You hear the term defensive driving all the time, but what does it actually mean?
According to Progressive, “Defensive driving is a set of safe responses to potential hazards, including other drivers, damaged road surfaces, debris, inclement weather, and more”.
In other words, it’s the act of preventing a bad scenario. It’s the choice that every driver has to make the moment they get behind the wheel: Choose to stay alert and focused on the task at hand or throw caution to the wind.
Though the latter option is never recommended, there are countless drivers, particularly younger ones, that partake in reckless behaviors that consequently risk the lives of everyone within sight. One of the top ways to decrease the likelihood of this is by becoming a defensive driver from a young age.
But how does one really master the art of defensive driving?
For teens, in particular, defensive driving isn’t a skill you have right off the bat. It takes a bit of practice and experience on the road to learn the best safe driving habits. Sometimes it takes more coursework or even signing up for a defensive driving program.
Below we’ll highlight some helpful insights for teen drivers (and anyone else that’s interested) about the basics of defensive driving and the ways you can stay in control.
What are some car safety rules?
Between auto insurance commercials and local news broadcasts, the emphasis on becoming a “defensive driver” never seems to waver. In terms of safety, of course, it has become the key component in making sure drivers of every age improve their skills, especially those in need of removing a few points off their driving record.
Yet, whether you’ve been a licensed driver for a few minutes or a few years, it doesn’t take much to know that not everyone drives well. Believe it or not, even the best and most experienced drivers make mistakes from time to time. It’s something commonly known as “driver error”.
Therefore, every person must approach driving in the same way, and hopefully, the safe way. While following the rules of the road are essential, there are certain driving techniques that can help you better prepare for the unexpected. That’s what we call defensive driving.
Defensive driving skills that hinge on your safety
Before you press the gas and venture out on your next outing, here are two super useful tips for maintaining your safety in the best way possible:
Normal speed meets every need
The dangers of speeding are one of the leading causes of car accident injuries and fatalities across the nation. Due to inexperience, however, teen drivers tend to disobey city speed limits more easily and fail to grasp the consequences of driving dangerously fast.
What teens and most adults don’t know is that speeding doesn’t save much time at all. Here are some important facts that may persuade you to leave a little earlier next time you’re late for school or in a rush to get home after work:
- Cruising 75mph in a 65mph speed zone will only save you an average of 5-6 minutes over the course of 50 miles or more. That time typically decreases the shorter the distance you go.
- It takes three time longer for a car to brake at 60 mph compared to 30 mph.
- The faster you speed, the more your depth perception decreases. Tunnel vision prohibits drivers from staying alert of any last minute lane changes or short stops.
- An accident impact at 60 mph is comparable to falling 14 stories from a building. Ouch!
Don’t be the driving force behind accidents. Though we argue there is never a good reason to speed, that’s especially true if you don’t have many years behind the wheel. Simply put, be safe and respect speed limits.
Do not use a cell phone while driving
In recent times, distracted driving has become the most common cause for traffic accidents involving teen drivers. And the worst part is this age group actively takes part in this behavior despite knowing the risks. A CDC report details that nearly 39.2 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Naturally, there is a large percentage that would never owe up to it either.
Because driving requires your focus and constant observation, any usage of a cell phone behind the wheel is a direct risk to the driver, passengers, and others on the road. With your eyes off the path ahead, even for a second, it becomes easier to miss changing road conditions, speed limit variations, pedestrians crossing, traffic signals, and important road markings.
To sum it up, texting while driving makes it difficult for the driver to see potential problems ahead and have enough time to react. For example, if the driver in front of you slams on their brakes and you’re not paying attention, its nearly impossible to stop in time (even if you have forward collision warning).
Other defensive driving tips for teens
As a defensive driver, you’re readily aware for whatever happens on the road. Although not all accidents are preventable, driving defensively allows for less errors and safer decisions while behind the wheel.
Since the risk of motor vehicle accidents is higher among teens aged 16-19 than any other age group, it’s important to take the following defensive driving tips into account:
Tip#1: Be aware of your surrounding. Check your mirrors consistently and examine the conditions 20-30 seconds ahead of you for the best perception of the road.
Tip#2: Don’t assume other drivers will act responsibly. When it comes to driving, it’s often an every man for themself scenario. That means, while you should always be considerate of other drivers, it’s important to plan your movements cautiously and with safety in mind.
Tip#3: Follow the 3-to-4 second rule. Always maintain a 3-4 second distance between you and the car ahead of you. This will ensure that every time you need to brake, you’ll have adequate time to do so without colliding into the vehicle in front of you.
Tip#4: Don’t be an aggressive driver. While defensive driving asks you to be weary of bad drivers, it should never lead you to an aggressive state. Keep your cool no matter what another driver does.
To learn more about defensive driving, read our guide on How to Improve Your Driving Etiquette.