The National Safety Council estimates that there are 41,000 car accident related fatalities each year. Non-fatal driving mistakes contribute to a projected 2.4 million injuries. Defensive driving has the potential of greatly decreasing these numbers, but would the average motorist know where to start?
Driving Defensively Starts in the Driveway
The single most important key to defensive driving is for the vehicle operator to take personal responsibility for the safety of the car’s occupants. Before pulling out of the driveway, a conscientious driver ensures that each occupant is wearing seatbelts and all bags and packages are properly stored. This small step sets the tone for the trip ahead.
If children are in the vehicle, it is crucial to ensure that proper seats or boosters are in place, properly installed and actually used. While this may appear to be common sense, I am consistently amazed at the number of young children I see bouncing around in the backseats of cars and SUVs at stoplights.
Applying the “Golden Rule” When on the Road
Treating others the way one wants to be treated is the famous “Golden Rule” that makes for good neighborly relations and pleasant family dinners. It also makes defensive driving possible. Any motorist knows that a person suddenly changing lanes or weaving in and out of traffic is an annoyance.
Consciously avoiding this practice is a necessary step for driving defensively. Considering how personal driving patterns affect other motorists — and then eliminating irritating and dangerous behaviors — is an easy way of taking the aggression out of everyday commuting.
Learning Defensive Driving By Assuming That Others Did Not
New drivers may be surprised to learn that defensive driving should have them assume others around them failed to learn these techniques. Expect the unexpected lane change. Give the benefit of the doubt to the motorist passing on the right side and assume that the pedestrian or bicyclist has not seen the turn signal or red light.
Defensive Driving’s Motto: Yield In Spite of the Right of Way
Even as there are clearly defined right of way regulations, a good number of motorists are not always familiar with them. Making the mistaken assumption of having the right of way quickly leads to a car crash. On the other hand, driving defensively by yielding the right of way to another driver is a surefire fender bender that gets avoided.
Never forget that just as driving defensively starts in the driveway, its success is measured by the accident free outcome of the trip, not the number of times a driver insisted on “being right.”