Defensive Driving: Six Important Professional Driving Techniques

By: Serg Caro

At the heart of defensive driving is a driver's ability to anticipate situations, including the mistakes of other drivers, especially during less-than-ideal driving conditions.

You may be an excellent driver and a master of road rules, but there's nothing like a basic knowledge of defensive driving to minimize risks on the road.

Here are six of the most important defensive driving techniques:

1. Let other drivers know of your intentions early
Sudden stops, turns and lane changes often lead to accidents because they catch other drivers by surprise. Hence, one of the basic rules of defensive driving is to clearly communicate to other drivers exactly what you are about to do. For this reason, it is crucial that your brake lights, head lights, signal indicators and other driving lights are working. If they are not, have them checked right away. Otherwise, defensive driving is not an option.

2. Being predictable helps
Having all your indicators in good working order is great, but they won't help much if you can't be predictable. Defensive driving is synonymous with being predictable - you do what you're expected to do. If you're signaling a left turn, then make a left turn. Don't signal that you're going left then suddenly turn right. And, by no means, don't keep signaling a left or right turn then just going straight ahead for miles and miles. In defensive driving, one never makes a move that confuses other drivers on the road. Surprises are great, but never when you're driving.

3. Know where you want to go
The first rule of defensive driving is: know where you want to go. There's nothing quite as dangerous as making a sudden turn or stop, which is something that drivers do when they are not sure about where they are headed. Ditto for driving slowly then suddenly zooming fast. If you're confused about where you you want to go, you're probably confusing other people on the road as well. If you're lost, park your car and regain your bearings. Check a map or street directory or maybe even ask someone for directions. The worst thing you can do is drive around aimlessly. That's like looking for trouble with a capital T.

4. Make signaling a habit
One of the best defensive driving techniques is to signal every time you turn or change lanes. That way, you never catch other drivers by surprise. Make signaling a habit. Even if the road appears to be deserted and there seem to be no other vehicles around, signaling your intent is always an excellent defensive driving practice.

5. Warn others as you stop or slow down
When making a full stop or slowing down for whatever reason, it's a good defensive driving technique to let other drivers know of your intention. You can do this by tapping the brake pedal a couple of times so that your brake lights flash and clue in others behind you that you are slowing down or stopping. This is especially important if the driver behind you is driving fast and approaching quickly.

6. Try to anticipate the worst in others
It may sound cynical and 's not a good rule to follow in life but, in defensive driving, it pays to anticipate the mistakes of other drivers on the road. For instance, many drivers routinely signal a turn but don't turn at all. Meanwhile, others don't signal at all and then suddenly turn. Many people disregard stop signals or try to run red traffic lights so keep a watchful eye out for these instances.

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