Driving is something that we all need to do, but it isn’t always safe. A lot can happen when you’re on the road, and you have to be prepared for anything that comes your way. That’s where defensive driving techniques come in. Rather than focusing on driving as fast as possible or getting somewhere as quickly as possible, defensive driving focuses on staying safe while you drive—and making sure that if something does happen to occur while you’re behind the wheel, your actions will keep everyone around you safe (and not just yourself). Here are some of my favourite ways to practice defensive driving:
As you can see, driving is a mental task. It requires you to be alert and aware of your surroundings. It requires you to be alert and aware of the people around you, especially other drivers. This means that if someone cuts you off or does something unsafe on the road, it’s only natural for them to get mad about it. However, this also means that if we react with anger and frustration when things don’t go our way, it will make us less safe on the road—which isn’t good for anybody!
If we want to become better drivers (and protect ourselves from accidents), we need to learn not just to pay attention but actively think about what’s happening around us while we’re driving. Active thinking includes monitoring our thoughts and emotions so that they don’t distract us from paying attention!
Awareness of Your Surroundings
While you’re on the road, make sure to keep your eyes peeled. Look at the traffic around you and the road ahead. Don’t just focus on one direction; look at all four directions:
- The traffic in front of you
- The road ahead of you
- The traffic behind you
- And the roads on either side of yours may have vehicles approaching from those directions.
- Proper spacing is the most important defensive driving technique. You should never be too close to the car ahead of you and always have enough space between your vehicle and any other cars on the road.
- The recommended safe following distance varies based on traffic conditions, but 15 seconds behind a slower driver (or 10-12 seconds if it’s raining) is a good guideline for beginners.
Anticipate hazards in your path.
Look for objects or people that may suddenly enter your lane of traffic, such as:
- Children playing in the street. They could run toward you or unexpectedly dart out from between parked cars.
- Animals on the road. If a deer steps into the middle of your lane, it can cause an accident that results in serious injury or death. Also, watch for squirrels and other small animals that hide under bridges and overpasses because they’re used to being hunted by motor vehicles on their native land.
- Pedestrians are not paying attention to traffic signals or crosswalks (kids on skateboards). These paths are often too narrow for cars to pass safely with pedestrians present—so anticipate them before they become a risk!