Driving Defensively – A Life-Saving Approach

If we all had a second sight, taking to the road would be a breeze. After all, if you could see what was about to happen before it occurred, accidents wouldn’t happen. The reality is of course, we can’t tell exactly what’s round the corner – literally and metaphorically – when we’re behind the wheel of a car. Which is where defensive driving can help.


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Defensive driving is based on anticipating dangerous or potentially hazardous situations on the road – and driving accordingly. In other words when you take a defensive approach, you factor in the possibility of driver error and other situations (i.e. poor weather conditions, pedestrian) into your driving. And you do it in two key ways:

1. Always have ‘an escape route’

Most drivers are familiar with the ‘two second rule’. That’s when you choose a fixed point at the side of the road and start counting after the car in front passes that point – there should be at least two seconds before you pass the same fixed point. That way, if the driver in front stops suddenly, you have enough time to react and avoid a crash.

With defensive driving, the principle of the ‘two second rule’ applies across the board. You need to leave yourself with space and time to avoid an accident – what are sometimes called ‘escape routes’. It’s about thinking ahead about ‘what could happen’.

For example, if you’re overtaking, always leave yourself with space and time to pull out of the manoeuvre if necessary. Or if you are driving behind a loaded up vehicle (lorry or car with roof rack), make sure you have space and time to move out of the way if an item were to fall off the vehicle in front. Or, if you are approaching a school, prepare for the chance that you may have to swerve if a child runs out between parked cars on the road.

2. Stay focused and in control

Just as important as thinking ahead is remaining calm on the road. Regrettably, other drivers may not be as considerate as you – but you can’t let that cause road rage that may cloud your judgment and cause an accident. Always stay focused and alert, checking your mirrors at all times, keeping to the speed limit and following the rules of the road. It may seem more time-consuming at first, but the alternative just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Steven Jones works in fatal accident compensation claims and has seen many a situation where defensive driving may have helped save lives.

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