Cars stopped in traffic

What are Some Defensive Driving Techniques?

Tips for Driving Defensively

Each year, thousands of car accidents occur within the U.S. Even though modern vehicles offer more advanced safety technologies than ever before, accidents are still occurring, often due to poor driving behavior. While you can’t control how others drive around you, you can lower your chances of an accident by driving defensively.

Driver's hands on a steering wheel of a car

Plan Ahead

Before hitting the road, pay attention to weather conditions and any road closures. This will allow you to plan your route and hopefully avoid inclement weather that could make driving more dangerous. Also, give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination so you don’t feel stressed or angry about potentially being late.

Maintain a Safe Following Distance and Slow for Intersections Early

When driving behind a vehicle, you should always assume that vehicle will suddenly brake. After all, if another car or animal suddenly crosses their path, that driver is most likely to brake to either avoid the collision or lessen the damage. To provide yourself with plenty of reaction time and help avoid a front-end collision, you should always maintain a safe following distance. A three to four second reaction time is recommended to come to a gentle stop.

Additionally, you should always slow for intersections early by taking your foot off the gas pedal and gently applying the brakes, whether it is a stop sign, yield sign, or traffic light. If you are approaching a traffic light, be prepared to stop even if the light is still green.

[ READ MORE: What to Do After a Car Accident ]

Cars driving on a highway with a sunset in the background

Pay Attention to Other Drivers

A huge part of defensive driving is paying attention to other drivers. Stay aware of who is in front of, behind, and next to you when driving. Anticipate where other vehicles will be before changing lanes. If you are approaching an intersection, scan the intersecting roads early to see if there are any vehicles that may run the light or sign. Also, don’t assume that other vehicles will move over for you.

Keep Your Cool

If a nearby driver is being aggressive, such as speeding, weaving, or tailgating, it’s important to keep your cool. Letting their negative tendencies get to you can lead to road rage and reckless behavior, creating a dangerous situation for yourself and others around you. In cases like these, it’s best to stay away from these aggressive drivers and let them pass. Do not make eye contact, respond to them, or stop to talk to them. If you are concerned about another car following you, drive towards the nearest police station while keeping your doors locked and windows up.

Put Distractions Away

It’s very difficult to stay alert when distractions are present. When driving, put all distractions away, such as your phone, food, and drink. Even one second of distraction could lead to an accident.

[ How to Limit Distractions Inside the Vehicle | Shop for a Pre-Owned Vehicle at U.S. Auto Sales ]