The key to driving safely on a public road, no matter what type of vehicle it is, is the right attitude. We’ve all heard about some drivers’ negative attitudes and how those can lead to road rage, collisions, and even fatalities. Sometimes drivers let their egos and stubbornness take over the wheel. Those drivers are easy to spot—they’re the ones who are tailgating, changing lanes without looking around them, and speeding.
There are also drivers who are indifferent to everything around them. They may not be driving aggressively, but their minds are miles away. They are unaware of the vehicles and drivers around them and the road conditions. They may not even notice a hazard until it’s too late to do anything about it. They fail to realize that driving is a complex task requiring their full attention every time they get behind the wheel. These types of drivers need to become “defensive drivers.”
What is defensive driving?
Defensive driving is based on responsibility. A defensive driver takes every reasonable precaution to prevent traffic collisions. They not only take responsibility for their own vehicle and driving practices but also deal with the mistakes made by other drivers.
The main ingredient of defensive driving is attitude. To be a defensive driver, you must always drive with genuine concern for your own safety and that of others. Defensive drivers are not quick to lose their patience or temper but are not timid or overcautious either. They are confident and make good decisions.
Driver error is the root cause of 85 per cent of motor vehicle collisions on Canadian roads and highways. If we are the problem, then we are also the solution. Understanding why and learning what we can do about it are essential to becoming a defensive driver.
Defensive driving techniques
Defensive drivers use techniques they’ve learned that allow them to drive safely, over and above what is required by law. Defensive drivers are aware of their surroundings at all times and can foresee possible dangers. Instead of depending on other people to do the right thing, they leave extra time and space in case another driver doesn’t slow down in time or merge safely.
Defensive drivers know where the blind spots are on other cars and trucks, and they make sure not to drive where they can’t be seen. They also stay the correct distance behind the vehicle in front of them so they don’t have to keep braking—they don’t find themselves without enough space to avoid an injury. They also make sure they have an escape route in case there is a collision close to them.
A defensive driver concentrates on the task at hand. There are lots of things that can be distracting— electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, and GPS units, as well as factors such as fatigue and worries about home or work. If a driver doesn’t pay attention to those things when they’re behind the wheel, they will find it easier to concentrate on driving. Remember—in Ontario it’s illegal to use any hand-held communication or entertainment devices while driving or to look at display screens that are unrelated to the driving task.
Another essential part of defensive driving is to drive at a speed that’s safe for the conditions. When the weather makes the road slippery or reduces visibility, the drivers who use a little less speed will get to their destination safely.
A driver’s physical well-being is also important because hearing, vision, and fatigue can all affect your driving ability. So it’s important to take stock of these factors before driving: Have you got your glasses with you? Did you have breakfast this morning? Did you get enough sleep?
Sometimes a defensive attitude begins before you even get behind the wheel. It’s important to inspect a vehicle, whether it’s a company truck or your own car, before hitting the road. If a driver notices an under-inflated tire or an oil patch before heading out, it can save time and annoyance and possibly prevent an accident.
Those are just a few of the things you can do to become a defensive driver, but the most important one is to have the right attitude. It can have a tremendous effect on your own safety and the safety of those who share the road with you.
6 Tips to become a defensive driver:
- Know the law and the rules of the road.
- Always make sure you are in a physical and emotional state that allows you to drive safely.
- Always make sure your vehicle is in safe operating condition.
- Be aware of what’s going on around your vehicle.
- Always control your temper no matter what happens.
- Be prepared and willing to yield the right of way to other drivers.