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Two Commonsense Defensive Driving Techniques

Nov 5, 2007
Two important defensive driving techniques are very simple, very obvious, and very often overlooked by drivers. In fact, most drivers would consider them to be automatic, not really "techniques" as such and hardly worth mentioning. However, statistics tell a different story. These two major ingredients feature in a large proportion of accidents:

1. Inattention whilst driving
2. Trusting the other driver to do the right thing

Defensive Driving Technique #1: Pay Attention When Driving

Research shows that many accidents involve inattention from one or both drivers, and can be caused by a variety of factors. Daydreaming, sleepiness, distractions, chatting and "highway hypnosis" are common types of driver inattention.

Moving motor vehicles are dangerous projectiles hurtling forward with massive force, and the responsibility of a driver is to avoid using that force to injure or kill others. This is pretty difficult to achieve if drivers are not paying attention and completely focused on their driving.

A common "inattention" scenario is when collisions occur close to home. Research shows this often happens, and it is not hard to understand why. The closer we get to home, the more comfortable we feel and the easier it is to let our attention wander. When other drivers residing in the same area do the same thing, this effectively doubles the chance of an accident caused by "inattention". It is also easy to forget that serious or fatal injuries can occur in low speed collisions.

Getting Rid Of "Inattention"

How do you practice the defensive driving technique of "paying attention"? Have you ever driven somewhere and been so lost in thought that you were unable to recall the trip itself? One of the best ways to practice is trying to concentrate solely on the driving task. Put all other thoughts out of your mind, thinking of nothing else but your driving. Carefully observe how long it is before your mind starts to wander. You may be shocked at how quickly you start thinking of something else!

Combine your mind with your eyes, working at consciously analyzing your view while you drive. This defensive driving technique is called "situational awareness."

Remember this. Experienced drivers don't need to think about driving much. It is something that comes automatically, therefore leaving their minds free to wander - and wander they will!

Paying attention is like any other habit. You need to constantly reinforce the habit until it becomes automatic. Make regular choices NOT to adjust the CD player while driving, speak on the cell phone or whatever else it is that takes your attention away from driving.

Defensive Driving Technique #2: Trust Nobody But Yourself

A key to acquiring a good defensive driving technique is to never, ever rely on what the other driver will do. Recall for a moment the driving mistakes you've been guilty of over the years. Look ahead and imagine the ones you will probably make in the future. Guess what? All the other drivers are just the same! Don't trust anyone but yourself!

1.Be super wary of other drivers. Keep an eagle on them and leave yourself plenty of room to move. Try to anticipate and prepare for mistakes other drivers might make. When you are not paying attention to other drivers, you are effectively giving them control of your vehicle. You are at their mercy. This is without a doubt one of the most important defensive driving techniques you can embrace.

2.Is that driver worthy of your trust? Maybe some of those other drivers are returning from a boozy night out. Perhaps they just lost a job or suffered the tragic loss of a loved one. The other driver might be a 9-year-old out for a joy ride. Regard every other driver as an unpredictable menace out to get you. Most collisions occur when the "other guy" does something unexpected.

3.Anticipate other driver errors. Be wary when approaching red lights. A red light by itself never stopped anyone. Watch out for drivers preparing to pull out from beside the road. Other potential dangers include failure to signal a lane change, or tailgating someone when they are dawdling along looking to make a turn--a turn they suddenly WILL make at the last second. Be alert to all possibilities and be ready to deal with them.

Driving is the most dangerous thing that most of us ever do, and because of this, driving deserves your full attention. By mastering the defensive driving techniques of "paying attention" and "trusting nobody but yourself" and making them an unconscious habit, drivers can achieve 99% protection. Paying attention and being wary of other drivers makes it possible for you to be instantly aware of the hazards lurking on the road, almost before they are there.

Make no mistake about it. Of all the defensive driving techniques you could embrace, paying attention and being super aware of other drivers are the ones which will serve you best.
About the Author
Jean Littman is co-owner of DefensiveDriverSense.com which provides quality resources on defensive driving techniques, advanced driving and traffic safety programs.
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