In 2019 there were over 318,000 car accidents on North Carolina roadways. They weren’t all fender benders either, as the number of injuries reported was over 125,000. George Washington might have coined the phrase ‘the best defense is a good offense,’ but they didn’t have automobiles in his time.
Developing good defensive driving techniques is critical to you not becoming a statistic in the future. Here’s a look at some driving safety tips and skills that will help you drive safer.
Defensive Driving Techniques Are a Skill
Too many drivers today don’t look at driving as a skill, but rather a task, something they must do to get from point A to point B. Sure they know how to steer and brake, but from there it gets fuzzy for far too many people.
Proper signaling, changing lanes, merging, and following the rules of the road are often overlooked or ignored as unnecessary details that aren’t worth the trouble to learn. Yet driving is a privilege that we should learn to do to the best of our ability.
If you want to succeed at something you must study, practice, and strive to improve. Driving is no different. One of the best things you can do for yourself and those around you on the road is to never stop learning good driving skills. It will keep you safe and save you money.
Keep a Safe Following Distance
One of the best defensive driving techniques is a simple one, keep a safe distance to the vehicle ahead of you. Your following distance is the space between the rear of the vehicle in front to the front of your vehicle. So how do you calculate a safe distance?
Following distance is measured in seconds, not feet, yards, or any other linear measurement. Watch when the vehicle ahead passes a stationary object and begin counting until your vehicle reaches the same object.
A safe following distance for cars should be three to four seconds at highway speeds under normal, daytime conditions. For heavy trucks and tractor-trailers, this number should be at least seven seconds.
Often the road conditions are anything but normal. Calculating a safe distance becomes much more difficult in rainy, snowy, and icy conditions. Some experts believe you should double your following distance under adverse conditions.
The bottom line no matter what the conditions are is to give yourself enough time to stop if the vehicle ahead stops abruptly. Use the times above as a starting point and don’t be afraid to add more if it makes you feel safer, because it will make you safer.
Always Remain Calm
Traffic can be frustrating, as can other drivers. We all have places to be. Getting cut off in traffic, someone failing to signal, or even a slow driver in front of you can cause many drivers stress. This is often identified as road rage and it’s a habit you don’t want to develop.
When you feel your stress level rising you should take several deep breaths. Drivers experiencing high-stress levels need to focus on behavior that will make the situation better, not worse.
Hand gestures and yelling will not improve your situation. They won’t get you to work on time, and they won’t reduce your stress. Often, they only result in escalating your stress. You never know who is driving the other car your upset with, or what they might be capable of doing.
If you are the object of another driver’s aggression you should not engage. A good tip is to move to the right and let the driver pass. If the driver doesn’t want to pass, you should never pull over to a complete stop unless you find a safe, well-lit area. If need be you can call the police from your cell phone.
Stay Focused on Your Surroundings
In today’s world, we have technology at our fingertips. Our cell phones are perhaps one of the biggest distractions drivers face. Many new cars have hands-free connectivity for your smart devices. Use it. If you don’t have that capability, don’t answer calls or texts while driving.
Staying focused is more than just ignoring your cell phone. Paying attention to the road is a challenge and you need to be ready. Looking at the car ahead is good, but looking two cars ahead is better. If you’re in a busy downtown city pedestrian traffic is a concern.
You should know who has the right of way at an intersection, but don’t assume that other drivers do as well. In dangerous or complex intersections like a four-way stop or a roundabout, you want to be certain that other drivers acknowledge your right of way before proceeding.
This should be obvious, but speeding is a factor in over 33 percent of traffic deaths in North Carolina. That’s the 13th highest in the country. Something as simple as slowing down can significantly increase your own and others’ personal safety.
We often feel pressure to get somewhere, whether it’s work, a date, or meeting friends. Here’s a simple example of how speeding doesn’t get you anywhere fast.
At 60 mph you travel one mile per minute. If you are ten miles away from your destination you will arrive in 10 minutes. If you are five minutes behind schedule you will arrive five minutes late at this speed. To arrive on-time, you would have to travel at 120 mph.
Now almost everyone will refrain from driving that fast, but how many have tried to go faster, say 80 mph? In this scenario you’d shave off two minutes, so you are still eight minutes late. You have significantly increased your chances of an accident, opened up the possibility of a speeding ticket, and will still arrive late.
Lower Insurance Rates for Safe Drivers
Many companies offer lower auto insurance rates for safe drivers, so developing good defensive driving techniques will save you money. If you’re interested in checking your driving record and shopping for better rates you should contact us today. We can customize an auto insurance policy to take advantage of your good driving skills and save you money.