Table of Contents
- What is defensive driving?
- Essential defensive driving techniques
- Stay safe on the road with the right vehicle
Whether it's rainy weather conditions, a dangerous driver, or a cyclist you need to overtake – we all encounter hazards on the road, every time we drive. You might not be able to control the road conditions or the way other road users behave, but you can control how you handle your own vehicle.
Driving a safe car and understanding the basic car safety tips is a great place to start. But to really stay safe on the road, it's essential to learn defensive driving techniques. Defensive drivers know how to take control of their own vehicle while adapting to road conditions and avoiding hazards.
What is defensive driving?
Defensive driving is a set of safe driving techniques that help you identify dangers, adapt your driving and avoid car accidents.
Defensive driving techniques help you protect yourself, your vehicle and others on the road, regardless of what the conditions of the road are like or how other drivers are behaving. A defensive driver knows how to focus on what they're doing and how they're controlling their own vehicle while being aware of their surroundings and avoiding hazards.
Teaching your child to drive defensively? Check out our tips for teaching a teen to drive.
Essential defensive driving techniques
Here are 8 essential defensive driving tips that every driver should know:
1. Control your speed
Posted speed limits apply to ideal road conditions. So while you should stick to the speed limit in normal circumstances, if there's poor visibility, road works or other hazards ahead, you should slow down to an appropriate speed.
If something goes wrong, high speeds give you less time to react and less control over your car. Road crashes are worse with higher speeds.
2. Stay focused
When driving, you should stay focused on the road and the other vehicles. Even if you've been driving for a long time or are driving a familiar route, you should always drive fully aware, alert and focused.
Don't use your phone or other devices while driving – and avoid all distractions that might compete for your attention. If you need to deal with a phone call or a restless passenger, pull over first.
3. Stay alert
You're more at risk of an accident when you drive tired. It's not just the risk of falling asleep at the wheel – fatigue can slow down your reaction times and make you less effective at spotting hazards.
Don't drive when you're tired. Consider having a nap first or taking a taxi home instead. If you feel tired when driving, pull over and have a power nap for 20 minutes.
4. Think ahead
Defensive drivers don't just observe what's happening right in front of them – they know how to spot potential dangers and predict hazards before they happen. Move your eyes around the different mirrors, looking far ahead and behind, not just at the car in front of you. That way you'll be able to slow down more safely, change lanes if you need to or avoid upcoming hazards.
5. Keep a safe distance
In ideal road conditions, you should leave at least a 3 second gap between your car and the vehicle in front of you. There may be circumstances where you should leave a larger following distance. For example, when you're driving in heavy stop-start traffic, when the weather is bad or when you're following a large truck or motorbike.
If someone is tailgating you, move to another lane if it is safe to do so. If there aren't any other lanes or you can't slow down to let them overtake you, find somewhere safe to pull over and let them pass.
6. Be predictable
Don't assume that other road users know what you are going to do. Use your signals and follow the road rules so that other drivers know what your intentions are. For example, before changing lanes you should signal so that the cars around you know that you are going to move.
It's also important to understand that not all road users follow the road rules. Don't assume that you know what another driver is going to do, even if they are signalling. For example, check for oncoming traffic when driving through an intersection, even if you have a green light. Slow down when approaching a roundabout, even if the other car is signalling left.
7. Avoid road rage
If another driver is showing aggressive behaviour or road rage, don't engage with them even if you think you are in the right. Avoid giving them eye contact and slow down to let them pass or drive away from you if possible. Never try to aggravate someone who is already angry on the road – it can be dangerous for everyone.
8. Don't drive in blind spots
When you drive in a blind spot, other drivers may not be able to see your vehicle. If they're tired, distracted or not alert, they may not check their blind spots before changing lanes. Never drive in a car's blind spots – and always check your blind spots before changing lanes or turning over a bicycle lane.
Stay safe on the road with the right vehicle
Whether you're a new driver or have been driving for many years, it's beneficial to have a vehicle that empowers you to drive with defensive driving techniques. Driving a car with high safety ratings and advanced safety features can help you feel safer and more in control on the road.
Melville Mazda has a wide range of cars to suit first car owners, growing families, busy couples and more. When it comes to safe driving, one of our most popular options is the Mazda CX 3. With a 360 degree view monitor, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and more, the Mazda CX 3 is an ideal car for new and experienced defensive drivers.
Find out more about the Mazda CX 3 price and key features on our website – or book in a test drive today.