips are essential to becoming a safe driver. Defensive driving is defined as “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”

While every situation is different and will require it’s own specific course of action, there are 5 very basic defensive driving tips that should always be followed while behind the wheel. Read through the advice I’ve outlined below (even the ones that seem obvious). If you discipline yourself to always follow these 5 rules each and every time you get behind the wheel, you can’t help but to be a very safe driver and you will greatly reduce the chances of an accident. The key here is self-discipline. Anytime you violate these 5 basic rules, you are putting yourself and everyone else around you at risk, not to mention adding additional wear and tear to your vehicle.

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1. Look Far Ahead & Keep A Safe Distance

Defensive Driving Looking Ahead

Human beings were not designed to go much faster than about 15mph. Anything beyond that speed is simply unnatural for us. Unfortunately, many new drivers get into the habit of looking directly in front of their vehicle and no further. You probably don’t think you’re one of those people, but this problem usually goes unnoticed. Just how far ahead should you look? As far as you can! MILES, even! This article goes into great depth about how to properly look far down the road and anticipate any hazards. Most accidents could be avoided if people would have better situational awareness and planned ahead by looking as far down the road as possible.


Read More About Looking Ahead While Driving


2. Getting The Big Picture

Defensive Driving: Getting The Big Picture

In driver’s ed, most students hear over and over again that they should “get the big picture” while driving. Yet, if you ask any driver’s ed student what the definition is of “getting the big picture” you’ll get a unique answer every time. That’s because nobody ever really defines this term. That is, until now. As a certified commercial vehicle driving instructor, I quickly found out that most people do not understand the concept of getting the big picture. While I can easily explain what this term means, it’s much harder for you to put it into practice. Bad habits are hard to break and most drivers have existing bad habits (yes, even you!).


Read More About Getting The Big Picture While Driving


3. Have An Escape Plan

Defensive Driving Have An Escape Plan

Here is a skill that is learned over time. In order to be one of the safest drivers on the road, you must always have an escape plan. While you may be a great driver, you can’t always predict what other drivers around you will do. Don’t trust anyone but yourself!

In addition, factors out of your control could change a routine driving situation into a driving emergency very quickly. Say a dog runs into the roadway and everyone slams on their brakes. Or maybe someone has a tire blowout and begins spinning out of control. Where will you go? What will you do? And more importantly, how can you possibly plan for every possible driving emergency at every possible time? In this article, we share with you how to properly have an escape plan at all times.


Read More About Having An Escape Plan While Driving


4. Maintaining Proper Following Distance

Defensive Driving Safe Following Distance

Here is one of the most commonly broken defensive driving tips in the history of driving. A safe following distance is just as important, if not more important than keeping a safe speed. After all, you could be going 120mph but as long as there is enough space between you and other vehicles, you’ll never hit anyone. For some reason, it is human nature to hang out in packs and that is very evident with driving patterns. Everyone tends to drive from stop light to stop light in packs and if you leave too much space between you and the vehicle in front of you on the expressway, be prepared to get cut off. So how, exactly, do you keep a safe following distance? This defensive driving tip could literally save your life.


Read More About Maintaining A Proper Following Distance While Driving


5. Reducing Driving Distractions

Distracted Driving

Remember back when cars didn’t even have cup holders? No? Neither do I. But at one time, cars were just cars. These days, cars have on-board computers, GPS systems, satellite radios (bababooey), subwoofers that make you sound soooo cool (seriously though, you don’t look or sound cool), and even flat-screen televisions. And let’s not forget how many people eat and drive at the same time, text and drive, or even get distracted by passengers in the vehicle. From people driving pets around to screaming kids in the back seat and acts we can’t really talk about on this site, distracted driving is everywhere. Some of those distractions we can control, while others we can’t. Here’s how to deal with such driving distractions.


Read More About Dealing With Driving Distractions


Who Are These Defensive Driving Tips Coming From?

In addition to having a strong and slightly odd passion for driving, I maintained a perfect safety record driving through all of the lower 48 United States in all weather conditions as a long-haul trucker. I’ve also completed advanced driving courses such as the Smith System Advanced Driving Course, participated in precision truck driving competitions, received multiple safe driving awards, have analyzed thousands of car accident videos, and became a certified CDL driving instructor (by the way, check out my truck driving blog). The above defensive driving tips are what I believe to be the top 5 most important aspects of being a safe driver. If you follow the above tips every time you drive and make it a habit, you will not only be a safer driver but you’ll also lower your stress level while driving (remember when driving was fun?).

What Defensive Driving Is Really About

Learning defensive driving isn’t so much about improving your own driving skills, rather, it’s how to avoid other drivers. People do dumb things all the time on the roadways. And face it, you’ve done some pretty stupid things yourself. How do I know that? Because we’ve ALL done stupid things on the roads. Nobody is a “perfect” driver. That’s why it is important to always expect the unexpected and plan for anything that might happen. By following the defensive driving tips listed above, you have learned how to safely position your vehicle in nearly any condition to avoid almost any unexpected situation. Notice how I say “almost” and “nearly”. That’s because you can’t plan for everything. However, following the above tips will make you a much safer driver than most. What defensive driving is really about is predicting other peoples mistakes! Sure, you’re wrong about 99% of the time. But when that 1% happens, you’ll be glad you practice defensive driving techniques.

Tips for Good Measure

While the 5 tips that I’ve mentioned earlier I deem to be the most important, these two that I’m about to mention are also extremely essential if you plan on being a safe driver. 

Practicing Proper Communication

Communication makes the world go round. Without it, the whole world would crash and burn.  Pretty sure nobody wants that. 

Bringing proper communication into defensive driving is important for drivers, especially those who are new to the road. After all, you’re not the only one using the roads, right? 

One way you can practice good communication is through signaling. It’s important to let other drivers know if you plan to make a left or right turn to avoid unwanted crashes and accidents. This also gives them enough time to adjust and react to your movement, so neither one of you get into trouble.

How and where you position your vehicle on the road is another way you can communicate your movements with other drivers. For example, if you’re positioned in the left-hand turning lane of the road, then drivers cruising behind you will know that you could be making a left turn at the end of the roadway.

Never Drive When Impaired

Around 28 Americans die in traffic-related accidents caused by alcohol impairment every day. That’s around 10, 220 people every year. 

Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle — regardless of it being a car, a motorcycle, or a truck — after consuming a great deal of alcohol puts not only your life at risk but as well as the lives of others. Never drive if you’re under the influence! Instead, book a cab or a Lyft if you need to get home. This way, you avoid putting yourself and other people in danger. Plus you don’t have to deal with the fees and fines you’ll get slapped in if you get a DUI.

Make Defensive Driving A Habit

Defensive driving can take some time to get used to. Breaking old habits can be hard. For instance, when I used to teach new truck drivers, it was very difficult for some of them to look really far down the road. In a truck that can take up to 3 football field lengths to stop, it is crucial for the safety of everyone that truck drivers look far down the road and predict emergency situations. It usually takes some reminding the first several days, but after a while, it becomes second nature. The same applies when driving any vehicle. For a while, you may have to remind your self to do certain things, but once it becomes second nature and you don’t even have to think about it, you’ve become a defensive driver!

VIDEO: 15 Defensive Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life!

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Knowing how to drive doesn’t mean that you just know how to make the car run; it also entails knowing how to avoid and prevent road traffic accidents through practicing defensive driving at all times. It may always prevent accidents because other people are very careless on the road, but at least making the accidents less fatal and tragic.

  • I remember a 1960s TV ad campaign about safe driving, which was very similar: 1) Aim high on the wheel; 2) Get the big picture; 3) Always leave yourself an “out”; 4) Don’t tailgate; and 5) Keep your eyes moving. I like the addition of Reduce Driving Distractions, which I would generalize into PAY ATTENTION to the life-and-death task at hand.

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