both hands on the steering wheelAggressive driving makes the roads more dangerous for everyone. On top of that, speeding and other aggressive driving behaviors usually inspire similar behaviors the drivers around you. By staying calm and always following traffic rules, you’ll set a positive tone every time you hit the road. Follow these nine tips for being a defensive driver and have a safe drive every time.

1. Know Your Route

Either map out your route ahead of time or program your GPS app to steer you in the right direction. If you understand your route, you can minimize lane changes, sudden stops, and last minute turns. This will mean less frustration and safer driving conditions for you and others on the road.

2. Anticipate Road Conditions on Your Route

Before you drive, consider all the factors that might impact traffic patterns. Dense traffic might slow your progress, for example, so you can plan to leave earlier. Bad weather can also make certain sections of road more dangerous, so you can remind yourself to increase your following distance and lower your speeds on curves.

3. Brake Early

There is no need to ride your brakes as you drive, but give yourself plenty of time to come to a complete stop. This will also give the person behind you time to see your brake lights and do the same.

4. Follow at a Safe Distance

Keep a safe following distance between you and the car in front of you. A minimum of three or four seconds of stopping time is ideal, just in case something requires them to put on their brakes. You’ll also need to lengthen your following distance if the roads are slippery or if you’re traveling at high speeds, because those will increase the distance required for you to stop. Never tailgate a slow driver in hopes it will make them speed up.

5. Pass at a Safe Distance

If you pass another driver, give them plenty of space when you move in front of them. That way they won’t feel crowded and suddenly put on the brakes. 

6. Expect the Unexpected

Stay alert to your surroundings and to the behaviors of other drivers. While it would be great if everyone followed every traffic signal, it doesn’t always happen. You can prevent crashes by expecting the unexpected. Even if your light turns green, for example, take the time to make sure no cars are getting ready to barrel through light that just turned red.  When something unexpected does happen, stay calm.  Everyone makes mistakes. 

7. Avoid Distractions

Park your phone and stay alert. Distractions while driving make you a danger to yourself and others on the road. Looking at your phone at a stoplight seems innocuous, for example, but if you cause the people behind you to miss the light, they may try to speed past you and cause a crash.

8. Always Leave Early

Always leave at least 10-15 minutes earlier than you think you need to so you won’t be tempted to drive aggressively. Make this a habit no matter the traffic or weather. Aggressive driving behaviors come out in the best of us when we’re running late or feeling stressed about getting to our destination.

9. Stay Calm and Show Respect

We all find ourselves stuck in traffic sometimes, feeling impatient and uncomfortable, wanting nothing more than to be at our destinations. The best thing you can do is relax, stay calm, and be respectful to your fellow drivers by following the rules of the road. Speeding and driving aggressively only increases the chance of a crash. Aggressive driving is contagious. Give your fellow drivers the benefit of the doubt.