Driving on Defense
Driving is both an everyday reality and a statistically dangerous activity. Preliminary data from 2021 indicates that the rate of traffic fatalities saw the highest increase since 2006. By and large, these accidents and deaths are preventable. Don’t let your staff or volunteers become another statistic – get your team driving on defense by raising awareness of defensive driving techniques and how they can be used to avoid top causes of motor vehicle incidents.
What is Defensive Driving?
Defensive driving is a technique that minimizes risk by proactively predicting hazards on the road. Most vehicle collisions are avoidable if the driver attempts everything reasonable to prevent them. Identifying risks, understanding techniques to avoid risks, and acting promptly to risky situations are the hallmarks of effective defensive driving.
Know Thy Enemy – Three Common Causes of Crashes
Excessive speed is a leading cause of fatalities and motor vehicle incidents, since speed is directly correlated to both reaction time and minimum stopping distances: the faster a car is travelling, the less time a driver has to react, and the greater the distance needed for a vehicle to come to a complete stop.
Remember, speed limits are the maximum safe speed in ideal conditions. Weather, traffic, and road quality can all adversely affect driving conditions. When this happens, it is the drivers’ responsibility to drive at a safe speed that will allow enough reaction time to safely navigate whatever scenarios they encounter. Some general defensive driving practices that can help reduce the likelihood of speeding include:
- Allowing plenty of time to reach your destination
- Knowing the speed limit
- Regularly checking your speedometer
- Setting your speed with cruise control
- Driving just under the speed limit
- Proactively adjusting speed in work zones, school zones, and other adverse conditions
The “right-of-way” is a set of rules determining who goes first and who must wait when interacting with other vehicles. Who has the right-of-way may vary widely depending upon the situation and circumstances, but generally the intent is for drivers to do everything reasonably possible to avoid a collision.
Most right-of-way violations occur while changing lanes, merging into traffic, or crossing railroads and intersections. Some examples of violating the right of way could include failing to yield, passing a stop sign, disregarding a traffic signal, or a merging error. driving on defense
Defensive driving strategies that can help prevent these types of collisions include:
- Maintaining a safe following distance
- Anticipating other drivers’ actions
- Not speeding through yellow lights
- Scanning before crossing by looking left, right, straight, then left again
There are myriad distractions that can cause inattention to roadway conditions. While technology is frequently a culprit, nearly anything can cause a distraction if it falls into one or more of the following categories:
– taking your eyes off the road
– taking your hands off the steering wheel
– thinking about anything other than driving
Unsurprisingly, utilizing handheld technology, such as a cell phone, creates all three major forms of distraction, compounding the danger. What is less well known is that hands-free technology is not always a safer option, as the cognitive distraction can still easily cause an accident on its own. Other common distractions include eating or drinking, reaching for an object, grooming, unsecured pets, daydreaming, engaging in conversation, and so on. Drivers can reduce the likelihood of distractions by:
- Keep eyes on the road and actively look ahead
- Pull over (in a safe location) to read directions and complete other tasks
- Avoid eating or drinking while driving
- Keep phones and devices out of reach and on “Do Not Disturb” mode
- Make all adjustments (seat configuration, seatbelt, manual controls, mirrors, etc.) before starting the vehicle
- Avoid reaching for items while driving
- Avoid phone calls, even those conducted hands-free
- Keep the mind engaged on driving
- Keep emotions in check
Make Safety your Destination this Summer
Recognizing and acknowledging your driving habits – especially the problematic ones – is half the battle when it comes to defensive driving. The other half is understanding the primary causes of motor vehicle accidents and proactively mitigating those risks. When combined, these efforts will help safeguard your organizations’ drivers and support them in avoiding costly, and sometimes fatal, accidents.
This article was adapted from “Defensive Driving and the Top 3 Causes of Crashes” by Tomas DeLeon, originally published in Preferred Newsletter’s Spring 2022 edition, published by Public Risk Underwriters of Florida, an affiliate office of Clear Risk Solutions. For more information regarding defensive driving strategies, please contact your risk manager or refer to the following references that were used in the creation of this article: