Defensive driving techniques - 10 tips for safer driving

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Defensive driving
Awareness
Behaviour

The road can be an unpredictable place, even for the most experienced drivers. That's where defensive driving comes into play. Whether you're a new driver or have been behind the wheel for years, adopting defensive driving techniques can help increase your safety on the road.

What is defensive driving?

Defensive driving refers to the practice of anticipating and avoiding potential hazards on the road. It is a proactive approach to driving that goes beyond simply following the rules of the road. Defensive drivers are constantly scanning their surroundings for potential problems, and they are prepared to take action to avoid them (a bit like the theory hazard perception test!).

Defensive driving is an important skill for all drivers. It can help you avoid accidents, protect yourself and others, and save money on insurance premiums. If you want to be a safer driver, consider taking a defensive driving course.

We’ve rounded up 10 defensive driving techniques that will help you to navigate the roads with confidence and awareness. By mastering these techniques, you'll be equipped to anticipate and respond to potential hazards and reduce the risk of accidents.

Keep this in mind, though: defensive driving is not just a skill, or a series of techniques to be learned; it's a mindset that emphasises proactive decision-making, situational awareness, and the ability to anticipate potential dangers.

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Road awareness and preparation

Developing strong road awareness and preparation is essential for practising defensive driving techniques. By maintaining a safe following distance, scanning the road ahead, checking your mirrors, and adjusting your speed to conditions, you can proactively identify potential hazards and react in a timely manner.

In this section, we will explore these key aspects of road awareness and preparation to help you become a more vigilant and proactive driver.

  • Maintain a safe following distance: Keep a three-second gap between you and the vehicle in front of you. Increase this distance in adverse weather or road conditions. (Psst! Check out our guides on driving in ice and snow, and driving in wind and rain.
  • Scan the road ahead: Regularly scan the road 10-15 seconds ahead of your vehicle to identify potential hazards or changes in traffic conditions
  • Check your mirrors: Frequently check your rear-view and side mirrors to maintain awareness of other vehicles and potential blind spots
  • Adjust your speed to conditions: Drive at a safe and appropriate speed for the road conditions, including weather, traffic, and visibility
Defensive driving techniques can help you stay even safer on the road
Defensive driving techniques can help you stay even safer on the road
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Defensive driving behaviour

Adopting defensive driving behaviour is also crucial for promoting safety on the road. By staying focused and alert, using proper signalling, yielding the right-of-way, anticipating the actions of others, driving courteously, and avoiding aggressive driving, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and ensure a smoother driving experience for everyone.

In this section, we will delve into these essential defensive driving behaviours and provide insights on how to incorporate them into your driving habits.

  • Stay focused and alert: Keep your attention on the road and avoid distractions such as mobile phones, eating, or adjusting the radio
  • Indicate properly: Always signal your intentions in advance, whether it's changing lanes, turning, or stopping
  • Yield the right-of-way: Understand and follow the right-of-way rules, yielding to pedestrians, bicycles, and other vehicles when necessary
  • Anticipate the actions of others: Be prepared for other drivers to make mistakes, and stay ready to react if they do
  • Drive courteously: Be patient, respectful, and considerate of other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists
  • Avoid aggressive driving: Refrain from tailgating, excessive speeding, or other risky behaviours that can lead to road rage or accidents

Working on your driving? We’ve got some other guides you might find useful. Here’s one on bad driving habits and how to fix them. Plus check out our step-by-step explainer on how to parallel park.

Updated on 10th July 2023