5 Defensive Driving Strategies To Be A Safer, Smarter Driver

1. Look Ahead

After many years of driving it’s easy to feel comfortable moving at high speeds in your vehicle, but in doing so you often forget just how much ground you cover in a short amount of time. At 60 mph you travel a total of 88.2 feet in just one second. Covering that kind of distance in such a short period of time means it’s important to keep your focus on the road ahead so you can anticipate hazards and improve your situational awareness.

2. Maintain Proper Following Distance

Keeping a safe following distance is just as critical as maintaining a safe speed. According to a 2017 Australian study, despite drivers perceiving themselves following at a safe distance, on-road data showed that in reality, most don't leave the recommended two- to three-second gap.By allowing yourself three seconds of following distance, you can ensure you’ll have enough time to react if the vehicle in front of you comes to a sudden halt.

3. Have an Avoidance Plan

You can’t always predict what other drivers will do, but you can have a strategy for how to react during an emergency. An escape plan not only makes you a safer driver, but it also works to help other motorists around you.Where would you pull off if a dog ran into the roadway and everyone in front of you hit their brakes? If you see a car is about to collide with another vehicle where would you go to avoid crashing yourself? Is the shoulder a safe option, or is there room in the adjacent lane? Always plan for as many potential driving emergencies as possible while on the road.

4. Reduce Distractions

From cellphones to fast food and infotainment systems, today’s automobiles are full of distractions. Unfortunately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 3,166 people lost their lives to distracted driving in 2017.To reduce distractions, only use your cell phone during emergency situations after safely pulling to the right side of the road and save the food and entertainment for your next stop. For teens, limit the number of passengers in the vehicle to decrease the level of activity inside the vehicle for a safer driving experience.

5. See the Big Picture

One of the biggest goals for motorists should be to never allow danger to catch them off guard. However, it’s easy for a deer crossing the highway or a broken down vehicle on the side of the road to surprise you if you’re not seeing the big picture.The big picture involves combining all of the above defensive driving tips into a comprehensive strategy. Constantly scanning the area around you, maintaining the proper speed and distance, and limiting distractions can help ensure a safe driving experience.

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