Car accidents are a fact of life. It is the ninth leading cause of death annually, with more than 3,000 deaths and at least 54,000 car crash-related injuries a day. It is not about becoming a better driver. No matter how skilled a driver you are, you can still be at risk because other drivers may not have the same level of skill. Road conditions and the weather may also work against you. However, many of these car accidents are preventable if you drive defensively. Here are some smart tips for defensive driving.
- Don’t presume
You should not think that other drivers know the rules of the road as you do, or are as careful with their driving as you are. You know, for example, that flashing your headlights to an oncoming vehicle means you want to go ahead. It is the same as honking your horn to warn them that you are proceeding. However, some people interpret is as they can go ahead. You can imagine what may happen next! As much as possible, do not send signals like this that can be misconstrued.
- Keep your eyes open
The key to defensive driving is situational awareness. Observe what other people are doing, anticipate what they will do next, and have a response plan. You should also be aware of other things that may be happening around you, such as pedestrians, road obstructions, and especially motorcycle riders. Slow down in areas where you can’t see what’s coming, such as curves on the road, a dip on the road, or an intersection. Even if your lane gets the green light, proceed with caution. Someone might be trying to beat the red light.
- Wait and see
Don’t automatically assume that when the driver in front of you has a signal flasher on that he or she intends to turn left or right at the next corner. The intended turn may be further down the road, or the driver simply does not realize indicator flasher is on. Wait until the driver actually acts on the signal to make your move.
- Drive a safe distance
Tailgating is the cause of many rear-end collisions because you simply have no time to react when someone suddenly steps on the brakes, or stops for any other reason. Use the two-second rule to stay a safe distance from the car in front of you. This means that no matter what your speed, the car in front of you should be two seconds away. This gives you enough time to see the brake lights and stop, and still give you space to maneuver around a stalled vehicle.
- Avoid reckless drivers
If the driver next to you behind you is driving too close to you for safety, on the phone, or otherwise being reckless, pull over and let them get ahead of you. You might be tempted to challenge the driver or keep them from passing you, but that would be a mistake. You have better control over the situation and in a better position to avoid getting involved in an accident.
You can make yourself as safe as possible by following these smart tips. You can’t control anything outside your own vehicle, so you need to keep your defenses up every second you are on the road. Cultivate a keen situational awareness and you should see trouble before it hits you, literally.