4 Tips For Smarter Defensive Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that each year around 50,000 people die on the highway as the result of a traffic accident with as many as 22 million injured in some way. The overall costs have been projected at $80 billion, but whether that number grows or rescinds a bit, it’s a pretty good indicator of just how dangerous and costly traffic accidents remain with each passing year. The worst part of it: most accidents are preventable, but they happen anyway because we’re a nation of distracted drivers when we need to be a nation of defensive drivers.
What Is Defensive Driving?
In a nutshell, it’s paying attention to your surroundings and the behaviors of other cars as much as you do your own driving. There are many ways that you can improve as a defensive driver, but for our purposes, we’re going to look at these four:
Number One: Don’t Trust Anyone.
Yes, we know, it sounds like a pretty horrible way to live your life, but it makes perfect sense when driving. You’re sharing the road with thousands of other cars, and save for the occasional spotting of a friend or co-worker out at the same time as you, you don’t know any of them, which means you don’t know what they see and hear, and you have no clue what their driving skills are like. Even though you may be confident in your own abilities, you can still end up in a fatal accident due to the follies of someone else. That’s why you can’t afford to ignore the other cars, and you definitely can’t trust that they’ll do the right thing while behind the wheel.
Number Two: Yield, Even If You’ve Got The Right-Of-Way.
But it’s my turn, you may be thinking. That guy can wait! Yes, he can, and he should, but that does not necessarily mean he will. You’d be surprised how much of the written driver’s test that people forget after they grab that license and get a few years of independent road time under their belts. It’s sad and a little embarrassing, but it can also put you at risk. As you come to a Yield sign or a 4-way stop, obey the laws of the road, but keep that foot near the brake and your hand on the horn.
Number Three: Put On Your Safety Belt.
They’re on the car for a reason. Years and years of data back up the fact that safety belts save lives. They’re mandated in most states, but it shouldn’t take a law. After all, you have no clue what the other person is going to do. They may not be watching the road very well, or they may just have a poor understanding of the rules. Either way, you’re one bad driver away from becoming a hood ornament on your own car without that seat belt.
Number Four: Take A Chill Pill.
Letting your emotions get the better of you is a silly thing to do, especially as a defensive driver. You don’t know the other drivers. You have no idea what’s going on in their lives that might have made them mess up. And you’re not perfect. No one is. While you may be the one doing the honking today, it could be you that accidentally cuts someone off tomorrow. By keeping your emotions in check, you’re less likely to screw up yourself, and the sooner you get past whatever it is that upsets you, the faster life will go on.
Defensive driving is a skill that comes with time, experience, and commitment. Be willing to put those three things in to the process, and we’ll all be safer. Drive safely!