Drivers come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing that everyone can agree on is that many drivers are not very safe.
Between speeding, checking smartphones, eating while driving, driving outside of lanes, and aggressive driving, there are so many different behaviors that can make a driver unsafe.
If you’re learning to drive and don’t yet have a permit, then you’ll want to adopt safe driving habits to practice every time you get behind the wheel. While driving isn’t particularly difficult, you’ll need a lot of common sense to be a successful defensive driver.
Why Are There So Many Poor Drivers?
To start, it is a good idea to understand why there are so many bad drivers on the road.
Driving is a skill that most drivers practice daily. You’ve likely heard that practice makes perfect, so why aren’t all of these drivers with hundreds and thousands of hours of practice, not perfect drivers?
There are several reasons why.
First, because driving is something that is done so often, many drivers just get complacent and tend to quit paying attention as well as they once did. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s easy to think nothing bad will happen when your daily commute is always problem-free.
Second, there are just too many distractions available inside a car.
Almost any driver has a smartphone, which by itself is an incredibly powerful tool of distraction.
Many modern vehicles also feature technology features like a radio, dashboard, and GPS navigation. Taking time to fiddle with any of these devices will quickly divert a driver’s attention away from the road and driving properly.
Finally, an unfortunate reality is that many people drive with an ego. If you’ve ever been in the car and seen a driver that is consistently driving below the speed limit, but then immediately speeds up when you try to pass them, then you know exactly what an egotistical driver is.
There are many reasons for bad drivers being on the road, so you need to be careful about not adopting any of these habits before you even pick up your first permit.
Always Keep Your Eyes on the Road
Because there are so many distractions available to drivers, you must learn to keep your eyes on the road at all times!
Just got a notification on your phone? Ignore it. Better yet, make sure to silence your phone before driving so you don’t even know that you have a notification.
Need to use a GPS to figure out directions? Enter the address while your car is parked before you start driving. When you’re already on the road, all of your focus should be on operating your vehicle.
Feeling hungry? Eat your food before you start driving. You can also wait until you get to your destination because taking time to open wrappers, grab food, and even eating it will divert your attention!
When you’re driving, the golden rule is that nothing is more important than keeping your hands on the wheel, feet ready to press on the brakes, and eyes glued to the road. If you aren’t paying attention to the road, you won’t be prepared for whatever dangers might be coming your way.
Communicate Clearly to Other Drivers
Keeping your eyes on the road can help ensure that you are driving properly. However, it is also for you to tell other drivers what you are doing, or more importantly, what you plan on doing.
There are three main scenarios where this applies; braking, changing lanes and slowing down to make a turn.
When you apply the brakes, you should make sure you slow down at an even and gradual pace. What this does is turns your brake lights on far before you stop, giving the driver behind you plenty of notice that you’re slowing down. This means that you should never slam on the brakes unless it is an emergency.
Changing lanes is another time when you need to communicate, especially when there are cars in the lane you are changing into. You’ll need to use your turn signal, but your timing here is very important.
You should activate your turn signal a good few seconds before changing lanes to give other drivers time to acknowledge that you are changing lanes. Some drivers make the mistake of activating their turn signal when their vehicle is already partially into the other lane.
This is not helpful at all because other drivers can already see that you are physically changing lanes, so a signal does nothing at all. Even worse, don’t be one of those drivers that don’t signal period!
It is also important to use your turn signal when you plan on turning. This will tell the driver behind you that you plan to slow down and make a turn, which will then give them a chance to slow down in time to not hit you.
Think Ahead and Anticipate Danger
One final habit to adopt is to always be thinking ahead and anticipating any dangers that might occur. This primarily means that you need to watch other vehicles and pay close attention to their behavior.
Have you ever seen a car that just can’t seem to stay in their lane? One moment they’re hugging the left side of the lane. A few moments later and they might be sticking into the lane to their right.
This is extremely common. Behavior like this tends to be exaggerated when a driver is drunk, but this happens with distracted drivers too.
If you’re watching other cars ahead of you, then you can catch these drivers before you’re already driving right next to them. This will give you time to switch lanes to avoid them or make sure you’re never matching their speed to be right next to them.
Defensive driving revolves around constantly being prepared to react to other drivers. If you know what other drivers are doing, then you can think about how you will handle the situation before you’re stuck in the middle of it.
One cornerstone of defensive driving involves giving plenty of space between you and the car in front of you. This gives you a large amount of time to adequately plan and react to whatever they are doing.
Not every driver on the road is a bad one, but you should assume that many drivers will make bad decisions. Driving with this mindset will always keep you vigilant and ready to react to whatever happens.
Assuming that nothing bad will ever happen will make you complacent, leading to not paying attention and getting into an accident. You can be the best driver in the world, but you can never predict what other drivers will do. Expect the worst and prepare for it to give yourself the greatest odds of avoiding an accident.
The unfortunate reality of sharing the road with millions of other drivers is that many of them have very poor driving behavior.
You can mitigate the risk of getting in an accident by practicing safe driving habits every time you are on the road.
You need to keep your eyes on the road at all times! This means avoiding any distractions. Doing this will allow you to watch other drivers and have more time to react to hazardous situations.
Don’t forget to use your turn signals and brake appropriately to give other drivers plenty of time to react to you! Assume that most drivers will be distracted, so give them extra time to become aware of what you are doing.
Remember that you can never control what other drivers are doing, only your behavior. Driving defensively gives you the best chance to stay safe and avoid accidents!