Defensive driving, on contrary to the seemingly obvious conclusion, can save you just as much time as money and, more importantly, keep the roads safer for everyone. It will help you navigate in most road and traffic conditions and anticipate the possibility of a mishap.
City driving is also a major source of stress, especially during rush hour. Growing cities and suburbs have resulted in an increase in the number of people who have to use a car to get around. Following these steps will also make driving a more enjoyable experience.
Defensive driving is more about common sense than anything else. It is easy to remember most of what is written here, but then, 'the roads are full of idiots'. So, the more people driving defensively, the safer it will be out there.
If you spot a vehicle in a hurry, do not be obstinate and yield the right of way even if you are legally right in refusing. While the other driver might be being a bully in claiming you give way, it's better to let him through. Do not block the path of the vehicle by moving in front of it or impede its passage in any way. Doing so is dangerous and increases the risk of an accident.
Also, weaving in and out of traffic is a serious safety threat. Always remember, when it comes to driving, it's reaching your destination safely that is most important.
DO NOT EXCEED THE SPEED LIMIT
Driving over a given speed limit is not only illegal, but also dangerous. Driving at 60kmph on a road where the limit is 50kmph might save you 20 minutes, but it also increases the chances of an accident.
The faster you are moving, the longer it takes for the car to do your bidding when you apply the brakes. It also reduces the time you have to react to the unexpected, such as a car out of control or an animal crossing the road. The sheer physics of a collision at high speeds should be enough deterrence. The greater transfer of energy resulting from the higher momentum can cause horrific injuries.
Also, you will be booked by the police if you are caught speeding, which will include a fine the first time (up to Rs 1,000) and a more permanent punishment for repeat offenders.
Therefore, choose a speed matching the rest of the traffic as closely as possible without exceeding the speed limit. If the rest of the traffic is moving at a pace faster than you like, keep to the lane on the left and stay out of the way of the faster vehicles. If you need to overtake a vehicle moving slower than you are, do so from the right. Make your intentions clear using the indicators before overtaking.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE ROAD
"I never saw him!" is the most common excuse used after an accident. But come on, it wasn't that the other vehicle (or person or electric pole) was invisible.
Numerous accidents happen because a driver does not pay attention to what is happening on the road. Any vehicle, immaterial of its size, can be the cause of an accident. Also remember that you cannot rely on your fellow drivers to follow the rules and keep you safe. So stay alert and ensure that you have plenty of room to manoeuvre your vehicle out of a potentially dangerous situation. It would help if you don't use your mobile phone or listen to music on full volume.
Try to anticipate what the other drivers might do in the situation, especially on open roads or when there is heavy traffic. It's always better to stay wary. Be careful when approaching traffic signals, breaks in dividers or service roads. Hasty motorists tend to join the main road without checking the flow of traffic. Also, on a busy road, such as a commercial centre, watch out for cars pulling out from parking. Look out for gaps in the lines of traffic for space to take evasive action. Slow down if you see the traffic in front of you bunching up. No point in adding to the melee. A little patience will help in clearing the jam.
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO WEAR THE SEAT BELT
The seat belt is the most important safety device in your car. A seat belt might appear to be insignificant, but it can save your life. The force and sudden movement on collision can fatally injure a person (ribcage, lungs and heart against the dashboard or steering wheel) or even fling drivers out of the car if they're not strapped in.
Seat belts also help in cutting down movement while driving on bumpy roads. If you have a small child in the car, use a baby seat and fasten it using a seat belt.
DO NOT DRIVE IF YOU ARE STRESSED OR UNWELL
If you think you are distracted, stressed, fatigued or unwell and it will affect your judgement while driving, you should not get behind the steering wheel. Any of these can slow down your reaction time and driving in such a state is unwise.
Being overworked, stressed or tired increases the chances of you falling asleep at the wheels. If it's a long drive and you feel tired, pull over to the side of the road and sleep for a while.
It goes without saying that consumption of alcohol is a serious impediment to making the right choices and it is very dangerous to drive inebriated. If you are going to a party where you are likely to consume alcohol, make sure someone who does not drink is the designated driver or arrange for a taxi. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a punishable offence, including the possibility of cancellation of your licence or even jail time.
Also, it would be safer not to drive if you are unwell. A high fever or an injury can be disorienting, resulting in an error of judgement.
SLOW DOWN ON WET ROADS AND IN BAD WEATHER
The most sensible thing to do in adverse weather conditions such as heavy rainfall or fog is to slow down. Driving at high speeds in heavy rain could lead to your car aquaplaning (rise up on a thin film of water between the tires and road so that there is no more contact with the road).
Make sure that your car tyres have the right air pressure because overinflating tyres reduces the area of contact with the road, resulting in loss of rolling friction on wet surfaces. If your car tyres are overinflated, release some air.
Similarly, visibility is reduced significantly in a dense fog and judging the distances between vehicles becomes difficult.
In both cases-heavy rain and fog-slowing down is the safest option. If the fog is very thick, drive slowly along the divider or road markers to have a point of reference. Do not try to overtake in such conditions.
KNOW THE BLIND SPOTS
Remember that you have a few blind spots around your vehicle. The area behind the pillars of the car and at the back are the usual blind spots. Always be cautious when moving in these direction, such as when you are changing lanes or backing out of parking. Looking into your rear-view mirror is not enough. Watch out for approaching traffic from the sides, which a blind spot on the overhead mirror, in the outside mirrors.
On roads that have higher speed limits, such as highways, traffic from the rear approaches very quickly. When there are large vehicles such as trucks and buses on the road, ensure that you maintain enough distance for your car to be visible in the rear-view and outside mirrors of the vehicle in front of you. In fact, tailgating any vehicle is a risk. So maintain a reasonable distance between your car and the vehicle in front.
Backing up is always tricky. Have a quick look around for anything in your way first. Be especially careful if there are children playing around the vehicle. Defensive driving might seem dull, but safety should be the paramount consideration on the road.
Courtesy: Auto Bild India
When you’re behind the wheel of a car – whether alone or with passengers – driving safely should always be your top concern. We’re more distracted than ever, so it’s crucial to know the basics of safe driving and practice them every time you’re on the road. Here are some safe driving tips:
Top 4 driving safety tips
Focus on driving
- Keep 100% of your attention on driving at all times – no multi-tasking.
- Don’t use your phone or any other electronic device while driving.
- Slow down. Speeding gives you less time to react and increases the severity of an accident.
- Be aware of what other drivers around you are doing, and expect the unexpected.
- Assume other motorists will do something crazy, and always be prepared to avoid it.
- Keep a 2-second cushion between you and the car in front of you.
- Make that 4 seconds if the weather is bad.
Make a safe driving plan
- Build time into your trip schedule to stop for food, rest breaks, phone calls or other business.
- Adjust your seat, mirrors and climate controls before putting the car in gear.
- Pull over to eat or drink. It takes only a few minutes.
- Secure cargo that may move around while the vehicle is in motion.
- Don’t attempt to retrieve items that fall to the floor.
- Have items needed within easy reach – such as toll fees, toll cards and garage passes.
- Always wear your seat belt and drive sober and drug-free.
More driving safety tips from Nationwide
- Don't allow children to fight or climb around in your car – they should be buckled in their seats at all times. Too much noise can easily distract you from focus on the road.
- Avoid driving when you're tired. Be aware that some medications cause drowsiness and make operating a vehicle very dangerous. Learn more about drowsy driving.
- Always use caution when changing lanes. Cutting in front of someone, changing lanes too fast or not using your signals may cause an accident or upset other drivers.
- Be extra careful while driving during deer season.
Common sense about safe driving
What to do after an accident
If you're in an accident, first make sure no one in the car is injured. Next, check on the passengers in the other vehicle, pedestrians and anyone else nearby to make sure they’re OK. Then do these five things:
Stay at the scene
Leaving can result in legal consequences, like fines or additional violations.
Call 911 or the local police immediately
They'll dispatch an officer and medical personnel to the scene of the accident. Once the cops arrive, wait for them to complete an accident report.
Stay in the car
If you're on a busy highway, stay inside the car and wait for the police or an ambulance. It's dangerous if passengers stand along a freeway or other road with lots of traffic.
Don't get into an argument or a fight with the other driver. Simply exchange contact and insurance information. If possible, also get the name and phone numbers of witnesses.
Contact your insurance provider
Call your insurance provider to report the claim. Your agent will ask you for any paperwork you receive about the accident, and will give you important information on getting your car fixed.
Find out more about what to do after an accident or a hit-and-run.
What to do when pulled over
If you notice that a police car is following you with the lights flashing, pull over to the side of the road safely and quickly. Wait inside your car for the officer to approach, and be prepared to:
Turn on the light
Turn on your interior light at night and keep your hands where the officer can see them, preferably on the steering wheel.
Keep your hands visible
Don't reach under your seat or into your glove box. This may cause the officer to think you're reaching for a weapon or hiding something.
Provide necessary documentation
Give your license and proof of insurance to the officer if asked. If the officer asks you to step out of your car, do so without sudden or threatening movements.
Stay calm − don't become argumentative, disorderly or abusive − and never attempt to bribe the officer.
If a citation is issued, present your story in traffic court if you feel you’ve been unfairly treated. You may be represented by a lawyer and, if necessary, you'll be heard by a judge or magistrate.
Things to know about speeding & traffic laws
Some roadways are designated as low-speed zones. These include areas with high pedestrian traffic, such as school zones and streets lots of intersections close together. Driving over the speed limit can put you and others at risk of harm.
- Never pass a stopped bus displaying a stop sign to its left. That means children are crossing the street.
- If you hear a siren coming behind you, pull to the side if you can, stop and wait until the police car or fire truck goes by.
- Completely stop at stop signs and look for other drivers and pedestrians before you proceed.
- Obey the posted speed limit at all times. Speeding tickets are costly, and penalties for speeding can include fines, court appearances and loss or suspension of your driving privileges. Also, depending on your insurance policy, speeding tickets can raise your rates.
- When parking your vehicle, always be mindful of handicapped signs, fire hydrants, bus stop zones, parking restrictions for certain times of day, and parking spots that require permits. Just remember to heed all of the signs. Even if you have to circle the block a couple times, it sure beats getting fined or having your car towed.
All about DUI & DWI
Driving after drinking too much alcohol is known as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Alcohol slows your reflexing, temporarily lowers your mental acuity and can thus compromise your ability to control a vehicle and drive it safely. And yes, even "buzzed driving" is still drunk driving and can be just as dangerous.
A DUI arrest can lead to expensive consequences, including spending time in jail, a suspended driver's license and fines. If you hit and/or kill someone while you are driving impaired, the consequences are even worse.
It's also illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your car. If you're transporting alcoholic beverages, they should be sealed and in the trunk.
All 50 states have now set .08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) as the legal limit for Driving Under the Influence, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). For commercial drivers, it’s .04%. And if you’re under 21, it’s zero tolerance – any amount of alcohol is grounds for a DUI arrest.
In some cities, law enforcement officials set up sobriety checkpoints along the road to identify and deter impaired drivers. These are typically set up during holiday weekends or on dates when there might be more drinking and driving.
If you're stopped at a checkpoint, you'll be asked several questions and might be asked to perform a sobriety test (like saying the ABC's backwards, performing some physical movements or breathing into an alcohol sensor). If these tests show that you have high alcohol levels, the police may arrest you.
Winter driving tips
Winter brings all sorts of driving headaches: snow, freezing rain and slush, which all make the roads more hazardous. To handle the hassle of winter driving:
- First of all, buckle up. Basic car safety encourages the use of seat belts and car seats at all times. They're one of your best defenses in a crash. And it's the law.
- Use extra caution in areas that ice up quickly, especially intersections, shaded areas, bridges and overpasses.
- Get in the habit of regularly checking weather reports on TV or online so you can prepare for bad weather. On severe weather days, schools and workplaces might close or delay opening. Consider staying at home if you don't need to be on the road.
- Keep an emergency kit in the trunk of your car – including blankets, a first aid kit and jumper cables. Check out our full list of items for your emergency car kit.
- Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and that your car always has a full tank of gas.
To ensure you always have someone on your side when it comes to keeping you and your vehicle safe, learn more about auto insurance from Nationwide.