Defensive Driving Rule Number One: Staying Alert

In this series of articles on defensive driving, we will cover a wide range of strategies to help you prevent auto accidents. As many as 9 out of 10 auto accidents can be prevented by effective defensive driving strategies. Developing your defensive driving skills and avoiding accidents will save you time and money. You will also evade all the related aggravation, frustration and pain an auto accident can cause.

Staying Alert is at the top of the list of defensive driving skills. Talking on the phone, texting, eating or any other activity that takes your attention away from the road makes you a distracted driver. Rule number one in defensive driving is to eliminate all of your distractions. Adjust your climate control and make any music or radio selections before you take your vehicle out of park. Avoid temptation by putting your phone away before you begin driving. There is no phone call or text message important enough to put your life in danger.

Do not eat while driving. Eat at home, at a restaurant or while pulled over on the side of the road. Even grabbing a quick bite at a drive through and eating in your car in the parking lot is a far better plan than eating while going down the road. You know you are going to be hungry if you are away from home for a long period of time, plan in advance.

Another key component of staying alert is being aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes on the road and check your mirrors often. Be aware of the vehicles surrounding you and their driver’s behavior. Never assume what another motorist may do. Many times, they will do the unexpected and you should be prepared to take evasive action. If a driver in front of you is applying their brakes too often and too sharply and/or tailgating the vehicle in front of them, keep two to three car lengths between you and their vehicle. This will give you adequate time to stop to prevent being involved in an accident should they rear end the vehicle in front of them. It will also prevent you from rear-ending them.

Motorists with bad driving skills will often change lanes frequently. Many times, they do not use their signals, they speed up or slow down and make a general hazard of themselves. Avoid these motorists. Slow down and change lanes to put maximum distance between you and them. If they do cause an accident, you want distance between your vehicle and theirs so that you can avoid the collision. If traffic is very heavy, the far-right lane is your best friend. Driving the speed limit and keeping your distance from the vehicle in front of you in the far-right lane will give you a great deal of maneuverability and time if an accident occurs. More importantly it gives you an out, as you can pull onto the shoulder of the road to avoid a collision.

Your rear view and side mirrors are an important weapon in your defensive driving arsenal. Be aware of the vehicles to your sides, as they can veer into your lane. The vehicle behind you can rear end you. If vehicles to your side are being erratic or the vehicle behind you is too close, pull into the right-hand lane and slow down. If you are already in the right-hand lane and going the speed limit, slow down gradually to five miles under the speed limit. The car to your left will move on. The tailgater behind you will get frustrated with your speed and pass you, taking you out of harm ways. If they are aggressive drivers and offer up a horn honk, a dirty look or ever an obscene gesture, it is worth it to avoid an accident.

Cross traffic can be just as hazardous. Never assume that another driver will stop when the light turns red or obey the stop sign. If you are the first or second vehicle stopped at a red light, be sure that cross traffic has completely stopped before you put your foot on the gas. This may get you a honk out of an anxious driver, but that is of no consequence when compared with upheaval you will experience if you are struck by another vehicle. Another variety of very dangerous drivers are those in a hurry attempting to make right and left hand turns into busy traffic. You have seen them, they “creep” forward a little at a time. Scan the left and right side of the road ahead of your path of travel for vehicle who are poised to turn into traffic. Keep a sharp eye on the vehicles that look like they may attempt to turn any second when you know they shouldn’t.

There is a lot going on when you are driving. Controlling your own vehicle, watching the vehicle ahead, beside and behind you takes your complete attention. I hope this article has helped you see how engaging in any distracting activity can contribute to an accident, even if technically the accident is not your fault. Auto accidents can destroy lives, so stay alert and drive safe.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, call Personal Injury Attorney Chelsie M. Lamie at 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie by visiting

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