Defensive driving describes the practice of drivers who consciously reduce the dangers associated with driving. Defensive driving techniques reduce the likelihood of a collision or incident and can even save costs related to vehicle maintenance and fuel consumption, by driving smoothly and steadily.
Awareness is key to defensive driving, ensuring you are aware of potential hazards and other road users’ actions around you, enabling you to take pro-active action to avoid an incident. To enable you to anticipate hazards, look 15 seconds ahead, giving yourself time to react. Aim to always scan your mirrors and look beyond the vehicle in front as this will help you to be aware of possible hazards before it is too late.
Don’t trust those around you to make good decisions. Give yourself and drivers around you plenty of time and space. This means keeping a three second gap when following another vehicle. Don’t tailgate other vehicles, as this will remove the opportunity for ample time and space to react to any sudden changes, making it more likely to endanger yourself and those around you.
Many collisions can be avoided. For example, imagine the situation where another vehicle has run into the rear of your car; it is likely this could have been avoided had you left more space between you and the vehicle in front. This type of defensive driving technique may have given you the option to move forward or pull out of the way entirely, avoiding the speeding car.
It is also important to help drivers be aware of your intentions, by signalling early and clearly and minimise lane changes if it is safe to do so.
There are various defensive driving courses available, however, for many drivers, the key habits of this driving style can be learnt just by acting more pro-actively and maintaining focus at all times, keeping yourself aware and able to pre-empt any hazards.
As well as being mindful of the other drivers and road users around you, be aware of your surroundings, generally where there are more signs, more painted road markings or more street lights, it means there is more danger for you and those around you.
Safe driving tips
- Keep up-to-date with the law and rules of the road;
- Do not drive if you are feeling tired or emotional, whether angry or upset;
- Maintain a three second gap when following other vehicles;
- Ensure other road users are aware of your intentions – signal early and clearly;
- Eliminate distractions such as mobile phones, food and drink;
- Minimise unnecessary lane changes;
- Ensure you have plenty of time to make your journey; and
- Adapt your driving to road and weather conditions.