What Is Defensive Driving?
Defensive driving is when you operate a motor vehicle with the ability to save lives and avoid accidents. Reducing the risk of dangerous situations on the road increases the safety of yourself and those of your passengers. It literally means defending everyone in your vehicle from the reckless actions of others and from possible collisions. Additional benefits are saving time and money. Safer drivers can save money on fuel, get lower insurance rate,avoid traffic tickets.
That term is getting more and more popular nowadays due to the growing number of distractions we face behind the wheel. Back in the days might have been much easier because we did not have technology at the palm of our hand. Billboards were less and the number of drivers was smaller. Cars were stick shift and noisier, requiring more attention to operate them. In addition to that, there were no airbags which forced us to be more careful and aware of the surroundings.
However, times change and humanity moves forward. We are exposed to more and more distractions which lead to higher number of injuries and death caused by driving. According to a CDC report, 1.35 million people are killed in road accidents around the world every year. That’s 3,700 deaths per day. Imagine and those who are permanently disabled. Ironically, the number is higher than the death toll from the current Coronavirus pandemic. Regardless of that fact, no one will shut the world so we can stay safe and healthy. The only way we can protect ourselves is to be more careful while we are driving.
Who Needs Defensive Driving Skills?
Anyone who drives needs defensive driving skills. I like to say that anyone who is near or on the road needs to be educated on that as well. Pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, runners, moms, workers, deliveries- everyone is at risk. Driving is a complex process involving diverse crowd. Only when we look after each other, we will manage to stay alive on the road.
Not to go off topic, we will discuss the drivers’ responsibility here.
7 Defensive Driving Techniques
I will approach these defensive driving techniques a bit differently. To get to those skills, we must think outside the box and look at the big the picture. The way to do that is to start before driving a car. Ride a bicycle or motorcycle, jog run and even walk first. When crossing the streets try to understand what the driver could have done better to avoid an accident or unpleasant interaction with you. Be online driver on Xbox and Play Station and analyze why did you crash and what you could have done to avoid that.
Me personally, I increased my awareness on the road when i started riding a motorcycle. Every single day, someone was like trying to kill me. When you interact like that, you will become a better person behind the wheel. Also my current business requires special attention to detail because clients trust us with their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Again, it all starts before you get into your car. Here are Chief Chicago Limo’s 7 defensive driving tips. We chose 7 because we believe that’s a lucky number.
- Know And Check Your Vehicle Before You Start Driving. I like to say know your car better than your wife or spouse who are less likely to kill you. Sometimes we drive different cars for work or when we rent them. For example, in our company, chauffeurs drive different cars according to the clients requests. If that’s the case, be familiar with all your dashboard and switches, memorize radio stations and know exactly your A/C buttons. You should be able to reach to these without taking your eyes off the road. Inspect your tires and light signals before each trip. Look for window cracks and body damage. Make sure you have no mechanical issues and all fluids are up to the necessary levels. For visibility purposes always keep your car clean and adjust your seats and mirrors. Buckle up and start your car. Try your brakes, steering wheel and quickly feel how your car sounds and behaves. Now hit the road.
- Follow The Rules Of The Road. I need to mention that part hear although most drivers have passed a driving test and exam and are supposed to know them. However, my experience as a chauffeur tells me that knowledge and application of it are two different things. We, as limo drivers, see so many undetected by law enforcement moving violations every day. That makes me think we need to refresh some things. Know the street signs and obey them. Follow the speed limit. Never execute illegal U-turns. Give turn signals and break early and slowly. Keep enough distance from the car in front of you. Cutting corners increases the risks on the road. All these things will help you react better in case of emergency and notify the others about your intentions.
- Stay Focused. Keep your two hands on the wheel and eyes and ears wide open. Don’t let anything distracts you from your task on the road. DO NOT drive under influence. Drugs and alcohol can kill you or someone else. Get a parking ticket, spend $100 on a cab or limo or leave your car to be towed. Save a life instead. Texting and driving can kill you or someone else. Put your phone away or plug in your GPS destination before your turn on the car. You can talk to your passengers without looking at them. Avoid loud music. We do not smoke in our limousines, but when i was a kid i remember how my mom used to light a cigarette for my dad while he was driving. Even the smallest distraction can be fatal. Do not drive when you are tired or right after you woke up.
- Constantly Scan Your Surroundings. Scan it with your eyes and ears. We, at Chief Chicago Limo, constantly teach our chauffeurs to continuously check their mirrors and their surroundings to spot potential hazards. I have different way to do a quick scan in a sedan and SUV. Experience and knowing the your blind spots will help you develop your own strategy. For less than 2 seconds you will be able to scan and read a whole block. Law enforcement officers are very good at that. It all comes with practice, practice, practice. Check for change in weather conditions,potholes in the road and construction sites. Pay close attention to big vehicles- trucks, buses, etc. I know we cannot see and prevent everything, but you should never have an accident because ” they came from nowhere” or you “did not see it coming”.
- Predict The Future. After you scan your surroundings, you have to process the information and try to analyze the situation. Most of the data will probably go to waste, but some of it will help you stay safe. Expect other drivers to make mistakes and do not depend on them. Soon you will get to a point where you will be able to predict what the other motor vehicle is about to do. On your first scan, you might see a driver who is more to the left of the lane. You will be now aware that he/she may come even closer to you when you are driving by. Carefully position yourself so you avoid a collision. Under a different scenario you might hear a loud sound from a bike exhaust. That will put you on the alert to look where the bike is. If you see a swerving vehicle, slow down, keep distance or even stop.
- Stay Calm And Take Proper Action. Whatever happens, do not panic. Don’t rush either. If you are in doubt at intersection, yield and let the other driver or pedestrian go first. Better arrive late, but stay alive. Also, don’t let road rage gets to you. It always starts with one crazy guy behind the wheel but it’s contagious. If someone cut you off, let it be. Cool off. According to GEICO, more than half of the fatal crashes over the last 5 years are caused by road rage. On top of that, there are many cases of road rage which led to murders. Have an emergency action plan for sudden weather changes. I was driving with 65 miles p/h in rain this late January and the weather was 48F. As soon as i entered Missouri, temperature dropped to 14F and black ice got me, seeing trucks in the ditches and cars swerving right in front of me. I took a deep breath and started doing my pilot’s check-1 check, 2 check, 3 check, 4 check, etc. I slowed down and avoided the swerving vehicle, came to a full safe stop, turned the 4×4 on moved to the closest gas station at 20 miles p/h.
- Analyze Your Driving. Once you have reached your destination, quickly replay all your driving. See what happened, what you could have done better and differently. It’s like giving yourself a grade. Try to memorize all the mistakes the other drivers did. Most of them you will face again, but by another driver tomorrow. That will also help you improve yourself and prep you better for the hazards on the road.
How To Become A Safer Driver
There are a few ways to learn the defense driving techniques. One thing is for sure- the earlier you start, the better. First, younger people learn quicker and secondly, do it before you develop unsafe driving techniques. It’s very hard to break a habit.
One of the ways is to search for defensive driving course around you or online. They are not expensive and usually range from a few hours to a couple of days. Look for those approved by your state and courts. Some big insurance companies also offer these bundled with insurance discounts.
Another way to do it is through experience and by yourself. Follow our tips above, discuss situations with your friends and family. Parents play a great role in that because they spend your first driving hours and days with you. Hopefully they are not crazy drivers ;). Read things online and try to apply them when you are behind the wheel. Watch videos on YouTube or read and participate in blogs.
About Chief Chicago Limo
Chief Chicago Limo is a top rated limousine and service company. We provide reliable and budget-friendly airport limo service in Chicago. Our O’Hare Midway limo service has no match and our chauffeurs go to every suburb in IL. If you need a long distance limo service, we will drive you thousands of miles as long as your trip starts or ends in Chicago. Our fleet is always up-to-date and our chauffeurs are some of the best in the industry.
The safety of our clients and limo drivers is very important to us. Hopefully we have helped you realize why defensive driving is so important. We have one request though. Once you realize the benefits of it, it’s your duty to teach another person. This way, the safer drivers will become more and more and hopefully we bring the bad statistics down.