Defensive Driving

From: Meltzer's Driver Training Center

The following article is from World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. It makes sense that it is no longer online.

Driving safely

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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