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Defensive driving saves lives and there are a lot of ways to do just that. You can make sure you’re taking proper care of your car, you can enroll in a Texas defensive driving online course (even if you’re from out of state), and you can apply the five real-life driving tips below. Proper defensive driving is the kind of skill you get with experience, but it’s important to know all the basics, before you go out on the road. So here’s our tested-and-true defensive driving tips and advice on how to become a better defensive driver and ward off dangers.
1. Make room
When driving on a busy road at rush hour, it’s so easy to get crammed in that drivers sometimes don’t even realize what’s happening to them. However, defensive driving teaches to always be mindful of the distance between your own vehicle and those of your partners in traffic. Always wait for at least two seconds before you follow someone. Don’t be a tailgater and learn how to get rid of your own (more on that below). Remember that every vehicle has a blind spot, especially trucks and vans, but also motorcycles and regular personal cars, too. Finally, forget the old adage about leaving one car length of room per every 10mph of your moving speed. It’s next to impossible to visualize a car length when you’re moving, so, instead, use the two-second rule by taking shadows and road marks as your guides.
2. Be predictable
We’re sure you’ve seen them: those drivers that speed off the left lane of the freeway, then suddenly make a brash move across all the lanes, only to cut off everyone else on the road and make their way onto a ramp. In plain English, don’t do that. Ever. Try to slow down gradually, signal your turns, and try to avoid all sudden moves, at all costs. This might be easier said and done, especially in very busy traffic. The point is to always try and plan ahead, for any exits, turns, and off-ramps you might want to drive down. If that’s not possible, then let the exits pass, then turn around to get to where you wanted to be. It’s not worth risking it.
3. Tailgaters and how to lose them
In the state of Arizona, 40 per cent of all rear-endings are caused by tailgating, i.e. one car following another too closely. Rear-endings are not always the light, negligible incidents you may think they are and can often end in fatality or injury. So, what’s ‘too close’, in terms of driving? Basically, if you can’t break, for fear of causing a collision, then that means someone’s driving too closely (be it you, or a tailgater of your own). If you’re being tailgated, you don’t want to put on the brakes very suddenly. Instead, you want to make sure you’ve got at least 4 seconds of distance between your vehicle and the one in front. Then, you want to slow down gradually, slightly below the average speed of the moving traffic. Chances are your tailgater is going to grow impatient and veer around you – and that’s precisely what you want. You want them off your case, since they’ve already displayed reckless driving behaviors. And a final word of advice: never, under any circumstances, make any bold moves, such as braking or tapping the lights. Not only could you cause an accident, but you also risk annoying someone who’s probably got a temper.
4. Master the freeway
Having a driver’s license and a fair amount of experience on roads that are not freeways (or expressways, as they are alternatively called) doesn’t mean you automatically know how to drive down high speed, paid access highways. So here are the rules, in a nutshell:
- Don’t stop anywhere. Not on the road, but neither on the shoulder, the ramps, the median, or anywhere else for that matter. Of course, emergency stops are allowed, but do bear in mind that freeway shoulders are very dangerous.
- Do not back up your car and don’t cross the median either. If you miss an exit, your only legal alternative is to take the next one, then go back.
- Maintain the proper freeway speed. This means you should always go for merge speed, which is far safer than driving slowly on such a road. But remember to always maintain a safe speed, which is 10mph faster/slower than the flow of traffic.
- Only use the left lane for passing. Likewise, bear in mind that the right lane should only be used when exiting and entering traffic.
- Let emergency vehicles pass by moving as far off to the right as possible. On freeways, you should not stop for emergency vehicles.
5. Back up as rarely as possible
Back-ups open possibilities for collisions, be they major and serious, or minor fender-benders. That’s because a lot of drivers forget to make sure the area behind their vehicles is visually clear. So do that, first and foremost, then turn to look back through the rear side of your car. Use your side view mirrors, if your vehicle does not allow a direct rear view. If there’s enough room in the parking lot, try backing into the parking space, or pulling straight into it with your back.
As long as you follow these 5 defensive driving tips as closely as possible, you should be safe enough from all dangers on the road.