By Logan Quirk
Driving can be a truly enjoyable experience as it provides many people with the opportunity to not only see new places, but also have fun during the journey to them. The road is not always a safe place, however, which is why you must follow defensive driving practices.
Find out more about the importance of defensive driving as well as some easy-to-follow pointers that can potentially save you and the other people you share the road with.
Why Is Defensive Driving Important?
How do you see yourself as a driver? Do you consider yourself to be responsible and safe on the road?
After years of being on the road without getting into any real accident, you may see yourself as a good driver. That’s all well and good, but a crucial point to remember here is that you are never alone on the road.
You don’t know what state of mind other people are in when they take to the road or how skilled they are, and you need to prepare yourself against any potential threats they may pose. There may be no issue with your driving, but the others around you may not be as cautious.
Taking the safe approach to driving is also important because it can help protect you against the elements. Factors out of anyone’s control can significantly impact driving conditions, and you need to be prepared for them too.
Practicing defensive driving is a must whenever you’re on the road. There are also things you can do to keep yourself safe before you even take to the road.
Defensive Driving Tips – The Preventative Measures
1. Purchase a Car with a Full Complement of Safety Features or Something Close to It
Even if you are the most careful driver in the world, you may still get into a car accident if the vehicle you’re using lacks certain safety features. Research the available vehicles before you put any money down on a purchase.
Once you see a car you like, look up its safety rating online and see if it’s satisfactory. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a New Car Assessment Program that tests a vehicle’s crash protection and rollover safety. Remember that the vehicles with more stars are the safer ones.
Understandably, some of the cars outfitted with the latest safest features can be expensive and out of your price range. If you cannot afford those more expensive vehicles, look for the ones that at least have the essential safety features such as airbags.
2. Perform Routine Maintenance on Your Vehicle
Many of us fall into the trap of being reactive instead of being proactive. Prevention is always better than cure, and that remains true for your cars as well.
Before you even take your car out of the garage, it would be wise to check on it thoroughly. See if the wheels are properly inflated and if the engine is humming as it should. Don’t overlook the importance of your blinkers and headlights as well because they need to be in working order.
Check everything you can regularly because you never know if something is slipping under your nose. Conduct a weekly check of your car to ensure that there are no issues with it.
Being vigilant with your vehicle maintenance is crucial because you never want to find yourself in a vulnerable spot while on the road.
Sure, most of the time, you can pull over to the side of the road if something starts to malfunction, but there’s also a small chance that your vehicle may experience a breakdown while you’re in the middle of the road. That is the worst-case scenario, and you need to protect yourself against that.
3. Learn More about the Laws of the Road in Your Area
If you’ve been living in the same city for years, you need no help remembering the specific laws they have for driving. You can drive confidently, knowing they won’t catch you in violation of some obscure law.
It’s not that simple if you’re visiting a new city. While many driving regulations remain the same regardless of where you go in the United States, there are some exceptions.
Learning about those laws is important because it can prevent an accident. You not knowing about a specific law may cause you to act in a way that other drivers don’t expect. It’s easy to imagine how an accident can take place.
Take the time to learn about those laws so that you are on the same page with other drivers.
4. Always Buckle Up
Seatbelts save lives. You’ve already heard that in a public service announcement or from a responsible parent teaching you how to drive. It’s also a phrase repeated so often that you may no longer appreciate its real importance.
There’s a reason the importance of seatbelts is always touted and why some cars will cause a ruckus if someone doesn’t put them on. They can protect against a potentially catastrophic accident, and it is in your best interest to always wear them whenever you are inside a moving car.
5. Do Not Drive While Drunk or Tired
Drunk driving is truly one of the most dangerous activities any individual can partake in. Not only are you endangering yourself, but also the people around you.
To get a better sense of how dangerous drinking and driving is, consider a few statistics courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Per the agency, 10,497 people died in accidents involving drivers who were operating their vehicles under the influence of alcohol in 2016. That accounts for a staggering 28 percent of all the traffic-related deaths in the country that year.
It simply cannot be overstated just how dangerous drunk driving is for you, your passengers and everyone else on the road. You need to avoid doing so at all costs.
Drivers must also refrain from getting behind the wheel if they are feeling tired. The last thing you want is to feel sleepy as you’re zooming down the highway, so call it a night instead of putting people at risk.
6. Do Not Drive if You Are Feeling Stressed
You already know that it’s a bad idea to drive if your senses are impaired by mind-altering substance or fatigue, but there are other factors for you to consider.
Stress is something that can also affect your driving. When you’re under a lot of stress, your ability to concentrate on the road may suffer. That could be the reason you crash into another car or why you don’t see another vehicle coming your way.
Some people like to cool off by going for a drive, but that’s not the responsible move. Find a different way to relieve your stress so that you don’t put others at risk.
7. Get Rid of Anything That Could Distract You
Smartphones have had a hugely positive impact on society. They have allowed us to access incredible amounts of information with only a few taps on a screen. Those devices have also made it possible for us to keep ourselves entertained even away from home.
There’s nothing wrong with taking your smartphone wherever you go, but you should refrain from using it whenever you are driving. Smartphones should only be used by drivers if they are working for a ridesharing company or if they are relying on an app to get directions. Even then, their eyes should still be on the road.
Texting and using other apps can wait until you have reached your destination.
8. Take the Weather into Consideration before Driving
One more precautionary measure you should take before you go on the road is to check the latest weather report. It should come as no surprise that the weather has an outsize impact on road safety.
The Federal Highway Administration notes that an average of nearly 1,235,000 crashes per year are weather-related. Rain and snow are among the main weather hazards that lead to accidents.
Do yourself and others a favor by checking the weather report and seeing if any roads you are planning to take may be affected by severe weather systems.
9. Use Your Blinkers and Headlights Whenever Necessary
Now, let’s turn our attention to the tips you need to follow when you’re driving, starting with your blinkers and headlights.
Sadly, some people overlook the importance of blinkers. Don’t be one of them. Use them correctly to indicate your intention to turn so that the other drivers can account for that action.
You need to deploy headlights whenever you drive at night or during times when weather conditions hamper visibility. Exercise more discretion when it comes to your high beams, though. Those high beams can blind drivers coming from the opposite direction, so be careful with them.
10. Leave a Little Gap between Your Vehicle and the Car ahead of You
Tailing the car directly in front of you is not a good idea. Should that driver stop suddenly, you may bump into him/her. A bigger accident could result from that collision.
To prevent accidents like that from taking place, you should follow the three-second rule. Allow the vehicle ahead of you to get a three-second head start before you start driving.
Leaving that space between you and the other vehicle is important because of the opportunity it provides. Should a collision take place, you will still have a small window of time to react and potentially avoid direct impact.
11. Maintain a Steady Pace While Driving
Predictability is a good thing for drivers. You expect others to be responsible while they are on the road, and they expect the same thing out of you.
A good way to maintain that predictability is to keep driving at a consistent pace. Avoid startling other drivers by suddenly speeding up or slowing down. Don’t put the pedal to the metal because you want to beat a red light because potentially saving a few minutes of travel time is not worth the risk of an accident.
12. Do Not Brake Unexpectedly
The expectation whenever you are driving on a highway is that you will not stop in the middle of the road. If you do suddenly stop, the driver behind you may be surprised and rendered unable to hit the brakes in time. As much as possible, you should avoid hitting your brakes out of the blue.
If there is a need for you to pull over, do so by gradually slowing down first. That will let the other drivers know that you are planning to stop, and they can prepare for that accordingly.
13. Keep an Eye on What’s Happening Down the Road
Keeping your eyes on the road is good advice for all drivers, but you must look at not only the car in front of you. There may be road repairs up ahead, or something may have fallen on the road. By scouting out the road in advance, you can prepare adequately and keep yourself safe.
14. Be Mindful of Blind Spots
Your side and rearview mirrors help you see your immediate surroundings, but they won’t show everything. A motorcycle driver could be in your car’s blind spot, and if you speed up too quickly, you may hit that person.
Always be careful when you are starting your car because some drivers may sneak up on you.
15. Watch Out for Other Drivers
It’s frustrating that you can still be involved in a car accident even if you take all the necessary precautions. You are not the only person on the road, though, and there’s no way to tell how the others around you will act. For that reason, you must always err on the side of caution whenever you’re driving.
Be extra careful at intersections and red lights so that you can avoid any speeding vehicles. Look out for drivers who swerve in and out of lanes. As much as possible, you should also avoid switching lanes too often.
The road can be a dangerous place, but you can protect yourself better by practicing defensive driving. If you still find yourself in an accident because of another driver’s carelessness, be sure to contact an attorney right away. Quirk Law Group will help you figure out which steps to take next so that you can be fairly compensated for what happened.