According to the National Safety Council, a preventable accident “is one in which the driver failed to do everything that reasonably could have been done to avoid the crash.” Experts agree that driving defensively is your best bet at making sure a crash, collision, or accident doesn’t happen to you. We’ve already discussed the basic concepts behind defensive driving, which include scanning and visualizing everything, having an escape route, and not becoming distracted. Now let’s consider some more advanced, preventive measures a responsible driver can take to avoid a potentially life-threatening crash.
Maintain Your Car
Regular maintenance on your car significantly helps its road performance, especially in potentially hazardous driving situations. You can’t drive a car defensively if its tires are in need of air, windows, rearview mirror, and signal lights are dirty, and brake pads are worn to shreds. Here are a few steps you should take to keep your car running safely and efficiently:
Check Your Tires Make sure your tire pressure is where it should be. The recommended pressure for your car’s tires will be in your owner’s manual or in the driver’s side door jamb. When it comes to purchasing new tires, take into account the weather in your part of the country. Four snow tires total is the safest way to go if you anticipate driving in snow and ice.
Align Your Tires If while driving your car seems to drift to one side or the steering wheel vibrates, you may need to have the tires aligned. Alignment actually refers to a car’s suspension, which can move out of alignment over time due to normal driving, a minor accident, or bumping against a curb. Check your owner’s manual to see how often your car’s manufacturer recommends aligning your car’s tires. Alignment helps to insure better handling, which is crucial for good defensive driving, as well as better gas mileage.
Clean Your Car A dirty windshield or rearview mirror will prevent you from scanning and visualizing the road for potential dangers. And grimy signal lights or head lights will prevent other drivers from seeing you in bad weather or at night, which pretty much negates any effort you make to be a good defensive driver.
Change Your Brake Pads If when braking, you hear squeaking or grinding, your brake pads may be worn out and in need of replacement. Knowing how and when to brake, especially in inclement weather, is a crucial skill for defensive driving. If you have an antilock brake system and need to stop in on an icy road, stomp on the pedal and when you feel the system’s pulses or hear it working, ease up a bit on the pedal until it’s only pulsing about once a second. If you don’t have ABS, you should push the brake hard and when the wheels stop turning, lift your foot so the wheels turn and rapidly press the brake again.
Other Advanced Defensive Driving Tips
Yield, Move, Get Out Of The Way Driving defensively for the most part involves avoiding overly aggressive drivers. It may be frustrating to just step aside in order to give a bad driver room to do whatever they want, but it is the safest thing to do, not only for yourself but for everyone else on the road. When you encounter a speeding driver pressuring you to go faster, move into another lane, even if it means going slower. As a defensive driver, accept the fact that you may have to sacrifice your right of way in order to avoid a speeding ticket or collision.
Plan a Route To avoid a time-consuming and potentially dangerous drive, plan out your route out in advance based on current weather, traffic, and road conditions. Local websites, radio, and even iPhone apps can provide you with the information you need before you hit the road and find yourself navigating road construction or an end-of-the-week traffic jam.
Take a Course There’s nothing wrong with taking a driving course to brush up your skills, even if you’ve been driving for years. The AARP even offers a very inexpensive driver safety course in both classroom and online environments. Check with your agent to see if completing a driving course will give you discount on your car insurance or on roadside assistance plans.