Lessons in Defensive Driving

Stephanie McCauley

Defensive Driving

Lessons in Defensive Driving

Welcome to Safe Friday, since June is National Safety Month, we’re going to close out the month by covering the ins and outs of defensive driving. Whether you’re an experienced professional, or new on the job, today we’re going to offer something for everyone!

From a business standpoint, integrating key elements of defensive driving safely into your safety culture will help your bottom line.

The most common causes of traffic accidents are driving while distracted, fatigue, and impairment. It’s important to remember that these causes are not just a problem for your employees, they are hazards presented by all the drivers on the road with them.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), “the majority of fatal crashes occur within 25 miles of home and at speeds of less than 40 mph.” A frontal collision at 30 mph, where your vehicle hits an object and stops, people and objects inside the vehicle continue to move forward until they hit the windshield, steering column, or dashboard. This literally has the same effect as falling from the top of a three-story building.

An effective driving safety program will not only minimize risk and the resulting costs of crashes, it can protect what makes your organization succeed, its people.

Driving Safely at Work

Vehicular accidents are the most common cause of workplace injury and death. Follow the bellow safety tips when navigating vehicles on company premises to help minimize accidents.

Prior to Entry

  • Check tires to make sure properly inflated
  • Ensure any attachments of the vehicle are properly secure
  • Check top ensure all lights work properly
  • Ensure any vehicle equipment is in proper order
  • Operate the forklift only if you’ve been trained

After Entry

  • Buckle you seat belt
  • Adjust your mirrors
  • Check the gas level
  • Verify all gauges are operating properly
  • Check to ensure breaks are functional

During Transit

  • Keep your eyes focused on the space around you, be mindful of other vehicles and pedestrians
  • Avoid sharp turns
  • Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle
  • Follow our speed limit and other regulations
  • Maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles – about three vehicle lengths.
  • Raise and lower your load only when you are stopped
  • Stop and sound the horn at intersections
  • Use signals
  • Note any road maintenance issues and report them

Driving Defensively

Driving defensively means being constantly aware of the driving conditions, planning, anticipating hazards, and taking action to avoid accidents. Defensive driving will help to protect the health and safety of yourself and others. Let’s examine the key elements of defensive driving.

Attitude and Awareness

  • Courtesy and consideration towards others are important defensive driving attitudes everyone needs
  • Concentration and alertness are key elements of defensive driving, stay focused on your driving
  • Driving when you’re fatigued or emotionally distressed can be just as dangerous as driving drunk


Foresight means being able to anticipate potential traffic situations and being prepared to take corrective action. Safe driving requires you to exercise good judgment and recognize the proper choices to make in any given situation.

Knowledge and Experience

  • Inexperienced drivers should learn through instruction, observation and practice. If you’re not enrolled in a driver training program, ask an experienced, skilled licensed driver to help you
  • Experienced drivers can face problems of carelessness, overconfidence and bad driving habits that develop over time
  • Driving is a well-rehearsed skill that involves anticipation, reaction and constant change of the spacing between your vehicle and other vehicles


  • Most of what you do as a defensive driver is in response to what you see while driving
  • Avoid a fixed stare; keep your eyes moving and read the road
  • Avoid the need for last minute decisions; look ahead for a distance of about one city block
  • Look to both sides at intersections
  • Check your mirrors, both rear view and side view, frequently to keep track of traffic that could affect you

Blind Spots

Blind spots are areas to the left and right of your vehicle that are not visible in your mirrors.

  • When changing lanes, don’t rely entirely on your mirrors, always turn your head and take a look
  • Other blind spots can occur when vehicles are parked too close to intersections, or when bushes, trees, or other obstructions block your view at intersections. In these situations, slowly inch your vehicle forward until you can be sure it is safe to proceed
  • Avoid driving in other driver’s blind spots; speed up or drop back. Make sure other drivers can see you


Always signal your intentions to other drivers.

  • Use your turn signals when making any turn or lane change. Signal at least 4 seconds in advance
  • If you’re turning just past an intersection, don’t start signaling until you’re in the intersection
  • After making your direction change, be sure to turn off your signal


The space between your vehicle and others gives you time to react and avoid collisions.

  • Stay in the middle of your lane to maintain clearance from other vehicles
  • Keep enough space between your vehicle and any vehicle you’re following to allow time to stop at any speed
  • Drive at a constant speed to help drivers following you maintain a safe distance. If another driver is following too closely, change lanes if possible, or slow down and move to the right to encourage them to pass

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is defined as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.”Of these potential distractions, the most dangerous and common is talking or texting on a cell phone. Having one lets you call for help if your vehicle breaks down, or you need to report an accident. However, driving in heavy traffic during rush hour or through construction zones while chatting or texting with your office, a customer, a friend or your spouse is an unnecessary hazard to yourself and other drivers on the road. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.


To address this hazard, the following laws have been enacted to reduce distracted driving:

  • Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 14 states and the District of Columbia
  • The use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 38 states and the District of Columbia
  • Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 46 states and the District of Columbia
  • Novice drivers are banned from texting in Missouri and Texas

Let’s examine the guidelines to avoid distracted driving:

Effects of cell phone use while driving:

  • Texting someone while driving takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds, at 55 MPH you’ll travel the length of a football field in that time
  • You’re driving performance while talking or texting on your phone is comparable to, or worse than, driving with a blood alcohol level of .08, which is the legal limit in most states
  • In heavy traffic, cell phone users were about 20 percent slower to respond to road hazards than other drivers
  • Cell phone users were about twice as likely to rear-end a braking car in front of them
  • Cell phone users see only about half of the visual information while driving that non-cell phone drivers see
  • A recent report from NHTSA shows that you’re 23 times more likely to be in an accident if you text while driving

In order to stay a safe driver while using your cell phone, use common sense:

  • Pull off to the side of the road or into a parking lot to use your phone
  • Use a “hands-free” set even if it’s not required in your state
  • If you have passengers in the vehicle with you, let someone else make the call for you
  • If none of the above are possible and you must make a call, keep the conversation brief and hang up or simply drop the phone if you encounter a risky driving situation
  • Keep a greater distance between your vehicle and other vehicles while talking on the phone
  • Don’t dial the phone or text while in traffic, wait for a stop or pull safely off the road
  • Keep conversations short. Don’t use the cell phone while driving for social visiting or other unnecessary tasks that can be taken care of later when it doesn’t endanger the lives of you or others

Psychology studies show that whether talking with a passenger or someone on the phone, people are less able to recall the details of a conversation carried on while driving. So, in addition to the possibility of getting into an accident, it might not be smart to discuss business or personal relationships on the phone while driving.

Road Rage

Most people driving are just trying to get where they’re going. Incidents and encounters with other drivers who may do something incredibly rude, thoughtless or careless can happen every day. Depending on traffic patterns, everyday driving can be extremely stressful.

Furthermore, what the media calls road rage is simply aggressive driving. Road rage incidents are occurring more frequently, and people are being attacked or injured because they honked their horn. Many aggressive drivers have incredibly short fuses, and you don’t want to be the one to light them.

If you’re concentrating on driving safely, you’ll probably see someone running a red light, approaching from behind at high speed or weaving through traffic, and you’ll have time to get out of their way ahead of time. It’s generally a good idea to avoid changing lanes any more than you need to, because weaving through traffic can anger other drivers. If someone is weaving through traffic from behind, simply move over and let them go by.

Aggressive Driving

In many states, you can be cited for aggressive driving if you commit a series of acts while driving that are considered to present an immediate hazard to other drivers. You can be cited for aggressive driving if you’re speeding and commit two of the following violations: failure to obey traffic signs or signals; passing another vehicle on the right side; unsafe lane change; following too close, or; failure to yield to emergency vehicles.

The penalties for aggressive driving can include fines, being required to attend a Traffic Survival School course, and you can even have your license suspended.

Important Defensive Driving Techniques

“Defensive Driving” means being constantly aware of the driving conditions, planning, anticipating dangers and taking the right action to avoid accidents.

Suggestions for Staying Calm

You can avoid becoming emotional while driving by planning your trip, knowing the best way to get to your destination helps reduce anxiety and stress. Concentrate on driving and leave distracting worries behind you. Listen to music you enjoy. Respond with courtesy if you are provoked by another motorist. If a problem occurs and you feel yourself getting angry, take deep breaths and count to 10. Don’t retaliate by flashing your headlights, honking the horn, or making rude gestures, these will only make a bad situation worse. If you’re the victim of aggression, get the license plate number and report the incident as soon as possible.

Aggressive driving tactics such as passing on the shoulder, cutting in line, tailgating, changing lanes without signaling and cutting off drivers and weaving through heavy traffic will make you the target of road rage a lot quicker than if you drive in a friendly, courteous manner. Doing so will help you avoid accidents, tickets, or other problems.

Another key defensive driving skill is compromise. Give the most room to the greatest risk, or most likely danger. Don’t insist on your right of way even if the other driver is wrong. Courtesy is always the correct response, allow aggressive drivers to go on their way and out of your safe driving zone.

We have complete defensive driving and safety solutions for all your needs. Call (877) 640-6571 today to speak with one of our highly skilled safety experts.

Please join us next Friday for more safety and compliance tips!

  1. Next Post:
  2. Previous Post:

Get In Touch