Driving Safety: Defensive Driving Basics

Cars in Side MirrorMassachusetts is a state with an infamous reputation when it comes to our drivers. Angry honking and aggressive driving are hallmarks of any morning or evening commute. In Worcester, our own Kelly Square has such a reputation you can buy bumper stickers that say “I Survived Kelly Square”. For some, all of this is a point of pride, but for many others it can be a source of anxiety. Regardless if you’re looking to drive more defensively to avoid accidents, tickets, lowering your insurance, as part of driver rehabilitation, or just for the added safety, it’s time to learn the basics.

First: Be Aware

Distracted driving is the leading cause for car accidents, from cell phones to sandwiches. You can’t protect yourself, your passengers, and your car if you’re not paying attention.

  • Pay Attention: Even urban driving can become boring, especially if it’s part of a routine commute. Constantly be looking around with your eyes, scanning the road ahead and your mirrors.
  • Avoid Distractions: Don’t multitask while driving. Don’t eat, apply makeup, hold a pet or attend to a kid while driving. And don’t even think about using a phone.
  • Seriously, Don’t Use a Phone: If you’re driving: it can wait. Modern phones and many cars can sync your phone to turn it into standby mode while driving. Even hands-free phones are a danger while driving. And never, ever text while driving.

Second: Be Ready

While being aware gives you the state of mind you need to drive defensively, it’s also vital that you’re physically ready to respond to threats. This is about positioning not only yourself in the car, but positioning that car on the road.

  • Keep Your Hands on the Wheel: Both hands on the wheel at 10 and 2. This is the other major issue with distracted driving: not having your hands in the right position to reach and move your car out of danger.
  • The Two Second Rule: When you’re in heavy traffic moving at higher speeds, you need the room to properly react and stop your vehicle. Stay two seconds behind the vehicle in front of you (count to two using a fixed object on the road as it passes the car ahead and then yours).
  • Stay at Speed: Focus on matching the speed of the cars around you. While speeding is dangerous, going too slow or moving at inconsistent speeds can also lead to accidents.

Third: Be In The Right

You can’t be aware of your surroundings if you can’t get in the right mindset. Likewise, being in the right also requires understanding traffic laws and avoiding dangerous circumstances.

  • Don’t Drive Under the Influence: People drive and people drink, but the two don’t mix. Be aware when you’ve had too much, and use a ridesharing service or call a friend.
  • Don’t Drive Tired or Mad: Sleep deprivation and anger also make it nearly impossible to focus. Worse, road rage is much likelier to occur, leading to poor decision making.
  • Review and Follow the Rules: After we finish our driving test, most of us toss away the rules. Refresh your memory to avoid accidents and help prove who was at fault if they occur.

Defensive driving is a focus on driving to save lives, time, and money, despite the conditions around you and the actions of others. If you’re interested in learning how defensive driving will affect your car insurance, make sure to contact the TJ Woods Insurance agency. We’d love to talk.