A student of a defensive driving course is essentially taught to anticipate the hazards that may occur while driving and make quick, appropriate decisions that would ensure his, as well as others safety, especially in adverse situations such as a potential collision of two automobiles. It is an important skill to acquire, and may prove very helpful.
Basic Techniques of Defensive Driving
Many people nowadays opt for specialized defensive driving courses that have specialized syllabi for their students in order to ensure safer road journey in the future. Here are some techniques of defensive driving:
Assuming the worst possible situation while driving is a key to safety. The driver will then try to react in a manner that may be helpful in saving lives. In order to recognize potential dangers, one has to assume that every other driver on the road has no knowledge whatsoever of the traffic rules. So a defensive driver must always be alert while driving.
It is not possible for a driver to anticipate what the driver ahead is going to do. He may take a sudden turn, or may even halt suddenly. In such situations, if the distance between the two vehicles is not 'safe' enough, there is a high possibility of the driver behind losing control, and leading to fatal consequences.Hence, a safe distance is recommended'.
Adjusting the mirrors while driving can be highly distracting, and may result in the driver losing control. Similarly, using a mobile phone, switching between radio channels, or watching television within the car can distract the drivers, who in turn can run into other cars, collide into stationery objects or even worse.
Maintaining road discipline and avoiding 'car bunches' are the two important factors. A 'defensive' driver either heads the 'car bunch' or stays at the very end of it. This is a good way to avoid severe accidents.
Watch out for heavier vehicles such as buses or trucks in your rear view mirror, anticipate the distance and plan your strategy accordingly. If you are driving behind a large vehicle, maintain a safe distance from it and see that you do not attempt to overtake it from the wrong side.
Presence of mind is very important because you cannot say how and when an animal or a child may come in front of your car. Make sure that you do not exceed the prescribed speed limit so that you are able to control your vehicle in any such situation. Similarly, avoiding factors such as potholes are also vital.
Blind spot is a high-risk area around the car. It is therefore necessary to identify this spot, and try not to drive in the problem area. A simple guideline while driving is, "if you can't see their mirrors, they can't see you". Although, every American state has its own syllabus of defensive driving, the techniques used are not the same everywhere.
Tips for Driving Defensively
- Always wear a seat belt. It improves your chances of surviving an accident.
- Do not drink and drive. About 30% of road fatalities in the United States result from drunk driving.
- If you have to drive long distances, make sure that you have slept well enough. Drowsiness or falling asleep while driving can lead to dreadful consequences.
- Driving at a high speed may seem fun and thrilling. But, speed may cost you your life. An old public safety campaign had a very apt bottom-line that read, "Speed kills".
- Drive carefully in foggy, rainy or snowy weather. Keep the speed slow. Adverse weather conditions may affect visibility and thus increase chances of accidents.
- Make full use of your side and rear view mirrors. Watch out for the other drivers on the road. Not everyone might be driving safely.
- Whenever turning left or right, always turn on the indicator. This tells the driver behind you that you are taking a turn and he thus reacts in an appropriate manner.
- Honking while taking sharp turns is a good way to warn the drivers coming from the other side of your presence. This enables them to reduce speed or pull their car on one side if the road is narrow.
- Keep both hands on the steering wheel. While driving, the hands should be either in the 9 O'clock and 3 O'clock position or in the 10 O'clock and 2 O'clock position. These positions are known to be the safest hand positions while driving.
- Never overlook the traffic light. Breaking or jumping a stop light can lead to unexpected results.
- Expect the unexpected. One may never anticipate what may happen the next moment. Be prepared for any kind of contingency. Only then will you be able to make efforts to avoid it.
- It is also advised that you maintain and service your vehicle regularly and from time to time so that you can minimize the risks of sudden breakdown and subsequent fatalities.
Many non-profit and government organizations offer courses in defensive driving. These courses tackle everyday driving problems by imparting training on various issues, and are being made more accessible to the public. People may now learn tips and techniques of defensive driving through numerous DVDs and CDs that impart knowledge on this subject.