Defensive Driving – Rule Number Three: Habits You Must Break

At the same time you are acquiring defensive driving skills, you must break bad habits to round out your skill set.

Do not turn left or right across stopped oncoming traffic.

Try to avoid attempting to turn right or left across multiple lanes of stopped traffic. It happens all the time. You need to make a left or right hand turn but the traffic is heavy. Motorist stop and start waving you across. This is a very dangerous situation. It doesn’t matter how clear it looks, it is dangerous and it gives other motorist too much opportunity to hit you. If an accident occurs while you are making such a turn, you may be found at fault. Be patient. If you need to turn left, take a right and make a U-Turn at the next red light. If you need to turn right, wait until you can turn right into the far right (closest lane). Do not aggressively try to enter the roadway. Use an alternative exit. Occasionally you will get stuck. Traffic is heavy, you are at the end of a road with no way to turn around or there are no other exits to take. You must wait to make a right hand turn into an open space in traffic into the far right hand lane.

Course correcting on the fly.

Occasionally our attention does drift and we find we are about to miss our turn. Other times we are traveling to a destination we have never been to and suddenly realize we need to make a turn. However you end up in this situation, the answer is not to suddenly change lanes, trying to thread your way through traffic to make the turn. Instead pass the turn, make a U-Turn at the next light and travel back to your destination. It can add 5 or10 minutes to your travel time, but that is of very little consequence compared to causing an accident.

Observe traffic signs and laws.

We all get so comfortable driving that we often ignore traffic laws and signs. The most commonly ignored traffic law is crossing over a solid line to change lanes or get around traffic.

Accelerate and decelerate at a slow steady pace.

This is the heart of true defensive driving, giving other drivers ample opportunity to anticipate what you are going to do so they can avoid a collision with you. If you accelerate slowly, maintain steady speeds while driving and brake slowly, everyone around you has a lot of options to avoid hitting you. If you see a red light up ahead, take your foot off the gas, as you approach, slowly apply the brakes. The person behind you, even if they are distracted, will hopefully eventually notice that you are slowing down. You also get the wonderful side effect of better gas efficiency and minimize the wear and tear on your vehicle.

Change lanes only when there is very little risk.

Plan your turns well in advance and change lanes slowly and methodically well ahead of time. Utilize your turn signal a full three to five seconds before you attempt to change lanes. Use your rearview mirrors and wait for a completely clear space to navigate to. This includes behind you and in front of you. Just before you make the lane change physically turn your head and check your blind spots to ensure the lane is actually clear. Change lanes maintaining a constant speed. Do not break after changing lanes. If you have to apply your brakes after a lane change, you didn’t ensure the path in front of you was clear. Be patient and consistent.

Make safe turns.

Avoid making a left-hand turn across heavy traffic. Always proceed to the next red light and make a U-turn so you can make a right hand turn into your destination. When making a right-hand turn, signal five to ten second before you plan to begin to break, brake slowly and then make your right-hand turn. If a road is particularly dangerous. Consider traveling down a safer parallel road. Choose a road to travel back to the more dangerous road. Then turn onto the more dangerous road at a point where you can make a right hand turn into your destination.

Defensive driving may seem tedious, but as you acquire and practice these skills, they will become second nature. It will take a lot of the aggravation out of driving and you will find your commutes and travel to be much more pleasant.

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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