Being a defensive driver doesn’t mean that you need to drive real slow and avoid all other cars and stay on the clearest parts of the road. It’s just a part of that but to be a better defensive driver, you need to be able to make decisions which are often instantaneous that will ultimately make it safer for you, your passengers and other cars/people. Every time we drive, we will arrive at a certain destination and a good defensive driver will make the trip a lot safer and less risky.
First and foremost, simple things such as following road signs are nice qualities of a defensive driver. Those road signs are placed on specific parts of the road for a reason and it’s definitely not for decoration when you encounter them on the road. It may say no left or right turn towards that street maybe because it’s a one-way road. If it says no U-turn, don’t do it. It may be an intersection that is vulnerable to accidents like in highways and there might be a designated U-turn area further down the road. A few meters of extra road before that U-turn could prove to be safer than taking the risk of making that turn. Follow traffic lights. It was not placed there to annoy you when it turns red. It provides a system that drivers should follow to coordinate traffic to make it safer which is its ultimate purpose.
You should always be aware of your surroundings. Dangers do not come only from other cars but from other factors as well. Watch out for pedestrians and don’t try to beat them since you’re faster. Think rationally and let them pass especially if they’re on a pedestrian lane. They’re no match against your car if you bump head on but don’t let it get to you. Look out for possible dangers on the road such as large objects that could tangle your under chassis and result in your car to break down. If there’s something blocking the road, don’t try to drive through it, stop if you need to and analyze the situation. If you’re turning either left or right, it is one of the basics that you’d look at your side mirror and take a glance on your left and right blind spots. It could happen that you can see a car behind you on your rear view or side mirrors but you may not notice that there is a car just a few feet or inches away to your immediate left or right.
There will be times where you’ll drive to a place you’re not familiar with. It’s time to be more defensive since you’re not familiar with the place and your attention may be lessened since you may be looking for a certain house/building or a specific street. Drive slowly (but not too slow to impair traffic and affect other cars) and it wouldn’t hurt to pull over safely and ask for directions. It wouldn’t hurt as well to put your hazard lights on to alert other motorists that you’re looking for or doing something.
As a defensive driver, you need to make decisions based on what the condition of traffic is. Don’t try to sneak into small openings between cars just to impress someone or prove that you can drive better. It’s a very risky move and one small slip by you or any of the cars could lead to a tragic accident. You will encounter drivers who are not defensive at all. You’ll see them speeding without remorse and cutting through traffic. Anticipate what they are thinking of doing and give ample space. If you need to overtake, it’s fine. Alert them by blowing your horns first before overtaking and give a safe distance between you and the car while doing so.
Another important aspect of being a defensive driver is to be able to control your emotions. It’s perfectly normal to feel bad when someone drives badly and you’re forced to move on another part of the road or if you see someone doing something bad on the road. But control your emotions as uncontrolled and heightened emotions may lead to bad decisions and could very well lead you to danger. Keep a clear mind and don’t try to catch up on bad drivers and shout at them. It’s not worth the risk most of the time. Report them if you have to and do what is right.
Driving an Emergency Vehicle is another story. You need to be more alert and you need to follow your instinct and be rational at the same time. Most drivers would give way if you have your sirens on but don’t assume that everyone would. There may even be some drivers who would stay behind an emergency vehicle like a convoy just to get through traffic. Don’t force to squeeze in but blow your horns to alert other drivers that you are in an emergency. Stay focused and stay calm. If you’re driving your car and you see an emergency vehicle with the lights and sounds on, give way.
Part of driving is parking and being a defensive driver, park your car safely. Don’t just stop whenever and wherever you like. Stay completely off the road and give way to pedestrians on the side walk. In some cases, even parked cars get involved in accidents but are usually be caused by bad parking habits. Avoid abrupt stops as much as possible. It does happen when you are caught off guard but being more attentive to what’s happening on the road may lessen the chances in having to.
There are cases wherein your decision making might get affected such as bad weather conditions. You need to be more alert and keep your lights on if needed in heavy rains/snow. If you can put off driving then just park your car and let it pass. If you have to drive under those conditions, concentrate on driving. Another most common thing that could impair your decision making is drunk driving. Yes, you are still conscious but if you get drunk you are very susceptible to making bad decisions. There are times that you may even be thinking a bit clear but your body is too drunk to follow it.
In any case, give as much attention to your driving every time you’re behind the wheel. Some other things that you’d do while driving such as talking on the phone or watching TV inside the car can greatly affect how you drive. As I’ve said, almost anything can happen on the road and you have no control over majority of what’s happening on the road. You can’t control how other drivers drive their cars. But at least, being defensive will greatly lessen the risk of getting into accidents. It may be difficult to balance out how you analyze different situations on the road especially when you’re just beginning to drive. Practice defensive driving early on and in time, you’ll get used to it and it will follow your instinct and it becomes your habit. It does happen that at times you may miss a few pointers. Just be careful. Drive safely guys!