Ever since you became a licensed driver, people have been offering little tidbits of advice for how to survive life on the road. They’ll tell you to never take your eyes off the road, not to trust other drivers, and to always be aware of your surroundings. In most driving situations, these tips will help you to stay safe on the roads and arrive alive. More often than not, though, the one piece of advice that people will offer you is that you need to drive defensively. But if you’re like most people in the world, you will have no idea what this means.
Defensive driving is an actual driving principle, not just something people have made up over time to threaten new drivers. It is defined as the practice of driving as safely as possible no matter what conditions you encounter. So, there it is. That’s the definition of defensive driving. Is anyone else still a little unclear? That’s pretty vague, isn’t it? How does that differ from what you’re supposed to do on a regular basis when you’re driving, and why does it need its own terminology? There are many tips that go into proper defensive driving that may help clear it up for those of us who are still a little bit concerned that we’re doing something wrong.
- Expect the Unexpected – Part of driving defensively means that you’re always on the alert for the next thing that COULD go wrong on the road. This means you’re not looking at your phone or distractedly twirling your hair around your finger. You’re a cheetah, always ready to pounce, and nothing is going to catch you off guard. You need to be able to counter anything that comes at you, whether caused by other drivers, or conditions of the road.
- Have No Expectations – Essentially, they want you to not have any expectations about how people are going to handle themselves on the road. You’re supposed to be able to take what you think a driver is going to do, and throw that out that window. You’re always prepared to be surprised by the actions of others. If you’ve been driving for any number of years, this is pretty easily accomplished, as drivers will always do the last thing you expect. Think that car isn’t going to cross six lanes of traffic at seventy miles per hour? You’re wrong.
- Distraction Free – Driving is enough of a distraction. There is too much going on that we have to pay attention to on the road without adding in all of the ridiculous distractions, just from our cars. When you couple the flashiness of our cars with distractions from construction work, other drivers, and the bane of our existence; cell phones it’s pretty much impossible to keep your focus on the road.
- Read the Signs – While you’re supposed to keep your eyes on the road and be free of distractions, you’re also supposed to take in all of the road signs in your path. For example, a hairpin turn should never surprise you, as there will be signs warning you of said turn. Follow the directions on the signs carefully, as well.
- Keep a Safe Distance – Yes, this is still a rule. There is a specific distance between your car and the car in front of you that we are supposed to maintain when driving. Now how many people out there know what that distance is? Raise your hands! It’s three seconds. This means that it should take at least three seconds for you to pass the same point as the car in front of you. This has become, unfortunately, uncommon knowledge as we seem to always be in a hurry to get to where we’re going.
Hopefully, driving defensively has been decoded for you and you’re better able to grasp the concept. Most of defensive driving includes common sense principles coupled with the awareness of our surroundings that we’re supposed to have at all times. We’re in control of machinery that weighs, in excess, of a thousand pounds, so we should be paying attention! We shouldn’t have to be told to read road signs, put down our phones, and keep our eyes on the road, but that’s the day and age we live in at this point.