Stay Alive When You Drive: The Keys to Defensive Driving
By: Jaime Mintun
According to many Defensive Driving course instructors, there
are five vital rules to defensive driving. If everyone followed
just these five rules, experts agree that car accidents would be
reduced by at least 98%.
So, do your part to reduce the dangers of driving, and to further
protect yourself and your loved ones from dangerous and possibly
fatal accidents. Read on to discover what you can do to be more
safe on the road - and don't be fooled by the simplistic nature
of these rules. You may believe they are common sense, but we can
guarantee that either you or someone you know breaks at least two
of these rules on a regular basis!
Defensive Driving Key #1. Pay Attention and Focus on the
Task of Driving
Yes, this one seems the most obvious! But how often have you been
on your cell phone while driving? Or fiddled with a handbag, papers,
a map, or kept digging for something in your pockets? Splitting
your attention from the process of driving immediately puts your
driving on auto pilot. You are no longer consciously involved in
operating your two ton box of metal - you find you can't remember
what you saw, or that you changed lanes a mile back. Most importantly,
your response rate is reduced and impaired. You cannot react quickly
to new stimuli because your conscious brain is not involved in the
active reception of such information.
So how can you increase your ability to pay active attention while
driving? Never chat on your cell phone - in some states like California,
it is now illegal to drive and talk on the phone. Try not to daydream,
and if someone else is in the car with you, do not look at them
while talking - keep your eyes and attention on the road. Averting
your eyes, for even two seconds, while talking to a passenger, could
put both your lives in serious danger.
Also form good driving habits. For instance, if you're making a
trip to a new destination, get familiar with your map or directions
before getting into your car. Make sure that you can recall most
of them from memory so that you are not forced to finger through,
or constantly look at your papers while driving. In addition, pace
yourself - if you're hungry, stop and eat at the restaurant. Don't
drive through and eat while driving. If you're tired, pull over
and rest. Don't gamble your life and another's just because you're
in a hurry or you believe you won't fall asleep. Driving is hypnotic
- eventually you will fall asleep if you are not well rested.
Defensive Driving Key #2. Maintain Your Distance
This is particularly difficult for those of us living in Southern
California. We're practically raised on tailgating! But nevertheless,
following too closely behind another vehicle accounts for 40% of
vehicle accidents. Plus, in the event of a rear-end collision, the
fault automatically falls on the rear vehicle - even if the driver
honestly believes the front vehicle stopped too suddenly.
This is because if you maintain the proper distance, it's almost
impossible to hit the vehicle in front of you - because you've allowed
yourself enough reaction time to stop.
So what is the proper following distance? A good rule of thumb is
the "two second" rule. You want to always remain a two-second count
behind the vehicle in front of you. However, the faster your speeds
are, the more space you must allow. At freeway speeds, maintain
a good 4 to 5 second leeway.
If counting seems difficult to measure while driving, consider car
lengths...always have at least one car length between you and the
car in front of you. At freeway speeds, lengthen that space to roughly
two car lengths or more. If you find yourself having to brake every
time you see the car in front of you brake, then you are following
Defensive Driving Key #3. Don't Speed
If you love to drive, you hate the admonition to not speed. However,
driving too fast for road conditions or traffic exponentially increases
your chances of getting into an accident. First of all, your speeds
leave you with less reaction time than may be needed to avoid a
crash and the faster you drive, the longer it will take for your
brakes to successfully stop your moving vehicle.
Yes, inertia's a witch. But it's a law of physics and no pouting
will change that. So work with the universe and watch how fast you're
going. The easiest way to manage your speeds is to keep pace with
the traffic around you. And most importantly, don't change lanes
or weave in and out of traffic when at high speeds.
Defensive Driving Key #4. Don't Drive Impaired
If you have any alcohol, you must wait two hours for every drink
consumed before you drive. And always follow up alcohol with an
equal amount of water. It will allow you to maintain your "buzz"
for a good length of time, but will help your body return to full
capacity when you begin winding down (provided you wait the prescribed
amount of time after drinking before driving).
And don't kid yourself. Just because you think you can walk in a
straight line doesn't mean you can drive adequately. Just as talking
on a cell phone impairs your ability to drive defensively and safely,
having any alcohol in your system when you're driving will impair
your ability to react to road conditions or other drivers.
This also goes for being sick, tired, or otherwise impaired. If
you do not feel you have a clear head, do not drive. If your eyes
or head hurt too much, don't drive. If you have trouble staying
awake, or you've had to take medication that makes you drowsy, don't
Defensive Driving Key #5. Buy and Maintain Safe Driving
If you drive an older model vehicle, find out what equipment your
car has and consider upgrading. You want to ensure that you have
ABS (anti-lock) brakes, traction control systems, and air-bags.
Auto engineering continues to impress - consider the latest in safety
technology: run flat tires, SOS systems that will automatically
notify paramedics if your vehicle is in an accident, and active
systems that assist with safely managing your vehicle, such as Active
Cruise Control that will automatically change your speed to match
a slower vehicle in front of you, and to maintain a pre-determined
Because upgrading an older vehicle to these new technologies can
get exceedingly expensive, you may consider selling your used car
for a newer model. If this is the case, we can help. We are the
largest and most respected auto buying service in Los Angeles and
all of Southern California, having bought and sold over 50,000 cars,
trucks, vans, and SUVs. We guarantee to offer you more for your
car than any dealer and we get that cash into your hands within
24 hours. Visit us at Cash4UsedCars.net to learn more.
At Cash4UsedCars.net, we pride ourselves in
partnering with drivers to increase safety, environmental awareness,
and driving enjoyment. Visit our website for more great articles
and to get an immediate offer price for your used
car in Los Angeles (and all Southern California) - absolutely
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