We journey out on to the public roadways every day. We are constantly at risk of car accidents. Some days we are reminded of the aggressive drivers that infuriate us. Other days, we are in a hurry and think everyone around us is taking his or her sweet time. We can be distracted, tired, or in hurry; our minds can be elsewhere. One element of the road we should never ignore is the other drivers around us. They can be distracted themselves. If we are prepared to react to someone else’s reckless or negligent driving, we can put ourselves in position to avoid dangerous car accidents.
I was told at a young age that defensive driving allows you to defend yourself against possible collisions caused by lousy drivers or poor weather. Anticipating someone else’s actions is the first step in lowering the risk of being involved in a car accident. Now I am no expert. I learned defensive driving techniques from my father, who manned an ambulance with his brothers in Manhattan, Kansas. With Holiday travel comes increased traffic, stress, and slick road conditions. Driving is a risky activity. Here are a few key defensive driving techniques to remember when you hit the road:
1. Be a Compass
Know what is north, east, south, and west of you. Not only do we need to be observant of the road in front of us, but we also have to take in to account what is behind us and what is next to us. Common car accidents occur when we are inattentive of our surroundings. Take a few seconds each minute to check all of your mirrors. Take note of the amount of traffic around you. Check your blind spots before turning. Take a look at your rear-view mirror and take note of how fast the car behind you is traveling while you are approaching a stop. Cars next to you may want to get over, and disregard where you are or fail to take notice of your speed. Keep your peripheral vision moving. You can control your actions, but not others around you. Defensive driving calls for you to anticipate what others are going to do before they take action. This calls for you to be ready. Be alert. This tactic allows you to be in control.
2. Identify Who You are Driving with – Scan the Roadway
Coinciding with being attentive of your surroundings is the ability to identify who you are driving with. There are many characteristics of the every-day-driver: aggressive, passive, or going with the flow. To lower the risk of being involved in an accident, identify what characteristics the drivers around you possess. An aggressive driver fails to take notice of his or her surroundings. They switch lanes without looking, drive at unsafe speeds, and drive far too close to others. Aggressive drivers fail to take in to account other drivers’ maneuvering. Passive drivers drive at lower speeds than the flow of traffic around them. They routinely get passed at rapid speed, which creates a sudden change in the continuation of traffic. Those who go-with-the-flow will drive at a fair pace. They will let others over before they make their move. Go-with-the-flowers generally follow the speed. Regardless, anticipate what other drivers are going to do so you can make the proper adjustments.
3. Let it Blink
One driving technique most of us forget is to keep our turning blinker on well before we make a turn or change lanes. Just as in other aspects of our life, we rely on acting quick, rather than acting gradually. Try and follow the 6-second rule: turn your blinker on 6 seconds before you anticipate changing lanes. This will alert others around you of your intent to break the flow of traffic. If other drivers are more aware of you, they will be more likely to know where you are going.
4. Brake Early
One key characteristic of defensive driving is the ability to adapt to the road conditions. Roads can be slick, especially around the Holiday season. While you are being alert of others, be alert of their speeds. We can only see one car ahead of us. This means that we are usually not made aware of how close the driver in front of us is to the car ahead of him. Stay two to three car-lengths behind one another. When you first start to notice the car in front of you reduce its speed, gradually begin to decelerate in order to have plenty of time to stop. Rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accidents. Maintain a safe following distance to give yourself adequate time to brake. Brake early to stay in control of the course.
5. Don’t get Distracted
We hear this far too often. Our lives are filled with things that take our attention off of the current moment. Our life in our car is no different. We listen to music loud when we are happy or have had a long day. We don’t have enough hours in the day to work, so we use our driving time to connect to others. Defensive driving calls to eliminate anything that is a distraction to you. This includes the use of cell phones, GPS systems, the radio, and passengers in your vehicle. Your focus should be on the road all around you. Set your phones on silent, keep the radio at a reasonable volume, and make sure passengers remain composed.
6. Knowing your Destination
It only takes a few minutes, if not seconds, to make sure you know your driving route before you step in to your car. If you do not know where you are going, make a mental note of the route before you get in the car. Preview the route on your GRP device. When we use our GPS devices in our car we eliminate a great deal of our attentiveness, which can be used to concentrate on the road.
7. Identify What Type of Driver You Are
The key to spotting others is the ability to recognize what type of driver you are. Are you aggressive? Passive? Inattentive? Do you get distracted easily? How are your driving actions going to affect others? By identifying what type of driver you are you can make yourself more visible to others.
Do you have any Driving Tips You Can Recommend to Others? Share Below!
Robert Kinsman is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Robert Kinsman is passionate about normalizing the life of his clients after they have been seriously injured. Learn more about his experience here.