What is defensive driving?
Defensive driving includes a number of behaviors which allow the driver to anticipate, recognize and take all the necessary measures so as to safely avoid any potential road hazards. An important part of defensive driving is the fact that it enables the driver to remain alert, therefore ensuring that he is more aware of dangerous situations. It is essential that you drive defensively, that is with sensitivity and understanding, attention and good judgement and by adjusting your driving according to traffic conditions. Moreover you need to anticipate the possible mistakes of other drivers in order to avoid all negative consequences. The driver who drives defensively respects the other drivers and predicts mistakes they may make. Defensive driving training enables drivers to acquire knowledge, technical skills and knowledge, information, change their way of thinking, and be able to behave in an effective way when driving.
The objectives of defensive driving
Defensive drivers should:
- Be able to recognize and quickly become aware of hazards while driving.
- Be able to face dangerous situations, behaviours and reactions while driving.
- Spot mistakes and weaknesses as far as driving behavior is concerned and indicate ways of improvement.
- Minimize tension and stress of driving therefore increasing their safety as well as the safety of the other individuals using the roads.
Defensive driving allows the driver to completely control his/her vehicle and be able to anticipate and effectively cope with any dangerous situation that may arise. Defensive driving requires use of the clues provided by the environment, the surface of the road, traffic as well as understanding and awareness of the intentions of others.
Defensive driving strategies
- First think safely. Avoid aggressive and reckless driving, protect yourself. Leave the required space between you and the vehicle ahead. Lock your doors and always wear your seat belt which will protect you in the case of a crash or accident.
- Be aware of the people around you. Check your mirrors often. Children may be busy playing or talking with their friends so you must be careful when driving in areas where there are children. Senior citizens may have hearing problems or poor eyesight and therefore not be aware that there is a vehicle coming towards them. You must also look out for cyclists.
- Remain relaxed, calm and focused. Avoid looking at aggressive and annoying drivers and do not respond to their gestures or words.
- Do not drive under the influence of any substances or if you feel sleepy. Alcohol, drugs and other substances include ingredients that may affect a person’s judgement. People who feel sleepy are as bad as drunk drivers so you must stop frequently to rest or allow a friend to drive if you feel tired.
- Check even if you have the right of way. If you are in doubt do not move. Keep to a safe distance. Remain in your lane and remain calm if the driver in front of you brakes abruptly.
- Drive at a reasonable speed. The point of defensive driving is to maintain a safe, constant speed so as to avoid accidents. You must be certain that you are maintaining a safe distance between your car and others so that you may have enough time to stop safely. If you are a defensive driver you will adjust your speed according to traffic.
- Landslides, ice, mud, water, oil in the road. Learning braking techniques may be of use when driving in poor weather. The surface of the road may change even when the road is dry and this may damage the tyres. You must be careful when the road is slippery.
- Safe distance (from any vehicles ahead). When you are behind another car you must ensure that you have enough time to react in case it suddenly stops. You can do this by checking to see what the fixed distance is when the cars stop.
- Control of the vehicle. Maintain control of the steering wheel. It is important to learn how to use your brakes so that you may have the car under control during various situations. If the steering wheel is too soft, pulls or makes strange noises you must check your brakes as soon as possible. If the level of fluid in the master cylinder is low this indicates that the disc brake pads are worn. Brakes should be checked at least once a year and you must make sure that they are in good condition. A gauge may be used to check tyre pressure. The rims should not be smaller than the tyres. The wheel alignment and balancing must be checked. Every light in your car is important and any lights, switches and fuses must be changed if necessary. If the switches are not working properly this may affect electric seats and electric windows of new vehicles. Oil, fluid and engine lights as well as all the alternating lights are very important because they warn you that there is a problem with your car. Warning lights let you know if you need fluid, oil, fuel or water. Mirrors should be properly adjusted so that you can see the cars which are next to you and behind you clearly. The seats and controls must be properly adjusted.
- Indicators. Indicators let the other drivers know in which direction you intend to turn. Make sure that you have looked around you before turning. Another rule of defensive driving is to not believe that the other drivers will always turn in the direction in which their indicators show.