From: Meltzer's Driver Training Center
- Allow enough space ahead. More than four out of every ten accidents involve rear-end collisions. Many of these accidents could have been avoided by simply following at a safe distance rather than tailgating. You should allow at least three seconds between the front of your vehicle and the rear of the vehicle ahead of you. That gap should be lengthened for highway speeds and even more for rain or other poor weather conditions.
- Look ahead. Scan the road and the surrounding area at least a few hundred yards (at least four telephone poles) ahead for potential road hazards. Look around on both sides, and keep your eyes alert for approaching vehicles, pedestrians, or animals that might enter your path.
- Have an escape route. Check your mirrors every few seconds to see what's beside and behind you. Taking into account the position of the cars around you and the road ahead, decide where you could maneuver safely to avoid an accident. Having an avoidance route is essential. If you don't -- say, if the road is narrow and there's no shoulder -- you need to increase your following distance and drive slower.
- Don't depend on other drivers. Be considerate of others, but look out for yourself. Don't assume that another driver is going to move out of the way or allow you to merge. Plan your movements anticipating the worst-case scenario.
- Keep your speed down. Remember that the posted speed limit applies to ideal conditions. You're responsible for decreasing your speed to match the conditions.
- Adjust for hazards. By slowing down (sometimes just slightly), or by moving to a different lane position, you may avoid a potentially hazardous situation.
- Avoid frequent lane changes. Try to maintain a speed near that of the flow of nearby traffic. Do NOT speed to keep others happy. Remember your lane discipline and keep right unless passing. Remember to check your mirrors and your blind spot before making a lane change.
- Use lights and signals. Turn your headlights on in dim daylight, rain, or other low-visibility weather conditions. Remember to always use turn signals for turns and lane changes.
- Keep a proper driving position. Maintain a comfortable, upright body driving position, with both hands on the steering wheel (preferably at the nine- and three-o'clock positions). This will put you in a better position to make any maneuvers.
- Wear your seat belt. Even though seatbelt use rates have never been higher, there are still those who don't buckle up. It's still the best thing you can do to protect yourself in case the unexpected happens.
- Cut out distractions. Any time you become preoccupied with distractions, you're letting your defenses down. As always, minimize your eating, drinking, CD-changing, and cell phone conversations. Save them for when you're stopped in a safe place.
It's all about the attitude! Although defensive driving includes all of the above considerations, it's better described as a realization that driving is a privilege that you share with many others, that there are real people in other vehicles -- possibly even family, co-workers, or loved ones - and that aggressive, irresponsible driving on your part could put your life and the lives of others in danger. Defend their life and yours.
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The following article is from World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. It makes sense that it is no longer online.
Most people find it easy to drive a car. But operating an automobile is a complicated and demanding task—and driving safely is not easy.
Learning to drive. Most automobile accidents involve drivers who violate traffic laws, lack good driving skills, or ignore or are unaware of the rules of safe driving. For that reason, in many countries, a new driver can be granted a license to operate a car only after passing a series of tests, including a road sign test, vision test, road rules test, and driving test. In the United States, most states require a person to be at least 16 years old to be given the privilege of driving. State driver's license bureaus stress that a driver's license is a privilege, not a right. Careless, unsafe drivers who break traffic laws risk losing their licenses.
A qualified instructor provides the best way to learn how to drive. Many teen-agers learn to drive by taking driver education classes in high school. Commercial driving schools also teach beginning drivers. Before learning to drive, a student must obtain a restricted operator's license, also known as a provisional license or learner's permit, to practice driving. Only qualified and experienced adult drivers should accompany a student who is practicing. Classroom instruction and practice driving help students sharpen their driving skills and master the techniques of controlling a moving vehicle. They also learn about the responsibilities involved in driving a car.
Responsibilities of driving. Operating a car involves certain responsibilities to oneself and to others. First of all, a driver must be continuously alert while making a variety of maneuvers, such as speeding up, slowing down, changing lanes, turning, and stopping. At the same time, the driver must be aware of other motor vehicles (including motorcycles), pedestrians, bicyclists, various road signs, and road hazards. Decisions must be made quickly and correctly. Drowsiness or illness slows a driver's ability to react rapidly to changes in traffic conditions. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is especially dangerous.
A good driver concentrates on only one thing while driving—the driving itself. Drivers who become distracted by cellular phone use or by other activities cause many accidents. A good driver also has a proper attitude, which means a willingness to share the road with others. Aggressive behavior—driving too fast, following another vehicle too closely, or rapid lane changes—may cause a driver to lose control of the car or provoke angry reactions in other motorists. Finally, drivers have the responsibility to see that their cars are properly maintained.
Defensive driving. Defensive driving means anticipating danger to avoid accidents. A defensive driver stays alert to all possibilities, such as other vehicles slowing down, entering the roadway, or stopping suddenly. A defensive driver adjusts the car's speed and position to suit visibility, the road, and traffic conditions; slows down before entering a curve; yields the right of way; and signals well in advance before turning or changing lanes.
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