Wouldn’t it be great if everyone on the road paid as much attention to others’ driving habits as they do their own? Okay, now back to reality. Seriously. A lot of drivers barely pay attention to their own habits (wander in other lanes? text? make sudden stops? you know who you are). One of the best skills you could acquire is to drive defensively. Some insurance will even give you a discount for taking a course in it.

What does it mean to drive defensively? Think of it like this. When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Don’t. Trust. Anyone. It’s that simple. Don’t assume the other driver will obey all traffic laws.

Humans make mistakes

People get too comfortable and distracted while driving. They tend to forget they are in control of several thousand pounds of metal that can do serious damage. Learning to look out for others on the road can save lives.

The most obvious thing to do while driving – stay focused

Driving takes some thinking skills. It goes without saying not to drive while under the influence or while tired, but what about when you are angry or upset? You need to monitor and be aware of your surroundings, which can be difficult when distracted by drugs, sleepiness, or a strong emotional state. There are weather conditions, road signs, mirror checks, traffic lights, other vehicles, pedestrians, etc.. You need to stay focused and aware of your surroundings at all times so you will be prepared to react to situations.

Check your mirrors often, but don’t forget blind spots

Your mirrors are an excellent tool, but don’t rely on them alone. Changing lanes without noticing that car next to you near the back bumper will most likely cause an accident. That is, unless the guy has excellent defensive driving skills and maneuvers safely out of harm’s way. The takeaway point – ALWAYS turn to look before you change lanes

Be observant of the vehicles around you

Car behind you dangerously close to your bumper? Move to different lane. Truck up ahead speeding while constantly lane switching? Back off to give yourself more distance. Simple avoidance maneuvers like these will keep you away from careless drivers and gives you the ability to react to a potential accident.

It may seem obvious, but a big part of defensive driving is being a responsible driver yourself. Keep distractions to a minimum and obey all traffic laws.

When driving defensively, you want to avoid offensive drivers. Seems simple enough, right? What about the more aggressive ones, we’ve all had to deal with them. The vehicle that cuts you off with no warning. The guy that honks and screams obscenities because you won’t drive faster. The vehicle that taunts you by purposely slamming on their brakes in front of you. It is so easy to want to “show them” by making an aggressive move of your own. Resist that urge. Not only will you endanger yourself and others, it could escalate into a serious case of road rage. Safely get yourself away from their vehicle and maintain plenty of distance. Controlling emotional responses is critical while dealing with aggressive drivers

Keep these tips in mind and be a defensive driver to keep you and the others drivers on the road safe.