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How Defensive Driving Can Keep You Safe

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 21 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Defensive Driving Defensive Driver

Defensive driving has grown in popularity over recent years and the techniques employed are often referred to as the 'common sense' approach to driving. It aims to allow a motorist to anticipate oncoming hazards whether they be the error of other drivers or bad road conditions, and react appropriately. Once a driver has learned how to engage themselves in a defensive style, they will be able to improve their skill, their hazard perception and their reaction times. They will be able to take responsibility for their vehicle and their passengers, despite what other road users do.

Undertaken properly, defensive driving can be a good economic choice too, which in these times of 'credit crunch' can only be a good thing. By learning how to drive defensively, you could save money on your tyre maintenance, your brakes, your fuel and many other basic vehicle overheads that your current style of driving could add to.

So what do you need to know to be a defensive driver?

On the road

These are techniques that might seem obvious, but are often overlooked: The driver will drive at the appropriate speed for the situation - never to fast or too slow. They will understand how to use their hazard lights and fog lights and also make sure that they turn them off as soon as is appropriate. They will always hold their hands in either 10-2 or 9-3 positions as these are recognised to be the safest position for the hands to be in whilst driving. Because most accidents occur when space runs out, a defensive driver will also be aware of exactly where they are on the road in relation to the other road users and will aim to get a perfect balance between speed and space.

Be Alert

A defensive driver will be able to look at the road ahead and anticipate any potential hazards which might include animals, pedestrians, motorcyclists, push-bikers and debris at the side of the road. They will watch every signal made by every vehicle around them and keep their lines of sight clear wherever possible. Defensive drivers will keep car decorations to a minimum so that they can see from every angle, and through every window.

Be prepared

Generally, the defensive driver will look at the road situation around them and assume the worst case scenario. They will assume that even as they approach a crossing where they have right of way, that the other motorists will pull out before them. They will assume that the car in front pulling onto the roundabout may not do so, slamming on at any time and causing a shunt accident. They will also assume that other drivers are not always aware of their signals and presence on the road - and so will take as much care as possible to avoid a collision. Essentially, defensive drivers tend to assume that they are the only one on the road who is in complete control, and that puts them in a position of responsibility.

Is there any focus on the driver?

There certainly is. Part of defensive driving techniques is understanding how different things can affect different situations,being fit to drive for example. There are a number of things that can affect a driver, turning them from a great motorist into a dangerous one. Apart from the obvious, drink and drugs (recreational or prescribed) which can seriously affect your driving skills, there are a number of things that many people don't even consider. Psychological and emotional issues can play just as much havoc with your driving skills as chemicals can. You might be the best driver in the world on a good day, but if you're feeling poorly, tired or have just lost your job, then you're very probably not in a fit state to drive. To be a good defensive driver, you need to learn how negative feelings can affect your driving and deal with them appropriately, putting you in a good state of mind to get out on the road.

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