As a defensive driver, you can avoid crashes and help lower your risk of accidents behind the wheel. You can't control the actions of other drivers, but do you have control over how you operate your vehicle?
In this article we explain how defensive driving can keep you safe on the road, with tips for practising it, including how to better concentrate, create a safe space between yourself and other drivers, and to not be too trusting that other people won’t make mistakes.
These are our helpful tips to keep you as safe as possible on the roads:
1. Stay Focused and Alert
There are a lot of things to think about whilst driving, whether it’s your speed, road signs, weather conditions or checking your mirrors. The most important thing to do is to stay focused on your driving.
Distractions, such as using your phone, driving with kids in the backseat or eating can make a driver less alert to potential problems and therefore slow their reaction time. It doesn’t matter how ‘skilled’ you are as a driver or how many years of experience you have - all drivers must remind themselves to stay focused.
2. Be Aware of Other Drivers and Don’t Depend on Them
Simply, don't trust anyone but yourself. Part of staying in control and driving defensively is being aware of other drivers around you; you are less likely to be caught off guard if you are more alert to what another driver may suddenly do.
Anticipating what another driver might do and adjusting your driving helps reduce your risk of being in an accident. For example, if a car speeds past you on a dual carriageway and you suspect they will swerve back in front of you, keeping your eye on the road and being prepared to slow or brake is a defensive way to drive.
It is best to err on the side of caution by anticipating the worse-case scenario. Do not assume that other drivers are going to do something - just because the car in front of you is indicating left it doesn’t mean they will turn. Wait and see what the driver does rather than presuming what they are going to do. It is always better to be cautious or lose a bit of time checking, than to get caught in a collision.
3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Checking your mirrors frequently and keeping your eyes moving to scan the road ahead of you is so important. This will help you be prepared for anything that may happen as well as keeping you more alert to pedestrians, cyclists and animals along the road.
4. Keep Your Speed Down
Regulation speed limits on road signs refer to the maximum speed based on ideal driving conditions. You must take the initiative to adjust your speed to match conditions, as higher speeds make controlling your vehicle more difficult. For example, in rainy or icy conditions, a defensive driver will drive more slowly rather than reaching the maximum speed allowed on that road.
5. Follow The 3-4 Second Rule
Tailgating leads to collisions, and if you get too close to the vehicle in front, you could end up paying the price, both in repairs and physically. The 3- to 4-second rule will help you establish and maintain a safe following distance and provide adequate time for you to brake and stop if you need to. Increasing this distance further is important if the weather is bad or if you are following a large lorry or motorbike.
6. If In Doubt, Pull Over
Driving is not a race; it is always best to play it safe to avoid a dangerous situation. If another driver around you is driving erratically or making you feel uncomfortable, it is always best to pull over safely and let them pass.
7. Create A Safety Bubble
Keep as much space around your car as possible when driving so that you have room to manoeuvre if others make mistakes. For example, if someone driving on the other side of the road is swerving, you have enough space to react and avoid danger.
If you are waiting in traffic, stop with enough room between you and the vehicle in front so that you can manoeuvre if you need to. For example, if the car in front breaks down you may need to get around them, or you need space to pull in to let an ambulance past.
8. Use Your Indicators and Monitor Blind Spots
To enforce defensive driving, confusion must be avoided. Make your lane changes and turns predictable and smooth by indicating every time and early enough.
If you cannot see the driver in a lorry mirror, they cannot see you either. Checking your blind spots and indicating before you make movements will make you more visible to other motorists.
9. Stop on Red and Slow on Amber
This may seem tedious, but the leading cause of collisions at traffic light intersections is racing through a red light. Best practise when approaching traffic lights is to slow down and evaluate the situation and not race through the lights. Even if they are green, checking left and right is important when driving defensively as you cannot predict the actions of other drivers rushing through red lights or even emergency service vehicles on call.
10. Remain Calm
Don’t let ggressive drivers bother you; stay back and take the offense. Getting even is never worth it and can lead to risking your own life as well as innocent drivers around you.
The best piece of advice to take as a defensive driver is to observe, anticipate and plan when driving.
Having the right insurance for your vehicle in case of any accident will also give you peace of mind. Be Wiser is a great place to start to help you find the right cover for your needs. Get a quote now.