5 Defensive Driving Tips To Keep You Safer

While you may be qualified to be on the road, this isn’t necessarily true for everyone else.

As such, defensive driving techniques may help you stay out of an accident.

In South Africa, where road accidents are a frighteningly common occurrence, the need to protect yourself becomes even more imperative.

According to Arrive Alive, driver error is the biggest cause of road accidents. In fact, it accounts for up to 90% of crashes.

“When driving defensively, we’re aware and ready for whatever happens. We are cautious, yet ready to take action and not put our fate in the hands of other drivers,” the organisation says.

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Here are some defensive driving tips to keep you safe on the roads:

1. Don’t Let Your Guard Down

As our driving experience increases, we tend to let our guard down on the road. You transform from that anxious teen who has just completed their K53 test, clutching to your wheel religiously; to someone who may drive with only one hand while eating a sandwich.

While you don’t need to do your five-point check every time you stop, you shouldn’t become too complacent when driving.

Some people are familiar with the sage advice that you shouldn’t assume everyone else on the road is a competent driver.

Arrive Alive also gives advice along these lines.

“Do not depend on other drivers. Be considerate of others but look out for yourself,” the organisation says.

2. Avoid Distractions

Distracted driving is a problem that is increasing in severity as people try to multitask and use their mobile devices while driving.

While most people feel the pressure of a busy life, that text message can wait. Especially when it could result in an accident that could seriously injure you.

It may sound like common sense, but most of us are guilty of allowing distractions to get in our way while driving.

This is especially true when we are trying to use GPS and navigation apps. Instead of peering at the screen to figure out where to go, switch on the audio navigation to help you keep your eyes on the road.

Also make sure that your navigation device is in a convenient position that doesn’t require you to look away from the road. Just make sure it isn’t obstructing your view either.

3. Don’t Assume That ‘Right Of Way’ Will Always Protect You

Every driver who has completed their licence test knows about the concept of ‘right of way’. But, this doesn’t mean that they’ll respect it.

Instead of just assuming that another driver will respect your right of way, maintain caution.

When the signal turns green for you at an intersection, first make sure that no one is skipping the red light before you cross.

At an intersection with multiple stops, pull away slowly and keep an eye on other drivers who might be taking a chance.

Also keep an eye out when merging lanes – not everyone is considerate and some people will deliberately cut you off.

4. Maintain That Safe Following Distance

A safe following distance is one of those things we also learn for our driving tests. But, again, it is not always respected.

While it may be tempting to follow a vehicle closely to get them to speed up, it’s not worth the risk.

A safe following distance becomes even more pertinent in unfavourable conditions. These include when roads are wet or visibility is limited.

Arrive Alive suggests a two to three second following distance in normal circumstances, and a four to six second following distance in unfavourable conditions.

A minimum distance even helps you at intersections when you’re at a complete stop. This distance will allow you to move over if an emergency vehicle needs to pass. It can also allow you to manoeuvre away in the event of a smash-and-grab.

5. Always Check Those Blind Spots

There’s a reason your driving instructor kept hassling you about those blind spots. This is possibly one of the most important tips you can follow.

Even when you don’t think there is a car nearby, or that the coast is clear; it is essential that you check your blind spots. This is a point the Automobile Association also emphasises.

Sometimes, you’ll find a vehicle you didn’t expect lurking just out of your view. Or, more frequently, a motorbike which is lane splitting.

Many motorcycle accidents are caused due to cars not checking their blind spots when changing lanes.

Rather don’t treat relevant blind spots as optional checks – it could save you a world of pain.

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