No matter how confident you are in your driving skills, you’re never far from risk. Even the most skilled drivers can be involved in a crash at any time due to external road conditions or other drivers. While you can’t control the way other motorists drive, you can control how you react to them. So what can safe, experienced drivers do to help account for the mistakes of others? There are some defensive driving tips that could help you – no matter how competent you consider yourself behind the wheel.
1. Don’t be too trusting
The biggest problem motorists face is that they trusts other driver to be as careful on the road as they are. This leads to one of the most common mistakes motorists tend to make: taking on trust that when someone flashes their headlamps at you, they are correctly telling you that it’s safe to proceed. This is something none of us should do. Flashing your headlights is the same as sounding your horn. It means “I’m here”. It doesn’t mean “Come on through”. Don’t do it to others and don’t trust others when they do it to you – this is a signal that can be misconstrued with potentially disastrous consequences.
2. Observe, anticipate and plan
Defensive driving is all about being observant, anticipating problems and planning ahead. So, what can I see? What does that mean for me? And what will I do about it to stay safe? For example, you might notice that the dustbins are out – this means you can anticipate that there might be a lorry around the next corner so you should slow down on the bend just in case.
3. Be wary of indicators
Just because the car in front of you is indicating left, doesn’t mean it will actually turn. Unless you can physically see the vehicle turning, that action hasn’t been confirmed. Wait and see what the driver does rather than presuming they even realise that their indicators are on.
4. Create a safety bubble
Keep as much space around your car as possible when you’re on the road so that you have room to manoeuvre when other people make mistakes. Always remember that however hard you are concentrating on the road, the person coming towards you might be messing with their phone, fiddling with the car stereo or just generally distracted. You can never be sure they’re going to do the right or safest thing.
5. If in doubt, pull over
If the person behind you is driving erratically or too close for comfort then, when it’s safe to do so, pull over and let them pass. Driving is not a race. It’s best to play it safe and avoid putting yourself in a dangerous position.
You can’t control what others do, but you can make sure you keep yourself as safe as possible behind the wheel. Make your own decisions and don’t make assumptions about what others will do. An indicator would suggest a vehicle is turning but don’t do anything until you know for sure. And don’t get drawn into aggressive driving by others like tailgating – it only increases the risk of an accident. Defensive driving is safe driving, which helps decrease the chance of you being in accident.