If you want to reduce your risk of traffic accidents and the insurance claims that accompany them — which could cause your premium to go up — you need to drive defensively. Here are some driving tips to help you avoid crashes and stay safe on the road.
Always Assume Other Motorists Will Make Mistakes
Defensive driving means always anticipating that other vehicles will be careless or worse, break the law. So, when you come to a four-way stop, for example, don’t assume other motorists will know the right-of-way laws. It’s always better to wait a few seconds and let others go first than to risk a crash.
Don’t Drive Distracted or Under the Influence
In most places, it’s illegal to have a mobile phone in your hand while driving, whether you’re talking to someone or checking a text. Stow your device, and use hands-free or voice-activated aids if you need to have a conversation or get directions. Or you can pull over if you must manually use your phone.
Other common distractions that should be addressed include:
- Kids fussing or fighting
- Unrestrained pets
- Eating and drinking
- Loose items in the cabin
- Loud music
Watch Your Speed
Statistically, many accidents in the United States, including those with fatalities, involve operating over the speed limit. Obey posted speed limits, and be especially vigilant in school zones and pedestrian areas.
You may need to drive under the speed limit if traffic is heavy, the weather is bad, the roads are slippery, or there is road construction nearby. Dawn and dusk are also times when you could experience poor visibility, so slow down if necessary and turn on your headlights.
Use Your Turn Signals
Many drivers ignore their turn signals, weaving in and out of traffic and turning without warning. This also contributes to accidents.
Pick the safest lane if you have options, and try to stay in it as much as possible. For instance, if you are on a highway with at least three lanes in one direction, choose the center lane to avoid passing and merging vehicles. When you do need to change lanes, turn on your turn signal well in advance to alert other drivers of your intentions.
Be Aware of the Most Dangerous Driving Scenarios
There are situations where accidents are more likely to occur than others. These include:
- Railroad crossings
- High-speed boulevards with frequent traffic signals
- Uncontrolled intersections
- Left-hand turns
- Parking lots
- Winding rural roads
- Motorways used by large trucks
Be extra careful in these scenarios. Don’t drive too close to semis; if you must pass one, give yourself plenty of space and avoid driving for too long alongside the truck. If a truck is following too close to your bumper (tailgating is another defensive driving no-no), pull into another lane or off the road to let it pass.
Reminder: Always Carry Proof of Insurance with You
Sometimes, despite practicing defensive driving, you can still get in an accident. You must carry proof of insurance with you for these situations or for when stopped by law enforcement. Most states today allow you to have an electronic version of your insurance ID card on your phone, but it’s good to have a paper copy in your glove box.