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Defensive Driving

Defensive driving explained

While today’s vehicles are designed to keep their occupants safer than ever, there are distractions and challenges such as cell phones, navigation systems and digital entertainment systems that decrease a drivers ability to concentrate. To help prepare you for whatever driving may present, here are some tips regarding defensive driving.

Aggressive driving includes

  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Following too closely
  • Erratic or unsafe lane changes
  • Cutting off another vehicle
  • Slamming on brakes in front of a tailgater
  • Improper gestures at other drivers
  • Yelling
  • Repeatedly hooting
  • Repeatedly flashing headlights
  • Failing to obey stop signs, yield signs, traffic signals, railroad grade cross signals and other traffic controls.

A few ideas to consider if you encounter an aggressive motorist

  • Avoid the driver and do not retaliate. Just get out of the way and let him put distance between you.
  • Keep your car locked and your windows up
  • Keep enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you in order to take evasive action if needed.
  • Never underestimate the other driver’s potential for hostility.

At night, the road looks different from during the day. Visibility can be reduced, as is the typical driver’s depth perception, peripheral vision and colour recognition. Visibility is only part of the story as driver fatigue, drowsiness and possible alcohol abuse all play roles in making night-driving hazardous.

To help diminish the risks

  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Make sure your headlights work and are clean and visible.
  • Keep the windshield and windows clear.
  • Have your headlights properly aimed.
  • Reduce speed and increase the distance to the car in front of you.
  • Use headlights from dusk until dawn and even in daytime to increase your visibility.
  • Dim high-beams when approaching oncoming traffic or within 100 metres behind another vehicle.
  • Other than dashboard lights, avoid using illumination inside your car as this reduces your external vision.
  • If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible. Call or wait for assistance.

Remember dusk and dawn are difficult times to drive as your eyes constantly adjust to the changing light conditions.

Drowsiness and fatigue can impair drivers in much the same way as drugs and alcohol

Reaction times slow and judgment becomes poor and, as is the case with drugs or alcohol, the results can be fatal. While it seems like common sense, many accidents can be avoided if people just pay attention to these symptoms:

  • Yawning
  • Dry eyes, blurred vision or closing eyes
  • Lane drifting
  • Lack of mental focus
  • Impatience
  • Head nodding

If you experience these symptoms, don’t rely on stimulants such as caffeine to remedy the situation. Just get off the road, and find a safe place to get the rest you need. If you know you will be on the road for many hours, these are some of the simple strategies you can employ to help avoid driver fatigue:

  • Share the driving.
  • Stop every few hours to stretch and get a bite to eat.
  • Keep the car’s interior cool.
  • Practice good posture behind the wheel, which helps keep you alert.

We’ve all seen them behind the wheel: The teen with a car full of friends blasting his car stereo . . . or the mother refereeing a back seat battle between her kids … or the businessman talking on his phone and taking notes . . . or the woman putting on makeup.

“I only looked away for a second.” One has to wonder how many accident reports started with that sentence. Crashes can be caused by seemingly harmless actions, such as tuning the radio and they are completely avoidable. To help avoid unnecessary distraction, try to steer clear of the following actions while driving:

  • Talking on the cell phone or SMS/text messaging
  • Tuning the radio
  • Searching the glove compartment
  • Breaking up fights between your kids
  • Combing or brushing your hair
  • Putting on makeup
  • Using electric razors
  • Reading or writing
  • Putting in contact lenses or eye drops

If you have children in the car? Bring books, toys or activities such as colouring or puzzle books that they can use to entertain themselves while the driver focuses on the road.