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You’ve probably heard the phrases “aggressive driver” and “defensive driver,” but do you know which type of driver you are? Your driving habits, and whether you are aggressive or defensive behind the wheel, can have a major effect on your overall safety when you’re out on the road (and might even impact how much you have to pay in insurance premiums!).
We’ve all encountered aggressive drivers — they tend to speed, follow too closely, make sudden turns without signaling, or weave in and out of traffic. All of these driving habits are dangerous, and if you tend to drive aggressively, it’s important to take a look at how you can improve the way that you are driving. Aggressive drivers cause about 30% of all traffic accidents, so breaking any aggressive-driving habits that you might have helps keep us all safer when we are out on the road!
One simple thing you can do to be a safer driver and be less likely to get in a car accident is to be mindful of leaving enough space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. If you’re in a rush, it might be tempting to tailgate the car in front of you, but this is a recipe for accidentally rear-ending the car you are following if they suddenly hit the brakes. And your tailgating is likely making the driver of the car ahead of you either nervous or angry, and also distracting them from the road ahead, and any of these factors could lead to an accident or even a road-rage incident. Instead, follow the car in front of you from at least several car lengths, so you’ll have plenty of time to safely stop when needed.
Speeding is another aggressive driving habit that can be dangerous and lead to car accidents, or at the very least result in a pricey speeding ticket! Always abide by the posted speed limit, and if driving conditions are poor — heavy rain; snow; a foggy night — reduce your speed to below the speed limit, to a place where you are certain you can maintain full control of your vehicle.
A defensive driver, on the other hand, is someone who looks for potentially dangerous driving situations and actively works to avoid them. You may not be able to control the actions of other drivers, but practicing your defensive driving skills can help you avoid the dangers caused by other people’s bad driving.
The number one thing you can do behind the wheel to make yourself a defensive driver is to pay attention to your surroundings. Constantly scan ahead of you and check all of your mirrors for other cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, obstacles in the road, you name it — anything that might require you to react quickly to avoid a dangerous situation. It’s especially important to limit any distractions inside of the car, like talking on your cell phone or eating a to-go meal, so that you can focus exclusively on what’s going on around you on the roadway as you drive.
It’s also a smart idea to make a mental plan in different situations for how you would react if something were to go wrong — If the car ahead of you stopped suddenly, where could you safely steer to avoid a collision? If a car approaching an intersection ran the red light how would you react? If you are prepared for the worst-case scenario behind the wheel, you are in a much better position to react quickly and avoid a potential accident.
It can take patience to practice defensive driving, but making it a habit is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe while you’re out on the road. If you see an aggressive driver, do what you can to get out of their way and, if their dangerous driving has you concerned for the safety of others, call 9-1-1 to report the dangerous driving. All of us here at Burnett & Williams hope that you stay safe — and defensive! — behind the wheel.