A Complete Guide To Defensive Driving

Are you a defensive or offensive driver?

You always hear the term, defensive driving, but what does it really mean? In this post, we will give a high-level overview of what it means to be a defensive driver and how it can prolong the life of your car and those inside of it. First and foremost, being a defensive driver means you are a safe driver. It also means, like the term suggests, you are defending against potential harm and making the road safer for everyone on it.

Before we even get to the actual driving aspect of being a defensive driver, it starts with the maintenance and upkeep of your car. Now in most defensive driving courses, they’ll tell you to do some of this stuff every time you take the car out, but here at Show Finish, we understand that time is valuable and everyone is busy! So we would suggest taking some of these precautions at least once a week, and if you have the ability to do so more often, great! It’s always better to be on the safe side.

First, you’ll want to check the tire pressure on each of your car’s tires. A car, whether old or new, can have all the safety features in the world, but the only part of the car that actually touches the ground is the tires. And that is the reason why you want to make sure they are always in good condition. One way to check on the health of your tires is to measure the tread left on them. The more tread, the more grip. The more grip, the more responsive the tires. The more responsive the tires, the better braking/handling your car will be. See where we are going with this? If your tires don’t have enough tread on them, you’re opening yourself to a world of potential problems and raising your chance of an accident. The more worn your tires are, the more susceptible to a blowout, and even some of the most skilled drivers could have problems keeping control of the car or truck if that were to happen. Obviously tires are built to last you a while, so checking the tread isn’t something that would need to be done very often, but certainly keep it in mind every few weeks depending on how many miles you put on them. While checking the tread, look for uneven wear as it may indicate alignment issues.

Something else you should be doing in regards to your tires is checking the air pressure. You should be doing this for multiple reasons, and safety being number one. When a tire isn’t properly inflated, it can lead to premature wear, tires being misshaped, a lack of handling/responsiveness and can even have an impact on your wallet. Not only will it cause you to buy tires sooner (which as I’m sure you know, most aren’t cheap), but improperly inflated tires hurt your fuel economy as well. Since tire pressure is affected by many things, this is something you should keep an eye more frequently. Most defensive driving courses will tell you every time you use the car, but it is something that should be checked at least once a week. Most newer cars have sensors built right into the wheel, so it makes it pretty simple!

An area of maintenance that is also important is keeping your windshield and mirrors properly cleaned and positioned correctly. You’re going to want to position your mirrors in a way that allows you maximum visibility, and the cuts down on the blind spots. You’ll also want to keep them clear of debris along with your windshield. Using a glass cleaner and a waffle weave towel will certainly help keep your visibility up and reduce streaks on the windshield. To take it to the next level, you can add a water repellant that will make the water bead as soon it comes in contact with the glass.

Another part of your car that they suggest checking before each use, is your oil level. This, like tire pressure, is something that has multiple impacts on your car if not cared for. Imagine oil is the blood that runs through your engine. It keeps everything lubricated, keeps parts moving the way they are supposed to and keeps your engine running powerfully. If you let this run low, it’s opening the door for a multitude of issues, including blowing the engine completely. You may be asking how this ties into defensive driving, and not general car care, but statistics show that many roadway injuries and deaths involve cars that are on the shoulder or making their way to the shoulder. If you are on the highway doing 65 mph and your engine blows, not only are you obstructing oncoming traffic, but you may be littering the highway with various debris that will cause other cars to maneuver out the way. After making your way to the shoulder, you are at the mercy of everyone else on the road while you wait for help to arrive, which is a scenario you want to avoid. If you do end up stuck on the shoulder, stay calm and contact the police or a roadside emergency service. It is safest to remain in your vehicle with your hazard lights on unless you are instructed otherwise by police or emergency workers.

Speaking of statistics and the number of motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths, this next topic should go without even saying. DO NOT DRIVE WHILE INTOXICATED! Even having a few drinks can lead to delayed reaction times and impaired motor functions. You are not only endangering yourself, but all of those on the road, on the sidewalks and in the general vicinity and trajectory of your car. You’d think this is something that is self-explanatory and everyone would grasp it, but unfortunately, many people do not. If you want to open a few cold ones, go for it. Just don’t drive. Call a taxi or use a car service app like Uber or Lyft.

Now once you are on the road, your car is checked, and you are sober, it’s time to be a defensive driver while on the road. There are some general ground rules to go over, and then we can jump into other things to consider. One of the general rules of defensive driving is space. What this means is allowing enough space between yourself and the car in front of you. Generally speaking, you want to have a minimum of two to three seconds distance behind the car in front of you, and then for every 10 mph above 50, give yourself an extra second. The reason for this is to give you ample reaction time and space to brake if needed.

Another basic ground rule is to not speed. This is not only illegal, but when you speed, the chances of serious injury or death increases astronomically. There are speed limits for a reason, so it is best to keep that in mind when driving. Remember, we all have to share the road. If you do want to go faster than speed limits allow, find a controlled environment like a race track and keep it safe. You’ll have more fun and avoid putting yourself and others at an unnecessary risk.

Now, with the many of things to consider when trying to be a defensive driver, let’s start with the ones that are out of your control:

Weather – The weather has a huge impact on your drive. Whether you are in the sun, rain or snow, it will impact your trip anywhere. If it is raining out, you’re going to want to automatically add another second of traveling distance between yourself and the car in front of you. If it’s a large truck, then add another second because you definitely don’t want to hit one of those, and believe it or not, they can come to a stop quickly! Also, if driving directly into the sun, keep in mind to give yourself some extra space as your visibility is decreased. Now depending on the weather, your drive will be impacted differently. Keep in mind that speeds should be lowered if driving in the snow and rain as your tires will not be gripping the road quite as good as if they were on a dry road.

Other drivers – This is a big one obviously, as you can’t control another driver’s actions. If you see someone swerving or driving irresponsibly, you’re going to want to keep your distance. It’s always better to stay away than staying close to them and getting yourself involved in an incident. Which ties into the term defensive driving. You’re defending against things that you can control, and things you can’t control. In this scenario, you’re defending against someone who is showing they don’t have as much of a concern for safety.

Construction – When there is construction, there are lane shifts, large machines, people walking around and lots and lots of orange cones. You want to avoid all of these things with your car! Lots of times there will be workers very close to the oncoming traffic, and lane shifts or narrowing which can cause cars to slow down. Certainly be vigilant while driving in these areas, and slow it down a bit more to defend against any potential accidents. Your car, the traffic behind you and the construction works will thank you.

At this point, you should have a high-level understanding of what it means to be a defensive driver. To summarize, you’ll want to focus on driving slow and being attentive at all times while behind the wheel. People and objects can pop up out of nowhere, so that is why it’s important to not be distracted while driving. And why cell phones and texting are a big NO NO! Just like drinking and driving, that should be common sense at this point. But as long as you keep your car in good condition, drive at a reasonable speed and keep your distance, you’ll be alright.

Remember it’s a privilege to drive and you are taking responsibility for not only yourself, but everyone in your car and everyone in the surrounding areas and cars. Be sure to check out the multiple defensive driving courses that are offered and you’ll get a much more in depth look at how to be a safer driver. Plus, most insurance companies will give you a discount. So that is extra money you can spend on keeping your car clean and running right! Be safe on the roads out there.

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