According to National Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course, defensive driving skill is defined as "driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others".
If you find yourself in an irregular situation, you can drive defensively, avoid crashes, and help reduce your risk behind the wheel. Although super driving takes a whole lot of skills and a high level of concentration, it is still achievable. Just to be clear, it also means you're aware and ready for whatever happens.
These defensive driving tips from Naijauto will help you stay safe and minimize the possible risks behind the wheel:
1. Remain conscious of your safety
If you happen to believe that seatbelts aren’t necessary and you don’t need one to drive, it’s time to ditch that belief. At this stage, your seatbelts are very important, it will help keep you safely stuck in the event of a crash. In addition, be sure to leave a satisfying gap between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Lastly, avoid driving aggressively and lock your doors always.
Be observant and ready to take any situation
2. Pay attention to your surroundings
Driving requires you to have a continuous scan of your environment, you can only do so by paying 100% attention. Check your mirrors as often as possible and scan conditions 20-30 seconds ahead of you. Keep your eyes up for signs of aggressive driving, and if you notice anyone driving dangerously, use your brake or take the next possible exit. Another important factor is to look out for pedestrians, bicyclists, signals, road markings, road signs and pets along the road.
>>> Read our driving safety tips for women: 15 must-read road safety tips for women driving alone
3. Don’t rely on other drivers
In a city like Lagos, commercial bus drivers can sometimes be considered as “aggressive”, so their driving style automatically keeps every other driver on their toes. Basically, you shouldn’t assume everyone would drive nicely, move out of the way for you, or even allow you to occupy a space in front of them.
It is only fair to consider others, but you have to put yourself first. Driving smart means you have to assume that drivers will disregard traffic lights or stop signs - be ready to react. It does sound like paranoia but you have to anticipate the worst-case scenario and plan your movements in regards to that.
Defensive driving means driving safely no matter how other drivers do
4. Stick to the 3-4 second rule
You may just be at risk of a collision in front of you, it’s best to use the 3-4 second rule. This rule will help you establish and sustain a safe following distance, and provide enough time to use your brake if necessary.
Note that this rule only works under regular traffic conditions and good weather. Under a bad weather condition such as rain, fog, and nighttime driving, increase your following distance by an additional second. This is also applicable to driving behind a large truck or motorcycle.
>>> Refer to this post to know how these rules work: "Two Second Rule" - Simple way to measure a safe distance with car ahead
5. Keep your speed down
Speed limits apply to every driving condition. As much as you can, keep up with the speed limit and only move so fast when the road is considerably free. Also, you have to consider that driving at a higher speed will make controlling your vehicle a lot more difficult if things go south. To regulate control of your vehicle at every second, you have to control your speed as well.
6. Make space for an escape route
Regardless of the driving condition, always position your vehicle where you have the greatest chance of seeing and being visible. As much as you can, create an alternate travel path – a safe place to move your car if your immediate travel path is suddenly interrupted.
Always make sure you get enough space to escape sudden threats around
>>> Don't be guilty of these driving mistakes: 13 safe driving tips everyone knows but intentionally ignores
7. Manage risks one at a time
In the phase of multiple risks, it's safer to manage them one at a time. You have to avoid risks in the first place, trying to fix all at a time will only create more risk.
8. Don’t be distracted
Anything that takes your attention off the wheel is a distraction, and you have to avoid it. Stay focused, avoid using your phone or looking at every single attention-grabbing event on the road.
A good percentage of car crashes in the world are caused by mistakes from the driver, even the tiniest error can make a crash happen. Before you get behind the wheel, be sure you’re not completely exhausted or dizzy in any way whatsoever. Also, if you’re going to eat, kindly do so before getting in the car.
Teens are not the only ones guilty of sloppy driving, adults get so overconfident sometimes and make mistakes. So, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are, the number one key to defensive driving is to stay alert.
>>> Visit Naijauto.com to read more educating articles about safe driving.