Top 5 Defensive Driving Tips
We know, you know how to drive! But there are a few things you could be implementing while driving in order to make yourself a better defensive driver, and therefore a safer driver. You can’t account for other’s actions on the road, but you can account for your own—so here are a few tips to sharpen your driving skills.
1. Look Ahead—Not Just In Front Of You. Did you know that at 60mph you can cover over 88 feet is just a second? That’s nearly 30 yards (enough ground for a football team to get a 1st down!); the length of running all the bases in a baseball diamond for a home run (or nearly, a pro baseball diamond is 90 feet). It’s also nearly twice the length of a tractor trailer/semi-truck. A controlled study conducted in 2000 revealed that the average driver reaction brake time to be 2.3 seconds—so you could potentially travel 202.4 feet before stopping. That’s quite a distance!
It is vital to look ahead of your vehicle, several car lengths ahead, and not just what is in front of your bumper. By shifting your view to further ahead, you’ll not only see what is right in front of you but also what is coming and have higher chance at reacting faster and more safely to an impending danger while on the road.
2. Maintain A Safe Following Distance. See the math above? If you aren’t paying attention to the fact a vehicle in front of you is stopping or that someone has swerved into your lane, you won’t have the time to stop if you are following too closely. Ideally, 3 seconds/3 car lengths behind the car in front of you, but 4 or more is better.
3. Give Yourself An Out. In addition to keeping an eye ahead of you, also be sure you have a general situational awareness. Are there cars directly to your left or right? How close is the person behind you following? Is there a way you can safely change lanes or maneuver your vehicle to avoid a collision? Always have a plan for what to do in an emergency and don’t let your vehicle get boxed in with no where to go in the event a collision is imminent.
4. Minimize Distractions. Text and driving are illegal in Florida as well as many other states. In fact, holding your phone for any reason can constitute a ticket. Put your phone down, keep music at a moderate level, and keep Bluetooth conversations brief so you can focus on what is truly important: driving safely and getting home alive.
5. See The Whole Picture. Driving involves more than just visual and physical responses. There is a lot of information to continuously process while driving—checking mirrors to stay aware of the position of other vehicles in comparison of yours, looking ahead for other driver actions or for other road hazards, maintaining a safe driving distance and speed, and keeping your vehicle centered in your lane. Because there is so much always going on, that’s why distractions should be minimized—so you can focus on the big picture that driving really is.