Aggressive driving creates dangerous road conditions for everyone. Speeding and other forms of aggressive driving can be contagious and reacting to unsafe behaviors can contribute to the problem. By staying calm and following traffic laws, you’ll set a positive driving example. Adopt these nine tips for being a defensive driver to improve the safety and enjoyment of your drive.
1. Know Your Route
Map out your route ahead of time or program your GPS to steer you in the right direction— before you start to drive. This will allow you to minimize lane changes, sudden stops and last-minute turns, meaning less frustration and safer driving conditions for you and others on the road.
2. Anticipate Conditions on Your Route
Before departure, consider all the factors that might impact your travel. Dense traffic can slow speeds, so plan to leave earlier and avoid peak travel times. Inclement weather can also make travel more dangerous, not to mention slower. Use this as a reminder to increase the following distance and lower your speed.
3. Brake Early
There is no need to ride your brakes—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
Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you. A minimum of three or four seconds of stopping time is recommended in case something requires another driver to stop suddenly. You’ll need to increase your following distance in poor road conditions or when speed limits are higher because these will increase the distance required for you to stop. Never tailgate a slow driver—this is aggressive driving, and dangerous because it could lead to a crash.
5. Pass at a Safe Distance
If you pass other vehicles, leave plenty of space when you move in front. That way they won’t feel crowded and suddenly apply their brakes. Once you’ve passed a vehicle, move out of the left lane to allow other vehicles the chance to pass, especially if you are moving slower than most of the traffic.
6. Expect the Unexpected
You can prevent crashes by expecting the unexpected. For example, when your light turns green, wait to ensure no cars are running the red light. When something unexpected does happen, stay calm. Even the most attentive drivers can make mistakes.
7. Avoid Distractions
Be The Focused Driver and stay alert. Distractions while driving are a danger to yourself and others on the road. Sending or receiving a text message takes your eyes away from the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Looking at your phone at a stoplight might seem harmless, but you could miss a signal change and potential oncoming hazards. Keep in mind that your cellphone is not the only potential distraction in your vehicle. Anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off driving is dangerous. This includes eating, drinking and adjusting the radio. Even passengers in the vehicle can be distracting
8. Always Leave Early
Always leave at least 10-15 minutes earlier than you think you need to, so you won’t feel pressure to speed. Make this a habit no matter the traffic or weather conditions. Aggressive driving behaviors tend to come out when we’re running late or feeling stressed about getting to our destination.
9. Stay Calm and Be Respectful
We all find ourselves stuck in traffic at some point, feeling impatient and uncomfortable, wanting nothing more than to be at our destination. 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. Follow and spread the word about these tips to ensure everyone gets to their destinations safely.