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Seven Tips For Safer Driving

Sep 4, 2008
Barely a day goes by without reports of yet another 'road rage' attack in the press. So what can you do to protect yourself from becoming another victim? The answer, as anyone who has worked in the security services knows, is to learn the skills of defensive driving.

Defensive driving involves applying certain basic principles and driving skills to ensure that you arrive safe and sound at your destination. Here then are seven simple measures any driver can take to improve their chances of surviving in 'the asphalt jungle'.

1. Be Prepared

Motorists are at their most vulnerable when stopped, especially if they have broken down. Ensure your car is well maintained and serviced, therefore, and join a breakdown recovery service. Even if you never use one otherwise, keep a mobile/cell phone in the car, so that you can quickly summon assistance if needed.

2. Plan Ahead

When going on long journeys, try to travel with one or more passengers rather than on your own. Plan your route the night before, and keep a map in the car to reduce the need to ask directions. If you do get lost, ask at a pub, shop or garage, rather than a stranger on the street. Carry a torch, a spare petrol can, and jump leads in case you have to recharge your battery.

3. Avoid Provoking Others

Do not drive in a way which provokes hostility from other road-users. For example, avoid hogging the right-hand carriageway. Even if you are driving at the speed limit, another driver may want to go faster still -- if he wants to break the law, then let him. Be wary of overtaking other vehicles yourself, especially on remote roads -- the other driver may interpret your action as a threat and respond aggressively. Drive on major roads if possible.

4. Resist Provocation Yourself

Some young male drivers in particular feel that they have to prove their masculinity every time they enter a car. Sometimes such a driver may try to antagonise you into competitive driving or even 'vehicle combat'. This can lead to dangerous situations, e.g. at bends or traffic lights. Avoid responding to such provocation at all costs. Hopefully the next vehicle they try it on with will be an unmarked police car!

5. Always Keep a Safe Distance

Keep a good distance from the car in front, even when traveling slowly or stationary. If you drive very close behind another car, the driver behind you can pull up close and box you in. By keeping plenty of space in front of you, you give yourself room to maneuver if an unpleasant situation appears to be developing.

6. Be Aware of Risky Situations

Thieves and car-jackers often operate at traffic lights, so be particularly on your guard when approaching them. Keep all doors locked, and any valuables well out of sight. If you are approached by someone in a threatening manner, consider jumping the lights if it is safe. If this is impossible, move to the center of the car and sound your horn continuously. Do not open your window or switch off the ignition.

7. Protect Yourself

If the worst happens and you are attacked, be prepared to defend yourself. Try not to panic or 'freeze' -- these both play straight into an attacker's hands. You must react quickly and positively, with controlled aggression. Remember that the law allows you to use 'reasonable force' to defend yourself. Your most potent weapon is the car itself, so use this if possible. Failing that, your keys, de-icer, torch or pen can all be called into action. Aim for the attacker's eyes for maximum effect. In practice, of course, most drivers are unlikely ever to face a situation such as this -- but it is important to be prepared, just in case.

If you follow the principles described in this article you are far less likely to become a 'road rage' or accident victim. However, you can improve your prospects still further by taking an advanced driving test. Any driving school will be pleased to provide you with more information about this on request. What's more, if you pass such a test you may even qualify for lower car insurance premiums!
About the Author
Mark Gustaffson is a private investigator and personal security consultant. He is also the author of the professional Private Investigator Course from Maple Academy (UK), a leading correspondence course in this field. For more information, see the Maple Academy (UK) website at http://www.mapleacademy.com.
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