The Best Defensive Driving Tips

Defensive driving skills are necessary to stay safe on the roads. Not only do they protect you and other drivers, but they also decrease the risk of costly repairs, medical expenses, and legal fees from car accidents. Paying close attention to the road, being mindful of blind spots, and following the speed limit are just a few defensive driving tips you should know.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Mar 11, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Motorists can improve their driving habits by using a number of defensive driving skills
  • Drivers should pay close attention to the road, be mindful of their blind spots, and follow the speed limit
  • Defensive driving requires drivers to be cognizant of other drivers and anticipate potential hazards that may occur

Car accidents are costly. Repairs, medical expenses, and potential legal fees can all add up to a hefty bill. But that’s just the up-front cost. The more collision accidents you’re involved in, the higher your auto insurance premiums are likely to rise. 

Learning to drive safely is a simple way to reduce this potential hazard. That’s why it’s worth your time to brush up on defensive driving tips that can help you anticipate what other drivers may do and take the right precautions to prevent collisions on the road. 

What precautions should you take?

Every time you get behind the wheel, you run the risk of a car accident somewhere along your route. Defensive driving is all about minimizing that potential hazard in the most effective ways possible. 

You can reduce the dangers of driving by paying special attention to certain key factors. Put simply, you should:

  • Keep your eyes on the road
  • Know where your blind spots are when turning or changing lanes
  • Pay attention to your speed relative to both the speed limit and the speed of other drivers

Watch the Road

Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of car collisions in the United States. Paying attention to the road in front of you may seem like an obvious tip for driving safely, but it’s one safe driving practice that many people tend to ignore. 

Your peripheral vision may fail to catch many things — like a car or pedestrian crossing your path in an intersection — even in clear, broad daylight. At times of reduced visibility, like at night or in certain weather conditions like torrential rain, it’s absolutely crucial to keep your eyes as fixed on the road as possible.  

Keeping your eyes on the road doesn’t just mean putting the phone down while you’re behind the wheel. Watch how other vehicles around you are moving and reacting to the environment, anticipate cars and pedestrians crossing your path in different directions, and make sure you’re noticing and following traffic signs that may potentially be obscured. 

Mind Your Blind Spots

When you turn or change lanes, you may have a hard time seeing cars coming up behind you in certain spots. You need to know where these blind spots are and how to make sure no one’s in them when you need to change direction. 

Blind spots aren’t visible in your rear view mirrors, meaning you may have to physically turn your head to see if a vehicle is in them before shifting lanes. Since this involves taking your eyes off of the road in front of you temporarily, be sure to take special care when doing so. 

Drive at a Safe Speed

It’s easy to drive faster than you think you are, especially if there aren’t many other cars on the road to keep a steady flow of traffic. But getting caught suddenly in the wrong spot can have several kinds of devastating consequences. 

Financially, excessive speeding is an easy way to end up with a unnecessary traffic ticket and potentially increased insurance rates. In terms of physical safety, though, it can create serious risks in certain weather conditions. Heavy rain or snow, for instance, may reduce visibility or make the roads too slippery to maintain control of your car. 

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What should you anticipate from other drivers?

Curious about how road rage affects your driving skills and judgment? It is important as a driver to understand that road rage can give a driver tunnel vision. Defensive driving is all about predicting what the defensive drivers around you are going to do before they do it. The ability to do this well makes a substantial difference when it comes to avoiding potentially dangerous situations.

Some common considerations include:

  • The speed other cars are driving at
  • The direction they’re going relative to you
  • How likely they seem to react to signs and traffic lights along your route

Predicting Risky Driving

As much as the defensive driving tips listed here are meant to help you know how to drive more safely, they’re also important for knowing what the defensive drivers around you should be doing, too. 

You can’t assume the drivers on the road with you are going to be driving as safely as you are. Even if you’re paying attention to what’s happening around you, others may not be. They may stop short in front of you, speed across your path, or make other risky moves you need to be ready to react to. 

How does defensive driving affect your car insurance?

A safe driver may be able to expect more affordable rates when it comes to car insurance. A dangerous, accident-prone driver can be a risk for auto insurance companies, as they may be likely to require more reimbursements for repairs, medical bills, and other costs. 

Driving safely does more than just protect you, your passengers, and other drivers from unnecessary physical injury. It protects you financially and makes it easier to find a car insurance rate that fits your budget. 

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