The Rules of Defensive Driving and How to Do It Safely

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Even with the latest technology available, it won't be able to change driving behavior. Over 32,700 people die in traffic accidents every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To avoid accidents, it's best to implement defensive driving techniques. These behaviors allow you to be alert on the road and potentially look out for dangerous outcomes.

Today, there are more safety features than ever, such as automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warnings. Every state has laws that make us safer, such as auto insurance mandates, seat belt law, inspections, and ELD mandates for fleets. Even with the best safety features and strictest regulations, there will still be aggressive driving. But what are the techniques of a defensive driving person?

Defensive Driving Rules

False assumptions: The golden rule of driving is never to assume that other drivers will drive safely. Always make sure they can see you and monitor the speed in which they're going. If you're planning to make a left turn without a light, make sure the car sees you and hits a full stop before moving.

Be on the lookout: Although it sounds obvious, simply looking ahead can help prevent accidents. Look well ahead of you to predict what your next move should be. One of the Smith driving principles for defensive driving rules states that you should aim high. The human eyes are meant to see at walking speeds rather than high motor speeds. To help combat your eye-lead time, you will need to look ahead to about 15 seconds on the road.

Be aware of blind spots: Always check your driver-side mirrors and rearview mirror to help you check for cars to account for blind spots. Once you've checked your mirrors, you want to do a quick shoulder check. But where is the largest blind spot on your vehicle? The largest blind spot is usually on both sides of your car towards the back. But your view may be blocked by the rear or side-view mirror and windshield pillars. Use your peripheral vision to check for other motorists and before attempting to change lanes.

Slow down at all intersections: Intersections are a hot spot when it comes to fatal collisions. Over 80 percent of collisions in the city, resulting in death or injury, typically happen at signal-light intersections. And to no surprise, these collisions happen only seconds after a light change. Interactions are a dangerous spot because many vehicles in multiple directions may converge. Although we operate under a traffic light system, there will always be red-light runners. These speeders tend to cause thousands of accidents every year, racking up the auto insurance claims. It's best to slow down when approaching the light, so when the light turns red, it's easier to stop.

Keep a safe driving distance between each car: You never know when you need to make any sudden stops. The car in front of you may stop due to a person who suddenly walks onto the road. This will cause them to stop suddenly, and if you're too close, you'll rear-end the car in front of you. Keeping a safe distance allows you to stop gently. Hard braking can also produce whiplash injuries and other types of physical trauma.

Avoid distractions: When you're driving, nothing is more important than focusing on the road. A good defensive driver should avoid distractions at all costs. The most typical driving distractions are drinking, eating, talking on cell phones, adjusting the radio or changing CDs, and applying makeup. By far, your mobile device is the most common distraction, and texting while driving will increase your odds of an accident by 23 times.

Avoid getting "boxed in" by other drivers: Create space between other drivers to avoid being "boxed in." This prevents you from getting into other driver's blind spots. By giving yourself space, it helps you avoid collisions. The ideal spacing is to keep at least two seconds of distance between the car in front of and behind you. If you notice a driver tailgating you, decide to change lanes or adjust your speed accordingly to encourage tailgaters to pass you. This means you should also not tailgate others.

When in doubt, yield anyway: The right-of-way rules are usually misconstrued. For instance, you don't know who stopped first or is unsure who has the right of way. In this case, just give the other driver the right of way. It's better to be cautious and safe.

Watch the speed limit: Speeding is a huge contributing factor to accidents. This puts you in danger and other drivers as well. It isn't just about breaking the law. Speeding can result in consequences like loss in vehicle control, increased the severity of a crash, reduces the effectiveness of your seat belt and airbags, and reduces your reaction time. Remember that speeding doesn't actually save much time. The risk is never worth the gain. Defensive driving specialists will stay within the speed limit and match the traffic speed closely.

Remember to wear your seat belt: To avoid a collision, a defensive driver should wear their seat belts. Seat belts save lives and reduce the damage of an accident. By not wearing it, you are putting your life at risk. Seat belts absorb the crash force and provide impact protection. In addition, it keeps you from being tossed out of your car. They secure you in place during an accident when the vehicle begins to collapse inward.

Signal your intentions: Always be cognizant of the message you're sending to other drivers. Using your signals when making a turn helps drivers to slow down and be aware that you're turning ahead. Just be sure not to send the wrong message. For example, if you signal too early, drivers may think you're turning at the intersection instead of beyond it.

Only swerve when necessary: Swerving can be extremely dangerous because it's highly unpredictable. If you swerve, it can have a ripple effect on other drivers. Your swerve can cause a cluster of crashes at once. It's best to swerve only when you know another lane is empty and immediately go back to your lane. For instance, it's dangerous to swerve on a lane with traffic coming in the opposite direction.

How to Avoid Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving dramatically impacts your decision making and is extremely dangerous to your fleet. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety , aggressive driving is a factor in over half of all car fatalities. Erratic emotions can lead to offensive driving and recklessness.

Improve training: Telematics is a monitoring system that records a vehicle's movements through a GPS map. This system can display detailed information such as fuel usage, speed and idling, low-pressure tire, and more. Telematics may be used for training purposes to view how each driver is operating and what their needs are.

Hire better drivers: To improve driver safety, it's important to hire the right people to your fleet. Utilize a PSP to improve your hiring process. A PSP is a service that displays a driver's complete detailed FMCSA history. This record shows the driver's past driving history and behaviors. This gives you a clear snapshot and predictors of how the driver will likely perform in the future. Drivers who display aggressive driving behaviors will tend to revert to these habits again.

Create a safety policy: Discourage your drivers from aggressive driving by implementing a safety policy. You can set standards and procedures for driving, collision, DUI consequences, license suspensions, and more. From there, you must enforce these driving principles. Following the policy helps to improve the safety of your drivers. Also, make sure to reward and appreciate good driving performance from your drivers. This can incentivize your team to improve their driving habits.

Install telematics: Telematics is one way to help hold your driver's accountable. Knowing there is a geofencing system, dashcams, and a system to monitor driving behavior make drivers think twice about driving aggressively. Additionally, telematics fulfills the ELD mandate requirements needed for your fleet.

When managing your fleet, it's vital to encourage defensive driving and discourage aggressive driving. Avoiding crashes should be taken seriously because it endangers the drivers' lives and other people around them. Practice these important driving rules and install systems to prevent aggressive driving.

Check out the Azuga Fleet Safety Training Course and Programs, to monitor your fleet's performance, build on safer driving habits, and reduce the risk of accidents and claims.