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Avoiding Danger: How To Drive Defensively

Driving is the most dangerous thing you can do. What season is the most dangerous to get behind the wheel? Many would say winter because of ice, snow, and holiday parties, but according to a Forbes study in 2009, August was the most dangerous month to drive, Saturday is the most dangerous day, and nearly half of all fatal crashes happen at night. Tuesdays and Wednesdays average fewer drivers and fewer fatalities.

According to data gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two out of three motorists will be involved in a motor vehicle accident that causes injury during their lifetime, and in some type of accident every 10 years or so. Speeding is a factor in 30% of all fatal accidents, and 54% of the fatal crashes that happen at night are alcohol-related. Experts say that 99% of all crashes are caused by human error, though most people would say that they’re more careful than other drivers.

How can you be a safer driver?

There is something that you can do to make yourself a safer driver and reduce your risk of accident — be a defensive driver. According to, some defensive-driving tips include:

  1. Look further up the road while driving, not just at the vehicle directly in front of you. Looking one-half to a mile ahead will allow you to recognize dangers or potentials hazards earlier, allowing you to avoid them.
  2. Don’t fixate on just one thing when you drive. Keep your eyes moving, looking at the mirrors, to each side of your vehicle, and back at the road every few seconds. Don’t stare at the car in front of you, looking instead a block ahead on city streets.
  3. Have a plan. Leave yourself an out in case the worst happens. Try not to drive directly beside anyone, so that if you need to swerve, you have somewhere to go. If someone is traveling beside you at the exact same speed, accelerate or slow down so that they are in front or behind you, not directly beside you.
  4. Increase your following distance to provide yourself with adequate room to stop quickly if necessary. When the roads are dry, leave at least two seconds (preferably three) of space between you and the vehicle in front of you, and when visibility is poor due to fog, rain, or at night, you should leave at least a four-second gap.
  5. Reduce distractions by focusing on your driving and nothing else. Most accidents aren’t caused by distractions; they are caused by the way a driver reacted to a distraction. Get rid of distractions that you can control, such as cell phones (turn off the ringer), an unrestricted pet (get a humane restraint), and the radio (wait until you’re stopped to adjust the volume or the station).

You can’t control what other drivers do, and you can’t completely avoid driving after dark on Saturdays in August. But honing your defensive-driving skills can help save you from somebody else’s bad driving, even at dangerous times.

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Jan Hill is a freelance writer that specializes in law, business, sustainability, and education. She is currently a legal blogger for Denver car accident attorney Daniel R. Rosen. Jan is a certified paralegal who has written for newspapers, reference books, and legal websites. For more information, visit the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen blog.  

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