Driving Defensively and Traffic Etiquette Guide

Defensive driving, is understanding that other drivers might not be paying attention or they could make mistakes and engage in aggressive driving that , result in crashes. In avoiding accidents, you have to be prepared to handle the other drivers’ mistakes and bad habits, as well as keeping aware of your own driving and keeping control of your own vehicle. Whether you are a Non-Experienced driver or been driving for decades, one can be uncomfortable or even get too comfortable about driving. Yet, we never loose the need to be cautious and mindful when behind-the-wheel.

Here are some Driving tips on being cautious, courteous and avoiding accidents. I cover some basic and some not-so-basic tips, but feel free to comment and add whatever else you may want to mention. Share this page and pass it along to anyone you feel may need or could use this information.

When driving, we are always susceptible to the actions of other drivers. The biggest error is trusting other drivers to be careful on the roads. Scenario’s and circumstances are ever-changing, each time we get out on the road. That’s what makes each time on the road so unpredictable. The biggest factors that will keep you safely driving on the road is being alert and aware (watching and (keeping an eye on reading the road) and not to be in a rush and speeding (give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination). Knowing ahead of time where exactly you are going, which route to take and keeping enough space between you and the car in front of you helps tremendously!!

Driving is a Privilege, be courteous to other drivers, take consideration that we are all human and can get into situations. We may be in different lanes, but we are here to share the road and help each other while on it! Just keep alert and aware and don’t jump into becoming upset at other drivers.

Driving is dangerous enough on the roads, one must watch for or stop habits of being a Distracted Driver (texting or in someway not paying attention to the roads) and other risky behaviors are being a Jumper (out-of nowhere, without warning, pulls in front of another vehicles ) or a Weaver (goes from one lane to another) and Speeders (driving in a hurry or as if they are on a racetrack game).

Some basic aspects of Defensive Driving are:

Keep a Safe Distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Allowing reaction time and reduce your risk of colliding into cars in front of you or other cars. In bad weather, always keep a safe distance between other cars. Also, keep your eyes moving, look around, especially on long drives so you don’t go into a trance. Keep Alert!

Having Visibility when you need to change your lanes, not only using your mirrors to check for oncoming cars, but checking blind spots to make sure another car isn’t approaching beside you (that may be hidden from sight). Communicate with other drivers to get into another lane. Also be careful of driving in another drivers’ blind spot, to help them avoid crashing into you.

Always use Proper Communication to make sure other cars can see you and knows what you are doing or needing, by using your turn signals to communicate your intent, to merge, change lanes or etc. Also use hand signals to other drivers for assistance if need be, to get over into another lane or to let another driver know of something (maybe they forgot their gas cap or their tire looks flat). Have respect for other drivers when they signal and allow them to turn, change lanes and merge safely.

Before You leave and start driving your car, always check the weather and the time you are leaving to go out on roads, there are time-frames (during the day and late afternoon), that are called rush-hours, where a lot of vehicles will be on the road. Often, just leaving a little bit earlier before rush-hour times or leaving a little bit later, when rush-hour is just getting over (commonly 4:00pm-6:30pm), this can be so much safer. Specific Holidays can also cause the roads to be full of traffic and certain areas, such as state or city parks or campgrounds etc. Busy roads filled with traffic are most hectic and dangerous.

Before driving, (even if you are already in your car and ready to go), first check the best route to where you are heading, look over the map (whether the map is on your phone or physical one), to fully see exactly where you are heading (use the written route on your phone map as well, which can give you a read-out of the whole route) sometimes there’s even a better route than one the GPS suggests, especially if you can identify that on the map or you’re familiar with the area. You should always have a pen, a pad or paper to write on, in your car just in case you need to write a route or something down.

Reading the roads, is being aware of what’s happening in the road ahead of you and all around you. Be aware of where you would go in case you had to pull over and get out of the way of other cars or if something is in the road and you may have to get around it. Keep alert and watch what other cars could be doing, some cars may suddenly put on their brakes or stop to pick-up someone, there could be a car broken down or an accident . You may need to go around an approaching area, get into another lane over or get off that road and take another route. This is way no one should be looking at their phone while driving on the road, WATCH THE ROAD!!

Other common driving tips:

Speeding can kill and is harmful to everyone on the road. Speeding is one of the major causes of road accidents. There’s a reason for speed limits and to obey them for a reason, it will save lives. Speed limits vary on highways, it is essential to make sure you’re traveling within the posted speed limit. Slower speed limits are through roads of neighborhoods, stores, where people congregate or where wildlife tend to be crossing. Remember to adjust speed slower, when also driving through adverse weather conditions like rain and snow, as well as in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Move into the lane you need to make your turn-off in non-highway road or to exit off highway, ahead of time. Don’t wait too long or at the last minute panic to get over into the lane you need to.. Use you signals and gradually get over and into the lane you will be taking your turn off or exiting the highway and doing this will give you plenty of time to get over to turn off (even if you have to end up being behind someone that’s going slower, as you approach your turn of , it’s better than trying to rush past cars to try and get over). If for any reason you miss your exit, don’t panic, jut go to the next one and turn off there.

Remember to put your lights on when it’s starting to get dark. You can also signal others by using your lights (turn them on and off at another car to remind them to turn on their lights, if they had not and it’s getting dark). Another common time drivers use the blinking of headlights; is when communicating to another person in a vehicle that is trying to get into the lane you are in and you are telling them, you acknowledge them and it is okay to come into the lane in front of you or that it is okay to go, in other instances.

Don’t assume the car waiting at the light in front is going to take off when the light turns green. Keep a bit of a distance, just in case they don’t go or if they hesitate, that way you won’t collide into them . Just because the car in front of you indicates it’s going to be turning right, does not mean that they will actually turn right. Unless you can physically see the vehicle turning, do not presume. Also, drivers are sometimes unaware their indicators are on.

Even when you have the green-light to go through an intersection, always make sure to take a look first, don’t automatically go, there might be a car still coming through the light and it could cause an accident.

Use Seat belts, they are your best self-defense against a vehicle crash and they can help keep you secure and safe, inside your car. Not putting your seat belt on is putting you at risk, without it on, it can’t save you. With them on, it can not only lesson injuries, but will save lives.

Don’t go into a vehicle to Drive if you are upset, have been drinking alcoholic beverages, taken drugs or anything that can alter your judgment. Even an over-the-counter flu medication can impair your judgment and increase your response time. All of these can make a person impaired and lose the capability to function, even when a person thinks it won’t and this risks getting into an accident. In addition to this, persons driving under the influence can be made to pay a massive fine, even end up going to jail and having their license suspended. Protect yourself and fellow drivers, by avoiding altering your ability to drive and if tired or under the influence of anything that could impair you, get someone else to drive you, please just stay away from behind the wheel.

• If your tires suddenly blow out: Do not slam on the brakes. Take a deep breath and don’t panic. Hold steering wheel and gain control over yourself and the vehicle, step off the gas pedal slowly. gently apply the brakes. Do your best to keep the vehicle going straight, Once your speed drops below 30 mph, gently step on the breaks. When you’ve slowed down to a safe speed, 20 mph or so, you can turn the steering wheel slowly to guide your vehicle off the road. When you are safely out of traffic, take another deep breath and call for help.

More Driving, courteous and cautious tips :

You are ALLOWED to do whatever you have to, TO AVOID an accident. Even if you have to miss your exit, so miss it and go to the next one and if you have to veer off the highway unto the shoulder pavement of the road, then do so, (just don’t ever get out of your vehicle and be standing on the side of the road or shoulder side of traffic) and keep away from traffic side of road. If a vehicle in front of you stops short and you have to quickly veer off to the side of road or into a parking lot or such, than do so or if you can, safely go into another lane. If a vehicles coming head on at you then, Brake, look for room to safely go into and get out of the way!

If you do have to drive off the road, to keep or get you out of harms way to avoid any accident, you will have to make a quick decision, especially if you are on the edge of a steep drop and what might look like a nice soft exit, as a grassy ditch could actually have a hidden drop and culvert. Slow down, keep control of your car, as will get the most braking power on a road rather than driving on the verge where grass or gravel, as they will not offer as much friction. If you have no other option, but to hit something to slow you down or avoid hitting another car, think to choose something softer!! Look and choose a large bushes and shrubs to take impact and slow you down more gently, help direct vehicle back into the road. Instead of a stiff tree(s) or hard object (which will do more damage to you and your car). There could be guard to hit in case there is no other better option and hit it on an angle or sideways as they are made to help the vehicle do a sliding to stop. In having no other choice, but to run into or hit something, try not to panic, think and choose wisely. It may damage your vehicle and hurt you some, but you may avoid a worse accident and it will save lives. .Regardless, steer away from EVER hitting anything HEAD-ON-STRAIGHT with your vehicle, go to steer sideways or at an angle.

• Remember, If ever you are going to hit or run into something steer sideways before making impact and hitting something will cause the airbags to go off, so taking your hands off the steering wheel at the last minute, before the impact will help prevent broken wrists and powder burns on your arms. If your arms are crossed when the airbag goes off, the airbag will hit your forearms while you are gripping the steering wheel. This can easily break your wrist. Your arm will be flung backwards into your face which can break your nose and knock out teeth, as well as break your forearm.

When Feeling Unsafe, Unsure, need to text safely , JUST PULL OVER!! Whenever, you encounter any situation that may interfere in anyway, with your ability to keep your focus upon the road; NEVER PUT YOURSELF in a risky circumstance because on the road, seconds count. If another driver is angry or has road rage, don’t engage in it or even look at them, keep eyes on road and let them pass or just keep away from them and safely drive on.

When traveling on the highway always Read the road ahead . If cars are coming into or merging onto the highway from an exit, look to see the adjacent lane that you can move over to (if you can), so the cars can merge onto the highway and you can avoid panic or accidents and then you can change back into you lane after .

When approaching unto or merging into the highway if there’s ever a big truck coming past in traffic within a short distance away, let the truck pass then get unto the highway. It takes a lot to slow a big truck down . Don’t ever try and get in front of a big truck, unless you have plenty of room and time to speed up way ahead of the oncoming truck. Trucks and big rigs carrying things need more warning and time to slowdown. Be courteous to truck drivers and big rigs. It is very difficult for them to maneuver around other cars in traffic and extremely difficult to stop. Let trucks just get on their way down the road and pass on. Best to just get into and use the next lane over instead, to avoid ever needing to pass a truck. When on the highway, if there happens to be a big truck (or any vehicle) going a bit slower in front of you, if in the right lane and you either are going to get off an exit to the right, just wait and get off your exist. If in the right lane and there is an immediate need to pass a big truck (or any vehicle) safely move into the middle lane, gradually speed-up and get several car lengths ahead of the truck, make sure you have your turn signal on to let the trucker (or person in any vehicle) know you are needing to pass and then pass them safely into the lane. If in the middle behind a big truck and need to pass them, get into the far left (fast lane) trucks are usually not allowed in fast lane) and same applies; get several car lengths ahead of the truck (or any vehicle), make sure you have your turn signal on to let the trucker (or person in any vehicle) know you are needing to pass and then pass them safely into the lane. Sometimes you may be behind a slower truck or vehicle and they are in the exit lane and you need to get off the exit approaching, just lower your speed, be patient and get off to your exit. PATIENTS PAYS OFF ON THE ROAD and just keep out of the way of trucks and big rigs !!

“Look Twice, Save a Life”, Keep a lookout for motorcyclist, whether you’re on the highway or neighborhood street. Be aware of motorcyclists and let them be aware of you. Give motorcyclist room to maneuver. Let the motorcyclist be aware you are going to change lanes, by giving enough time ahead, using your turn signal and when passing, make sure you have lengths ahead of the motorcycle before you pass and then return to your lane. Often using hand signals out your window for motorcyclist to see, also can help.

When driving through an intersection or anywhere you see pedestrians, Don’t assume they will see you coming and that they will stop, they may get distracted or be looking at their phones, make sure to slow down (use your horn, if need be to let them know you are approaching). Use eye contact or hand gestures (to go) in letting the Pedestrians know they can safely cross to other side or cross, being aware of each other’s intent. When approaching an area like a mall, parking lot, movie theater, convenient store, neighborhood or anywhere there is or could be people, always drive in there with a very slow speed, never chance going fast even if you’re in a hurry, those minutes can wait because it’s crucial in saving lives.

NEVER-EVER-BACK-UP IN A HURRY or back out fast, always go slowly backing out of anywhere, Check all sides of vehicle several times, people, children and animals can pop out at any minute and not seen coming around cars. You never know when a child or animal could break free and run into the road or pass the back of your car. Take a breath, Stop the Rushing!

• When coming back to your parked car or while still in your vehicle and a car next to you is backing out, getting ready to back out or coming into the space next to you, wait until they fully back out or pull in, to get in or out of your vehicle.

When there’s a hold up in traffic and there’s several cars trying to get into traffic where you had stopped at, let one car in as you go and then the next person can let the next car in and so on or if a total traffic jam, an accident and traffic is stopped or it turns into one lane (before reaching the area police controlled) the courteous thing to do, as each car goes, is to let ‘one’ car in . Another words, for the traffic to move faster and more fair, it shouldn’t be everybody passing cars up while everyone’s going ahead and everyone trying to get ahead of each other. Work together in a traffic jam, accident or such. It will move things along more quickly..

Keep your vehicle maintenance and inspections up to date. Not only will this prevent sudden stalls, but to avoid vehicle failure by checking tires, car lights, brakes and engines regularly. Make sure you have a first aid kit in the car and have sufficient insurance coverage to protect you, if you are involved in an accident.

Your safety is your responsibility, the less you assume, the safer you will be when getting behind the wheel.

Any activity that diverts your attention from driving– whether it’s texting or talking on your phone, eating, drinking, talking to fellow passengers or children in your car, fiddling with the music or navigation system, loud music playing in your vehicle, vehicle mis-function or being tired or under the influence of some substance… THESE ARE DISTRACTIONS !!!

Commit to driving defensively and use common sense safety rules and tips, to protect yourself and others from mishaps that can happen on the roads.

There are certified defensive driving course to learn about more safe driving practices in detail.

If anyone has any other tip or rule to share, leave the comment below.

Safety First and safe traveling on the roads, out there to All!!

C .Star. V