Top 10 Defensive Driving Techniques

top 10 defensive driving techniques

Defensive driving is a term that has become synonymous with ‘safe’ driving. While it is true, utilizing defensive driving techniques will undoubtedly result in safer driving, safe driving and defensive driving are different. Safe driving encompasses things such as:

  • Checking your oil, gas and other gauges prior to driving
  • Not driving while impaired (sleepy, drinking, or other)
  • Not texting while driving
  • Not eating while driving
  • Ensuring you have a first aid kit in your car

All are efforts that should be made, and habits formed while driving. However, they don’t actively aid you in avoiding accidents while on the road, as it relates to the other drivers on the road.

Below we go through the top ten tips that will help you prepare to be ‘untouchable’ on the road. These techniques, coupled with safe driving will provide you with as much protection as possible while traveling from point a to b. Note that this list is in no specific order, and all are quite important.

1. Murphy’s Law – What can go wrong, will go wrong

Despite your optimistic ways, drive as if you were superstitious and that a black cat ran across your path every morning. Basically, drive as if whatever can go wrong, will go wrong while on the road. Unfortunately, this method requires for you to have a high level of suspicion of your fellow drivers (as well as bikers and pedestrians). This level of suspicion will allow you to better anticipate their future movements, allowing you to be prepared for any scenario.

2. Communicate with other drivers

We don’t mean communicate in the literal sense, or through road rage, but through your driving; the use of turning signals, stopping distance, following distance or allowing your fellow drivers the right of way. These small, thoughtful gestures not only help you avoid accidents, but also create a safer overall driving environment for everyone.

3. Blind spots…know yours

Every car has them. What’s important is that you have a clear idea of where your vehicle’s blind spots are before driving. By definition, a blind spot is an area surrounding your car where your mirrors cannot depict to you what is going on. As such, once you pinpoint where these spots are in relation to your car, you have a better idea of where and when you may need to physically turn around to see what may be happening in the lane next to you. Between your use of your mirrors and willingness to turn around, you will have no blind spots while driving.

4. Be ‘locked-in’ and completely focused on the road

This is a step further than the safety tip of not driving while distracted. Being locked-in requires you to pay attention to what may be transpiring a few blocks up the road, or perhaps a half-mile up the highway. This dovetails to tip #1 Murphy’s Law. Being locked-in will help you anticipate what may happen next on the road ahead of you. As a result, you’ll find yourself better prepared.

5. Check mirrors often and consistently

Your rear-view and side mirrors are your friend. Get comfortable adjusting and utilizing them while driving. Optimally, you should be checking your mirrors every few seconds or so. This will provide as close to a 360-degree perspective as you can get while driving. It will also help you regarding tip #3, essentially alleviating any blind spots.

6. Leave yourself ‘wiggle room,’ and have a backup plan

No driver is perfect, and even if you execute all these tips flawlessly, there still exist the possibility that you may get into an accident. As such, when driving, leave yourself room for error; not just regarding your driving but others as well. You may find that you need to utilize this room for error to employ a backup plan.

7. Incorporate road conditions into your analysis

Road conditions impact all defensive driving techniques giving its pervasive nature. Not only does it affect every driver, but each person reacts to inclement weather differently (cars do as well…) As a result, you must have a heightened sense of awareness when inclement weather is introduced into the picture.

8. Be patient in parking lots

Driving conditions are typically amplified within parking lots. Not only is the space confined, but everyone is usually in a rush, and most focus on leaving the lot or entering the store and not watching for pedestrians, carts or other cars. In fact, according to the Institute of Highway Safety, approximately 20%      of all vehicle accidents happen in parking lots. Although the speed limits are quite low, keep your attentiveness level high while navigating through parking lots.

9. Overcheck while driving through intersections

Intersections introduce new traffic and opportunities for an accident. Some even consider intersections confusing. As such, make sure you are utilizing tip #2 and communicating with your other fellow drivers through using your turning signals, making pronounced stops, and looking left-right and even back left prior to making your move.

10. Understand required stopping distances

A large part of defensive driving is being prepared, and a large part of driving, is stopping. Understanding the stopping distance required not just for your car, but for the cars surrounding you as well, can help you avoid potential accidents. For the typical car, it takes about one car’s length of space to stop for every 10 mph of speed.

These top 10 defensive driving techniques coupled with an inherent knack for driving safety, will place you in a great position regarding 1. responding to hazards while driving, 2. decreasing the probability of you being involved in an accident, and 3. saving you money. Happy and safe driving!

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About Dale Williams

Dale Q. Williams, MBA, is a well-respected financial executive whose experience spans from insurance to investment banking. Dale has first hand underwriting experience through working for one of the largest U.S. based insurance carriers, and advisory experience from working for several bulge-bracket and middle-market investment banks. Dale also received his MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business, with concentrations in finance and accounting.