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What is defensive driving?

The standard Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations, ANSI/ASSE Z15.1, defines defensive driving as “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”

But what does that really mean?

Basically, if you’re driving defensively, you’re maximizing your safety and the safety of those around you. You can follow a few basic steps to drive safely, however, we recommend taking a defensive driving course in order to develop and practice the skills necessary to sustain great driving techniques.

How can I drive defensively?

You can drive defensively by employing a number of tactics. Defensive drivers are always aware of their surroundings, whether it’s obstacles, other drivers or pedestrians. When driving defensively, it’s important to do several things:

  1. Scan surroundings
  2. Maintain a safe following distance
  3. Make smart decisions
  4. Be aware of other driver’s decisions
  5. Act with speed and accuracy

By doing these things constantly, you can increase your safety on the road as well as the safety of other drivers, even if they may not be employing these strategies.

What is a safe following distance?

A safe following distance is 2 seconds. This means that the time between when the end of the car in front of you passes an object and the time the front of your car passes the same object is at least 2 seconds. Most states recommend 3 seconds, with 1 second being the legal minimum (any less may attain a “tailgating” charge).

If you maintain a 2 second following distance between your car and the car in front of you, you greatly increase the response time you have in case they harshly break or take an evasive maneuver – and when driving, the added time is definitely an advantage.