With an increasing number of vehicle safety features mandated and available in the modern automobile, why talk about defensive driving tips? Because car crash statistics tell a grisly tale.
Just shy of 200 million American drivers average some 13,500 miles per year, about 3.2 trillion miles in 2015. It seems good news that every 100 million miles results in only 1.1 deaths, a steadily dropping trend over the years. However, while safer vehicles could save many lives, 2016 still saw some 40,000 car crash fatalities. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) recognizes that drivers are defeating their own vehicle safety systems, noting human error causes 92 percent to 96 percent of car crashes.
When building safety systems into their vehicles, such as electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, autonomous braking or adaptive cruise control, automakers specify that the systems are designed to assist the driver and are not a substitute for responsible driving practices. No matter what you drive or where you drive, defensive driving could save a life.
Here are five time-honored defensive driving tips everyone can put into practice right now.
1. Adjust First, Then Drive
Make adjustments before moving your vehicle. After starting the engine, take a minute or two to fasten your seat belt, adjust your seat and mirrors, set the climate control and queue up music. Then put away your phone until the vehicle has stopped. By eliminating distractions and focusing entirely on the road, drivers readily adapt to changing circumstances.
2. Drive Safe on Purpose
Unfortunately, years of driving experience often bring complacency, and drivers forget seemingly simple things, like turn signals and checking blind spots. When driving, consciously focus on practicing safe driving habits. Take a refresher course if needed.
3. Avoid or Defuse Road Rage
It’s no surprise that experienced and inexperienced drivers, as well as responsible and irresponsible drivers, clash on the road. Tempers may flare, resulting in reckless driving and increased potential for car crashes. Defuse road rage by smiling and waving, moving over or backing off – or avoid it by taking a different route.
4. Rest Well and Plan Ahead
All drivers have just 24 hours a day to live their lives. Always plan extra time to get to a destination and be well-rested before starting your trip. Maintaining a cool head is much easier when you’re well-rested and have some time to spare.
5. Slow Down
If there’s any single thing American drivers can do to reduce the number of car crashes, it’s slowing down. There is no reason to exceed the speed limit, and yet millions regularly ignore speed limits. Depending on road, weather and traffic conditions, even the speed limit may be unsafe. Obeying the speed limit and adjusting for conditions gives drivers room to react to changes.
If everyone followed these five simple defensive driving tips, the road would be a safer place.
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Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.