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Defensive Driving Tips: Avoiding Potential Disaster on the Road

defensive driving tips

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as driving without risk. In the United States, over 40,000 people die in car crashes every year. That said, there are ways to minimize your odds of a crash, keep you and your passengers safe and thereby avoid pesky insurance increases

Simply put, the best way to stay safe on the road is to practice defensive driving and choose a safer and reliable car. To help you become a better defensive driver, we’ve outlined several tips to help you avoid potential disaster on the road below. 

1. Minimize Distractions

It should seem obvious, but the more you’re doing while you’re driving, the more likely you are to get in an accident. Whether you take your hands off the wheel to eat food, engage your passengers in deep conversation, or listen to a podcast while you drive, you’re increasing the odds you make a mistake on the road. In the worst case scenario, this could lead to death.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11% of all accidents were caused by distracted drivers in 2022. That amounts to hundreds of thousands of accidents. Additionally, the same study found that 8% of all fatal accidents involved a level of distraction.

For this reason, it’s important to avoid distracted driving and multitasking. When possible, avoid engaging with any activities that take your mind away from the road or your hands away from the wheel. In some situations, when you need to adjust your navigation or perform another important task, you might ask a passenger to do it for you.

2. Know Your Route

One helpful way to practice defensive driving is to plan ahead of time for your route. Use your navigation app to pull up your route and study it for a couple of minutes before you begin to drive. This can help you prepare for sudden stops, abrupt turns and minimize the amount of lane changes you have to make.

3. Keep Your Distance

Make sure you have plenty of room between you and the car in front of you. This will ensure you have enough time to brake safely and avoid potential disaster. Never tailgate another driver. If they stop abruptly, it could easily result in an accident—along with an increase in your insurance premium.

A good rule of thumb is to allow yourself at least three to four seconds of stopping time between you and other vehicles. 

It’s also good to brake slowly as you approach stops. This helps the people behind you see your brake lights and adjust accordingly.

4. Adapt Appropriately to Road Conditions

We’d all love if every route was free of hazards. Only sunny weather, light winds and straight roads. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It’s important to stay alert for the weather and winding roads, so that you can adjust accordingly.

Curvy Roads

Curves in the road can be tricky. Oftentimes, they can cause accidents when people drive too fast or miss a roadside hazard that pops into view abruptly. 

To stay safe while driving on a curve, it’s a good idea to slow down and position your car toward the side of the lane furthest from the direction of the curve. As the curve straightens out, slowly ease back into the normal position of your lane and accelerate back to regular speed when the road is completely straight.

Windy Conditions

If you’re dealing with heavy winds, keep both your hands on the wheel and slow to a safe speed. Stay a safe distance away from other cars and watch out for gusts blowing vehicles into adjacent lanes. Also be alert for if a strong wind begins to influence the direction of your vehicle. 

Icy Roads

Here’s a couple of tips you should follow on icy roads:

  • Slow down: If the road is slippery, you want to drive slower so you have more control over the situation. Avoid abrupt accelerations as well.
  • Brake smoothly: If you brake too abruptly, you could slide.
  • Use winter tires: If you have foresight that the route ahead will be icy, prepare appropriately with winter tires.

That said, icy roads can be particularly dangerous. To ensure you don’t get in an accident, it’s a good idea to avoid icy conditions altogether. If possible, postpone your drive until roads are in safer condition.

road safety

5. Optimize Child Safety

No matter how safe you are, accidents are always possible. For that reason, it’s important to prioritize the safety of your children. 

Make sure to secure your child in a safety seat or booster seat. For infants and toddlers, a rear-facing child restraint should be used until they outgrow it. Typically, this doesn’t happen til they are age 2 or older. Your seat should come with a manual that tells you the height and weight limits for use.

That said, if your child is in a rear-facing restraint, they should not be riding in the front seat. This puts them at risk of fatality in the event of an airbag being deployed.

Once they outgrow a rear-facing restraint, children can use forward-facing restraints equipped with harnesses until they outgrow it. Typically, a child will outgrow these seats at around age 7. 

Finally, a booster seat can be utilized for kids until they’re as old as 12. Just always be mindful of the height and weight requirements allowed for each seat-type. 

6. Be Prepared for Emergencies

It's a good idea to have an emergency kit before you start driving. This may include jumper cables, first aid kits, a spare tire, floor jacks, traction devices, reflective emergency triangles, and more. 

Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with the steps one should take after a car accident, such as:

  • Getting to safety: First and foremost, make sure you and your passengers are safe. If necessary, you may even need to request an ambulance.
  • Contacting the authorities: The next step is to call the police to report your accident. 
  • Exchanging contact information: Get contact info from the other drivers involved in the accident and exchange insurance information.
  • Documenting everything: Take thorough pictures of the scene of the accident, any damage done to each car and any other pieces of evidence which could be helpful.
  • Contacting insurance: Next, you need to notify your insurance agent. They will walk you through next steps to process your claim and reimburse you for damage caused.

Keep in mind, if you’ve been injured in an accident, it could be a good idea to hire a car accident lawyer. Whether you’re rear-ended or experience a broadside collision, a lawyer can help you get the financial compensation you deserve in an accident.

Final Takeaways

It isn’t always easy to avoid accidents on the road. That said, when you eliminate distractions, plan ahead, prepare for emergencies and otherwise optimize for safety, you can tremendously reduce the odds of getting in an accident. Follow our tips outlined above to become a better defensive driver. These practices might just end up saving your life in the long-run.