5 Ways To Be A Defensive Driver

heavy traffic interchangeDefensive 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

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.

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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  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. Oumou Balde says

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

  4. 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.