You can use defensive driving techniques to keep yourself safe on the road from unsafe drivers around you. Defensive driving means staying prepared, alert, and aware of the road conditions directly ahead of you as well as a few hundred feet down the road. When you drive defensively, you will take precautions based on the likelihood of an upcoming accident or other potential dangers. Defensive driving includes avoiding distracted driving behaviors that can endanger you and others on the road.
Being prepared on the road begins before you even get behind the wheel. It is good practice to have an emergency kit in your vehicle with medical supplies, a jack, basic snacks and water. In winter, you should also carry a blanket and extra clothes. Be sure your vehicle is in safe working order by checking the pressure of your tires and the oil, gas, and water levels. Also check the positions of the mirrors and make certain that the lights are working.
Once you are on the road, stay alert to what is happening around you. As you travel, make a note of safe areas where you can escape a potential accident if needed, such as a clear lane or a drivable area of the shoulder. If you spot dangerous behaviors in a driver near you, take action to remove yourself from that driver’s immediate vicinity. For drivers up ahead who seem likely to cause an accident, keep your distance by slowing down or changing lanes to avoid danger.
Emotional reactions will negatively affect your driving, and could result in a traffic ticket or worse: an accident. Road rage is a serious danger to all drivers. A normally calm and reasonable person can give in to rages when subjected to another person’s bad driving. It is important to remain calm and not give in to the temptation to react with anger or try to teach the other driver a lesson. If other drivers are behaving badly, simply create space between yourself and that driver.
3-Second Rule: Create Space
Use the 3-second rule to create a space of safety between you and another possibly unsafe driver on the road. Allow three full seconds to pass between the time that the car in front of you reaches a landmark and the time that your own vehicle reaches the same landmark. Increase this time to 4 seconds in bad weather conditions such as rain or heavy wind. If the road is icy, 10 seconds is best. Using the 3-second Rule for most driving situations, and giving plenty of space to any driver with erratic behavior or existing car damage, is the best way to stay safe on the road. Never tailgate other drivers. Not only could you get into legal trouble, but tailgating is most likely to result in an accident.
Be Seen — Stay in Sight
When your car is highly visible, you will be safer on the road. Even reasonable drivers may cause an accident if they cannot clearly see another car. Most drivers do not see 9 out of 10 other cars on the road around them, according to some statistics. You can increase the likelihood of being seen by using your headlights appropriately, such as on rainy or overcast days. If you are driving at night with your brights on, make sure to dim them for oncoming cars in order to avoid blinding the other driver. Keeping plenty of space between you and other drivers is another good way to stay visible. If you are traveling in another driver’s blind spot, he or she may collide with your car while merging into another lane or making a turn. This is especially important for truck drivers as large vehicles such as trucks, buses, and tractor-trailers have an extremely large blind spot.
Avoid Hazards: Accidents and Driving Impairments
Many people do not realize that over the counter medications or prescription drugs can cause drowsiness or reduced alertness, leading to dangerous driving. Distracted driving is also a serious problem. This can include any activity that takes your attention away from the road, including things like texting, eating, putting on makeup, or fiddling with a CD or mp3 player. If you pass an accident or stalled vehicle on the road, focus on the road ahead rather than craning to see the details of what has occurred.