Defensive driving is when you’re constantly alert to potential hazards and you actively look for ways to keep you and your vehicle safe. It starts from the moment you think about going somewhere until the moment you put the car back in the garage.
But how exactly does defensive driving work? What things should you look out for? Check out the video below for an overview of defensive driving.
New, or novice, drivers tend to take more risks on the road than experienced drivers. Specifically, novice drivers are more likely to engage in the following:
Novice drivers don’t always see their behavior as risky, and often don’t understand the level of danger involved. But there are other reasons novice drivers take risks behind the wheel: overconfidence in their abilities and a false understanding of the rewards and consequences of risky behavior.
Another reason novice drivers are more likely to partake in risky driving behavior is because they overestimate the rewards of doing so and underestimate the consequences. It's incredibly important for novice drivers to understand defensive driving.
Experienced drivers may suffer from overconfidence as well. That's why so many drivers are required to take court-ordered defensive driving courses when they commit a traffic offense.
Let's take a look at some defensive driving strategies you can use every time you get behind the wheel.
Part of your responsibility as a defensive driver is to compensate for unprepared roadway users by anticipating their actions. One way to do this is to practice IPDE: Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.
Identify. Before you can respond to a potential problem, you need to identify the hazard. To do this, you must always be scanning the roadway. Keep your eyes moving. What can you see behind you in your rearview mirror? Are the spaces around your vehicle open? Check in front of you. It’s important to scan at least a 12-to-15 second path of travel. This means looking ahead to an area that will take you 12-to-15 seconds to reach. This gives you time to prepare for a situation before it is in your immediate path.
If you can’t see 12 seconds ahead, you may need to adjust your speed (i.e., slow down). Sometimes you can adjust your lane position to give you a better view. The bottom line is, you need to be looking as far ahead as possible to identify factors that may interact with your path of travel. That way, you won’t be surprised by anything.
While you’re scanning, look for the following clues from other drivers:
Predict. After you identify a hazard, you must predict how it could affect your driving. For instance, if you’re in a quiet neighborhood with a lot of cars parked along the street and you see children playing in front of the houses, you might predict that a child could suddenly dart out into the roadway from behind a parked car. This could cause you to stop suddenly or swerve, which could easily cause a collision.
Decide. Now that you’ve predicted how a potential hazard could affect your driving, you need to decide on a course of action. In the situation mentioned above, you might decide to slow down so that you’re better prepared to stop quickly. To provide you with another possible scenario, imagine you’re on a busy highway. If the car in front of you were to stop suddenly, do you have spaces open to merge into? Did you leave yourself enough following distance to stop safely? The goal here is to decide on possible courses of action before you’re confronted with them.
Execute. Finally, once you decide on a course of action, execute it. Apply your brake gently to slow your vehicle, safely merge into another lane, or carry out whatever other decision you’ve made in the situation you’re facing.
Another defensive driving strategy you should use is the Smith System. The Smith System includes five key strategies for defensive driving:
Using defensive driving strategies like IPDE and the Smith System will help keep you and those around you safe on the roadway.
If you enjoyed this article and are interested in learning more about driving-related topics, you should check out our courses on www.safe2drive.com.
We offer courses in a variety of topics including Defensive Driving and Driver Education. In addition to teaching you how to be a safe driver, our courses can help you dismiss a ticket, get your driver license, or even get an insurance discount. We also have courses specifically tailored to mature drivers (i.e., drivers age 55 and older) for insurance discounts.