Defensive driving is a strategy that is very familiar to commercial motor vehicle operators. It’s something we discuss at Pinnacle frequently and will continue to do so. Simply stated, defensive driving is a set of skills that allow drivers to defend themselves against possible collisions caused by bad drivers, drunk drivers, distracted drivers, poor weather, construction zones and any other obstacles to safe driving. In short, a defensive driving strategy prepares drivers for anything that could happen on the road—before it happens.
We’ve selected the 10 most effective tools that combine to build the most efficient safe driving strategy. The more of these ten that you can perfect, the safer, more defensive driver you will be.
- Stay alert. Look ahead, constantly, to spot hazards or issues before it’s too late to do anything about them. See problems while you have an opportunity to react, if necessary. Being alert is the most important thing you can do to enhance driving defensively.
- Scan the road and the mirrors. Be aware of your surroundings, where vehicles around you are located and how they’re being driven.
- Use your signals. It’s easy to forget to use your signals when turning or changing lanes but letting the drivers around you know what your intentions are is crucial toward achieving safe driving standards.
- Avoid blind spots. Nobody intentionally travels in another vehicle’s blind spot. But if you’re not paying attention, it’s not hard to end up in one and that’s usually a dangerous spot to be. It comes back to number 1, staying alert to where you are in relation to the other driver’s mirrors.
- Have an escape route. This is consciously aware of what you should do if something goes wrong and you need somewhere to go. Oftentimes, that “somewhere” is the shoulder or an empty lane left or right. Just think to yourself “where will I go if something falls off the trailer in front of me.
- Minimize distractions. Distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents these days so putting your cell phone away is mandatory. You should also not be distracted by food or drinks, etc.
- Follow at a safe distance. This is simple and important. Drivers should allow two to four seconds between themselves and the vehicle in front of them, depending on the speed. The faster you’re going, the more time you must allow between vehicles. At 65 mph you should be allowing four seconds.
- Adhere to the speed limit. Speed limits are engineered to account for basic traffic and road conditions including volume of traffic and access conditions. Obviously, weather comes into play as well. During adverse weather, the speed limit may be too fast and you have to adjust accordingly. But going faster than the speed limit is never advisable.
- Signs of fatigue. Often overlooked is simply listening to your body. Don’t drive when you’re too tired, ill or if you are feeling less than 100 percent. Get rest and eat properly and defensive driving will seem easier to you.
- Drive patiently. Perhaps the most difficult of all. Being in a big hurry while traversing a traffic jam is just frustrating and leaves you feeling upset. Leave yourself enough time to make your destination comfortably and remain patient.
We’ve mentioned before and you’ll probably hear it again and again…if you can’t do all of these, do as many as you can. Over time you can slowly start incorporating all these tools into your defensive driving strategy. You will be glad you did.