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Defensive Driving Article

Driving safety is one of the most overlooked safety related issues in America. Hundreds of people die in motor vehicle accidents every day. In fact, someone dies almost every ten minutes due to an auto related tragedy. Among people between the ages of 5 and 34, auto accidents are responsible for the highest percentage of deaths in the United Sates. Driving Safety

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Defensive Driving Techniques by Chris Kramer

Stay Alert
Develop good visual habits, like staying alert and aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for trees, shrubs, signs or buildings that may block your view. Watch for pedestrians and potential road hazards at all times. Continuously scan the road for potential hazards: Your attention span and concentration level is almost directly proportional to the amount that your eyes are moving.  Constant eye movement will keep your attention level high.
Driving can often be monotonous, especially when traveling long distances, causing drivers to form the bad habit of staring at one particular thing up ahead, like the road or the bumper of the car immediately in front of them. Try not to develop a fixed stare; instead, look beyond the car or cars ahead of you. If something happens up ahead, you want to see t he event happen. The brake lights of the car immediately ahead of you alone do not make a good enough early warning system—Staying alert and aware of your surroundings at all times helps you avoid problems down the road.

Never Assume
You should never make assumptions about other driver’s intentions—Doing so could lead to a collision. For example, let’s say that you are attempting to turn left and you see only one car approaching. The oncoming car has its signal lamp on; to indicate that it is going to turn right—Should you execute your turn? The best strategy is to wait and see if the oncoming car is actually going to turn. Sometimes another driver can have his signal lamp on and not even realize it. Once you see that the other driver is actually turning, then it is safe to proceed. In addition, don’t assume that another driver will obey traffic control devices such as stop lights or stop signs. Finally, never assume the right of way in any situation.

Skid Techniques
When your car starts to skid, it can be a very frightening experience. On slippery or wet roads, skidding can cause you to lose control of your vehicle because of reduced traction. Keep in mind that if you get into a skid, you are not helpless—There are techniques you can do to pull yourself out of a skid, or avoid one altogether. With any type of skid, the most important thing to remember is to not panic and hit your brakes, or the skid will worsen. Also, you want to slowly take your foot off of the gas pedal. In addition, you need to respond quickly and accurately, and keep your vehicle’s front tires aligned with your intended path so that when you regain control you will be moving in the desired direction. In front wheel drive vehicles, slight acceleration when steering in the desired direction is recommended to help regain traction. Finally, your ability to remain calm and to concentrate on the necessary corrective measures tha t you need to take will greatly help your chances of pulling out of any skid.

Three-Second Rule
A commonly used method for allowing yourself proper following distance is the "Three- Second Rule”. Since it is difficult to visually estimate the distance in between your car and the car ahead of you, the idea is to use time instead to leave a cushion or space. If you three-second space cushion, you're giving yourself time to react and brake if something happens up ahead.

This is how to apply the Three-Second Rule: when the car or truck in front of you crosses a certain fixed object on the side of the road, (like a sign or tree) you should not cross that same point for three seconds.  Just count "one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three." If you reach that fixed spot before you get to three, you are not leaving enough of a cushion.

Escape Techniques
One of the most important things you can do when driving is to leave yourself an ‘out’—That is, drive defensively to ensure that you don’t find yourself trapped in a hazardous traffic situation. An important thing to consider is that it is quicker to steer to avoid a collision than it is to stop at faster highway speeds. Therefore, the following situations are examples where it is especially important to leave yourself an ‘out’ in order to compensate for the possibility of not being able to stop in time: 

  • When Being Tailgated: If a driver is following too closely and you are forced to suddenly stop, you run the risk of being rear-ended. Therefore, it’s especially important to have an “escape path” to steer to in the event of an emergency.
  • When Vision Is Blocked Or Visibility Poor: 18-wheelers or vans can block your view ahead. You will have less of a chance of seeing potential problems far ahead and therefore will be slow to react if the truck ahead suddenly stops. As a result, you need to ensure that you have an “out” or a space to steer to. 
  • When Speed Is Increased: The distance required to stop at faster highway speeds is increased; however as mentioned previously it’s quicker to steer than it is to stop at faster highway speeds.
  • When Adverse Roadway Or Weather Conditions Exist: All adverse road conditions warrant the importance of having an escape route to the sides as a safety net for the loss of traction and increased braking distance.
  • When following a Motorcycle: Keep in mind that a motorcyclist is more vulnerable to injury or death because they have less protection than a motorist. Always make sure to leave yourself an ‘out’  in case the motorcycle suddenly stops.

About the Author: Chris Kramer is a content writer for both TrafficSchool.com and Drivers Ed Direct. Check out our websites for more information about online traffic school or drivers education for teens.

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