Most of us couldn't make our lives work without driving. Nor would we want to! Driving gets us to where we need to go. It can be useful, social, fun — and safe! As long as you drive defensively. But what does that mean? And how do you do it? We're glad you asked.
What Is Defensive Driving?
If you've been on the road long enough, you've probably noticed a number of hazards that could potentially cause a collision. Defensive driving is a set of skills enabling you to defend yourself and others from car accidents that might be caused by some drivers, bad weather, or other unsafe conditions.
Most defensive driving courses will teach you the following skills:
Use your car's safety features. Wear your seatbelt, lock your doors, and be sure your airbags are in good working condition. Seatbelt usage alone saves about 15,000 lives per year, so buckle up!
Drive the speed limit. And if there are unusual weather or safety conditions, drive even slower.
Cut out distractions. No texting, putting on makeup, or messing with your GPS. Give driving your full attention.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Frequently scan your surroundings looking for potential hazards. If you see any unsafe conditions — an aggressive driver, a pothole, or anything else — slow down or pull over.
Never assume someone else will move out of the way. Assume that drivers will run red lights, fail to signal, or not let you merge — and prepare yourself to react.
Follow the four-second rule. No, this isn't about dropping food on the floor. The four-second rule means that you should leave enough space between you and the car in front of you in case they stop abruptly. That way, you'll have time to stop. If the road conditions are poor, give yourself even more time.
Why Take a Defensive Driving Course?
The number one reason you should enroll in a defensive driving course is to make yourself safer behind the wheel. Like we said, driving can be a fun and safe activity. But only if you know how to avoid the hazards.
Unfortunately, too many people still drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs, leading to more than 10,000 deaths per year. Even without the use of substances, some drivers may be impaired in other ways, like being too tired or too anxious. And some drivers might just be bad at it. Defensive driving will teach you how to spot those drivers and avoid them.
Other hazardous conditions include driving in bad weather, driving at night, or driving in construction zones. All of those conditions require good defensive driving skills. You'll also learn what to do when you see a pedestrian, cyclist, or motorcycle in the roadway.
Another good reason to take defensive driving classes is that they save you money. Many auto insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who pass these courses. And you can often get traffic tickets dismissed or points removed from your license after taking them, too.
How Do I Find a Defensive Driving Course?
That part's easy! Most schools that teach driver's ed also teach defensive driving, also known as driver's improvement or traffic school in some states.
You can even take defensive driving courses online. Check out our growing list of defensive driving courses and register for the best match for your state. Clear your driving record, lower your insurance rates, and learn to drive defensively. Stay safe out there. We'll see you in traffic school!