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How to Drive Defensively

If you are currently in the process of earning your learner's permit or driver's license, you will repeatedly be advised to "drive defensively." But what does this mean, exactly? In simple terms, it means to be attentive and drive in a manner that prepares you (as best as possible) for unforeseeable hazards. Driving defensively can help you avoid an accident or reduce the risk of injury should an accident be unavoidable. Follow these simple steps to protect yourself and others while on the road:

Be Attentive

When driving on the road, it is of the utmost importance that you pay attention and focus on the task at hand. Keep both hands on the wheel, don't allow yourself to be distracted by diversions, and concentrate on driving safely and responsibly. Texting while driving, making phone calls, talking with passengers, applying makeup, and eating all introduce unnecessary risk that hinder your ability to focus on driving safely – do not allow this to happen.

Scan Your Surroundings

It is important that you possess sound situational awareness when on the road. Obstacles can be found all around your vehicle – in front, to the side, and behind. In order to safely interact with other vehicles on the road, as well as bicycles, pedestrians, and other potential hazards, you must make a concerted effort to maintain awareness of everything that is around you. Keep your eyes moving, user your rearview mirrors, and be sure to check over your shoulder before attempting a lane change.

Abide by Traffic Laws

Speeding, failing to yield, unsafe or disallowed lane changes, and failing to indicate are all illegal – and furthermore, they are unsafe practices as well. When driving, it is incredibly important that you abide by all traffic laws; after all, they have been implemented not only to protect you, but others. Only if everyone on the road is abiding by the same set of rules can they drive safely and free of harm.

Make Your Intentions Known

Be sure to use your turn signals when making a lane change or turning left or right at an intersection. By doing so, you can alert other drivers to your intentions so that they are not caught off-guard by your actions. It is also important that you use your headlights at all times, even during the day if possible. Your headlights make your car more visible, making it easier for others to see you. On the road, any slight uncertainty can lead to a preventable accident.

Drive for the Conditions

In the dry, your tires will provide you with a tremendous amount of grip. Think of the ease with which you can maneuver around a freeway on- or off-ramp. However, when the conditions turn sour, this grip can be drastically reduced. If the ground is wet and oily, it is raining or snowing, or there is ice on the ground, it is extremely important that you slow down. Driving in inclement weather requires thinking (and looking) ahead, smooth driver inputs, and slowing down to an appropriate speed. If you fail to take these precautions, you can easily lose control.

Stay Alert

To be able to operate a motor vehicle safely, you must be mentally and physically capable of driving a car. This means never operating a motor vehicle while tired or intoxicated. If you require sleep or are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is extremely important that you do not drive. Doing so puts your life and the lives of others at risk, and can result in death.

Do Not Drive Recklessly

Put simply, all traffic collisions are preventable. Traffic accidents happen because one or both parties fail to take proper precaution to drive safely and mind others around them. Driving defensively means avoiding unnecessary risk, and this means driving safely for the conditions. Do not drive recklessly – it's dangerous and isn't worth it!


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