Driving defensively can help prevent collisions that can lead to injury or a trip to your local body shop. While defensive driving generally means using your driving skills to stay safe during times of inclement weather and bad drivers, there are plenty of steps regarding your own behavior that you can implement as well.
1. Buckle Up!
The most important safe driving tip is one that works best if you engage it before you even turn your car one. Seatbelts have been proven to save lives, primarily because they reduce the likelihood that you’ll be thrown around inside the car or be ejected from it during a collision.
Be sure the seat belt is adjusted correctly in order to maximize its safety. It should be low over your hips and the shoulder strap should lay flat against your chest.
2. Put Your Cell Phone on Mute
Cell phones are a fantastic invention that has completely changed the way people interact with each other and the world. Unfortunately, they can also be a terrible distraction, inviting you to pay attention to their insistent noises at a time when you should be focused completely on your driving.
Stay safe by muting your cell phone before you drive off. Many of the newer models allow you to program an automatic message that alerts people who might contact you that you’re driving at the moment and aren’t able to take the call.
3. Don’t Eat or Drink
While it might seem like drive-through restaurants were made to support eating and drinking in the car, doing so can be very distracting. Whether it’s trying to reach for your straw that’s rolled off the seat or mopping up a splatter of ketchup, doing so while you’re driving can make it easier for you to drift into another lane. You also won’t be able to drive as defensively and be prepared for other drivers who are driving poorly if one hand is holding a drink or food.
Though it might add a few more minutes to your trip, pull over to a safe place and enjoy your meal completely before getting back out on the road. Those few extra minutes could save your life.
4. Maintain a Safe Distance
You probably already adjust your speed so that you’re driving more slowly at night or when the weather is bad. Even on bright and sunny days, though, you should always maintain a safe distance from any cars — both in front of you and those behind you. If you don’t think there’s enough space in between you and the car behind you, slow down slightly so you have more time to react — and to let the person behind you react — if you have to stop suddenly.
5. Never Drink and Drive
Even one alcoholic beverage can change your response time enough to compromise your safety and the safety of those around you. Before you start drinking, be sure to have a designated driver lined up or turn over your keys to a trusted friend who won’t let you behind the wheel.
While the above safe driving tips won’t prevent all collisions, they’ll help you avoid most of them.