How To Drive Defensively

by : John Myre

Here's some information that should bring you to a screeching stop: Your lifetime odds of being killed in a motor vehicle accident are about 1-in-100.

Furthermore, each year one of nine drivers is involved in a reported motor vehicle collision. The best offensive against roadway hazards is driving defensively. Defensive driving means driving safely, in spite of conditions around you and the actions of other drivers or pedestrians.

Strive For Perfection

* Try to make every trip a "perfect" trip.

* Always buckle up. According to the National Safety Council, drivers who buckle up have a 45 percent better chance of surviving a crash, and a 50 percent better chance of surviving without a moderate-to-critical injury.

* Hold the wheel at about three and nine o'clock so you can steer quickly and precisely.

* Stay alert. No eating, drinking, fiddling with the radio, or distracting conversations.

* Pull off the road to use a cellular phone.

* Avoid operating a vehicle if you are overly tired, drowsy from medications, ill, or extremely stressed or excited.

* Signal lane and turn changes.

* When you're in the right lane of a multilane highway, help traffic merge smoothly by moving over a lane if traffic permits.

* Honor speed limits. They are set to protect you and pedestrians.

* Rush hour is especially challenging. Be ready to brake at all times, and expect drivers around you to stop or change lanes abruptly.

* If an approaching vehicle is signaling to turn, wait until it actually turns before proceeding.

* Proper, routine maintenance can help you avoid mechanical problems that can cause an accident.

Stay Alert, Plan Ahead

* Assume a "what if" posture. Know what you'll do if a driver swerves or stops suddenly.

* Watch for drivers who are preoccupied or driving dangerously. They count on you to react to them, instead of watching out for you.

* Be cautious at stoplights and stop signs. Look both ways before you enter a green-light intersection, or when you have the right of way.

* Search the roadway and off-road areas twenty to thirty seconds ahead for potential hazards.

* Be particularly watchful in school zones, at blind intersections, and around pedestrians and workers.

* The most dangerous spots to encounter pedestrians are those places where you don't expect to see them. Be alert.

* Don't play chicken. If someone seems determined to enter your lane, yield the right of way.

* Use caution approaching curves and the crest of hills.

* Be a loner. Avoid clumps of cars on the highway.

Protect Your Space

* Maintain a safe following distance by staying three to five seconds behind the car ahead. Increase your following distance as your speed increases. At higher speeds a three-second gap will not give you enough time to take evasive action if an emergency occurs in front of you.

* At 40 mph, stay four seconds behind; at 50 mph and higher stay five seconds behind. Increase your distance at night, on rough roads, and in bad weather.

* Tailgaters are a dangerous nuisance. Pull over after signaling, or slow down slightly without braking and allow them to pass.

* On multilane roads remember that other drivers have blind spots. Don't linger in them if you are at the rear side of another vehicle. Move forward or back. Also, avoid driving next to other vehicles so you have more room to react to other drivers.

* Look for these warning signs for impaired drivers: wandering from lane to lane; driving unusually slow or fast; running stoplights and signs; moving erratically or out of control; and driving with lights off at night. Stay as far away as you can. If possible, notify the police.