heavy traffic interchange

5 Ways To Be A Defensive Driver

Defensive driving starts with you.

It can be a jungle out there on the road … and time-crunched drivers often produce a hectic environment full of aggressive maneuvers and little to no consideration for other vehicles. That’s when accidents happen, but you can be the one that makes all the difference.

Defensive driving involves much more than on-the-spot responses when you’re in traffic. Here are some things you can do to stay ahead of the curve:

1. Plan Ahead

Checking forecast. Modern remote worker checking weather forecast on her phone while planning picnic outside

Know what you’re getting into before you even get out on the road. Get in the habit of checking weather conditions, and if you know it’s going to be a wet or icy commute, make sure you leave yourself enough time to make that trip carefully, instead of feeling rushed during your commute and driving faster than you should in bad conditions. Take extra precaution when it comes to making tight turns like when you merge on and off of highway ramps. You should be mentally ready to make those turns extra slow. If at all possible, stick to a lane with a shoulder next to it, so you have somewhere to move in an emergency.

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2. Always Scan Your Surroundings

“That car came out of nowhere!” If you’ve ever heard someone talk about what happened during a motor vehicle accident, those words are uttered all too often. It’s impossible to see everything that’s around you all the time. That’s why it’s important to continuously check your mirrors and thoroughly scan intersections well before you pass through them. Get in the habit of taking a quick peek down intersecting streets as you approach them so you can avoid being T-boned by a careless driver not paying attention to their red light. The ultimate goal is to always anticipate where vehicles will be a few seconds later so you can respond quickly.

3. Brake Early

Leave a little more space between you and the cars in front you than you anticipate needing—and brake early. In fact, it’s always a good idea to slow down a little sooner, especially in slippery conditions. Expect that it will take two or three times as long to come to a complete stop after making the decision to apply the brakes. This gives you more room to stop if someone ahead of you brakes suddenly, and gives people behind you even more of a heads up that you are stopping when they see your brake lights.

4. Never Go On The Offensive

Don’t let other drivers’ aggressive tendencies rub off on you. Road rage often starts with one person’s hostility and causes a ripple effect on nearby drivers. You’ll be surprised at how often things can get heated on the road simply because someone gets cut off and then goes out of their way to “get back at” the other driver. But there are several ways to avoid road rage. Just play it safe—play it cool.

5. Don’t Get Distracted

Being a defensive driver isn’t only about being reactive. It’s also about being proactive. One of the best ways you can avoid a collision on the road is by paying full attention at all times. Don’t engage in activities that take your eyes and attention off the road. Using your smartphone is a big one, and this distraction goes well beyond just texting—music, social media, and surfing the web all take your attention away from the road. (Think you’re up to speed on everything there is to know about distracted driving? Take the Distracted Driving Quiz, see how well you score, and give us your thoughts.)

Being a true defensive driver means protecting yourself from more than just other drivers. It’s about thinking ahead and anticipating hazards so you can avoid accidents before they happen.

It’s always good to assume that not everyone is paying attention or driving as carefully as you, but your preparation, perspective, and sense of accountability can make a huge impact on whether you arrive somewhere safely or put yourself at risk of an accident.

GEICO encourages everyone to drive safely. Check out all the Safe Driving Resources available for teens and drivers of all ages. Then visit geico.com, get a quote, and see if you qualify for safe driver discounts. You might be surprised at how much you could save.

By Steven Scott

Read more: Defensive Driving Tips for Heavy Traffic

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    Leave a comment

  1. Malvin says,

    My question is, Why do not police pull over and ticket people who drive in the left lane slower than the speed limit or when not passing another vehicle? I have seen more accidents and traffic jambs started by this offence than any other!!!!!

  2. Danny Motley says,

    Hi am a commercial driver of a large vehicle ‘ that has pretty much seen it all on the roads and I have learned to adapt to the traffic patterns ‘ no day on the roads are the same ‘ I always try to apply safety to my daily routine.

  3. Ed says,

    Ed, like the information. I’ve been driving for overr 40 years and when I see these reminders it makes THINK How easy it is to forget and take things for granted. I practice these reminders and it makes a difference in my driving skills..

  4. Richard Hewlett says,

    Why doesn’t GEICO offer free Defensive driving on there web site instead $20.00 per person on a 3 party site ?

  5. Juan Santana says,

    More than 40 years of driving, not just in the Us, but in many more ” “hecktic-driver” countries without incidents or accidents, however, in the last months, I have seem, and been on the receiving end of more than four accidents. 100% from distracted female drives who are either texting, having apparently “deep” conversations with their passengers, thinking about what to make for dinnner, or who-knows-what.
    ale passengers are more numerous, and may actually cause more fatalities, specially younger ones, but they have more reflexes, and normally pay a lot more attention to the road and other drivers, even if they are more aggressive.
    In addition, many new comers to the Bay Area, some4 from the East Coast (a more aggressive driving habit), some from overseas, where any style of driving goes, including not stopping – ever- for pedestrian, etc.

    Perhaps this requires a little up-to-date education and outyreach to insured members and a word to DMV about how are they testing new drivers, and what are they instucting them (or not) to do while driving in California, specially in cities.

  6. Gerald P. DeCuir says,

    I just wanted to say, I think it’s smart for all drivers to be as informed as possible when it comes to operating a motor vehicle of any kind. I also believe it should be an requirement for all new drivers to take a defensive drivers course upon receiving there drivers license an for all drivers upon renewal. I’m a professional driver and I know 1st hand the importance of being a defensive driver. Good job for making this information available.

  7. Soapy says,

    Defensive? Well, I have learned some ” How to spot a drunk Driver”; But do you have any suggestion? Do you have to be a cop to watch this activity on the road?.. Oh god! In the next few days, my state will become legally dope drivers on the road. You will see how many DUI cases like this on your Local NEWS for this 4th of July. Do you smoke join behind the wheel? God bless my state troupe and you, Defensive Driver!!!

  8. Stephanie Bragg says,

    My Dad taught me to be a defensive driver when he taught me to drive. It has saved me many times from being involved in a collision. I took a defensive driver course to lower the points on my drivers license. I learned many practical and helpful tips just like the ones you have provided. Thanks for keeping me alert and informed.

  9. Jack C. Evans, Jr says,

    What you’re saying makes sense because I am doing what you are suggesting I’m 74years young and I drive professional for Autoplus out of Runnemede NJ and I see accident daily this is good advice thanks for sharing

  10. Oumou Balde says,

    I’m very grateful for the suggestions to take the defensive driving class,and I will soon. Thank you.

  11. Pete Guither says,

    My dad taught me defensive driving and I’ve always appreciated it. His view was that an poor driver will slam on the brakes and just miss hitting the child that ran out into the street to get a ball; a better driver will see the ball going into the street and brake before the child appears; and a defensive driver will see the kids playing in their front yard and prepare for the possibility that a ball may go into the street.