Braking slowly and early, using turn signals, being mindful of your blind spots, and putting your phone away are all keys to avoiding accidents on the road.
Even if you follow all the rules and laws while driving, you’re always going to be faced with reckless drivers around you. Defensive driving can help you stay safe in tricky situations or adverse weather and road conditions.
So, get your insurance sorted and follow these 14 safe driving tips.
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1. Stay calm
Staying calm will allow you to assess any emergency scenario—like a collision in your lane or hazardous debris in the road—more quickly and effectively. Staying calm while driving also prevents you from overreacting to unexpected hazards and causing more damage.
2. Wear your seatbelt
One of the top rules for safety while driving is wearing a seatbelt. This should go without saying, but seatbelts keep you safe. Don’t neglect them, even for those short two-minute drives to the corner coffee shop.
If you’re worried about being able to get your seatbelt off quickly in case of an emergency, you can keep a seatbelt cutter and window breaker tool in the vehicle.
3. Stop at red lights
Keep an eye out ahead so that you’re always prepared to brake early and slowly at every red light. Speeding to make it through a yellow light could mean colliding with another oncoming vehicle.
And if the intersection has a red light camera, you could be surprised with a hefty ticket in the mail a few weeks down the line.
Don’t do it. Don’t worry—the green light will come again.
4. Scan the road ahead of you
A general rule is to scan 12–15 seconds ahead—though it could be as little as 1–2 blocks in the city and as much as ¼ mile if you’re on the highway.
The more you practice scanning the road far ahead of you, the more prepared you will be for unexpected braking or roadside hazards.
5. Brake early and slowly
6. Use your turn signals
Not only is using your turn signals polite, but it also prevents you from unintentionally side-swiping or cutting off other drivers.
If you’re planning to merge into another lane and fail to properly check your blind spots, using your turn signals can alert the driver in that lane to be cautious and slow down for you to merge, or alert you to stay in your own lane for the time being.
7. Be cautious of blind spots
8. Don’t tailgate—and respond appropriately to tailgaters
Tailgating (driving really closely to) cars in front of you only increases your chances of rear-ending someone—which could be fatal if you’re moving at a high speed. Keep a 3- to 5-second distance between you and the car in front of you.
If the car behind you is tailgating, be sure to still allow ample room between yourself and the car in front of you. Merge into another lane when it’s safe to do so and let the tailgater pass.
Key Takeaway Drive calmly and always be observant of the drivers and road around you. Leave space around your vehicle and other cars to avoid unexpected collisions.
9. Don’t drive under the influence
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will automatically guarantee less safe driving. Not to mention—a DUI on your driving record will significantly increase your car insurance rates.
What is a DUI?
10. Stay off your phone
Texting while drivingsignificantly impairs your judgment. You definitely shouldn’t be texting while driving—ever. Even phone calls should be kept to a minimum.
If you use your phone for music or navigation, be sure to get that set up before you start driving your car.
11. Drive a safe car—and use all the safety features
One of the best ways to ensure your driving safety is to buy a car with a high safety rating. Driving cars with more safety features, like airbags, decreases your likelihood of sustaining a serious injury in an accident.
Be sure that you’re operating your vehicle safely. Fasten things like car seats appropriately and never let people under the minimum weight sit in a seat with airbags.
12. Take care of your vehicle
Don’t go around driving with your "check engine" light on for months on end. Keep your oil full, windshields and windows clean, and take your car in for regular maintenance to keep it as safe as possible.
13. Use headlights appropriately
Always use your headlights when driving at nighttime. If you’re driving at night on a deserted or empty road, feel free to throw on your high beams for better visibility.
Of course, you’ll need to turn your high beams off as soon as other cars are around—they will decrease visibility for other drivers and increase the likelihood of an accident.
Key Takeaway Follow the law when driving. Take advantage of your car’s safety features, maintain your vehicle, and use your headlights appropriately to avoid causing a road hazard.
14. Never drive without insurance
driving without insuranceis illegal in most states. Even if you practice safe driving, make sure you have the auto insurance coverage you need in case you’re ever faced with an accident.
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What is the safest practice in driving?
How do I deal with unsafe drivers?
Stay cautious and practice defensive driving. If you are near a reckless driver, move into another lane and slow down. Let the driver pass so that you stay out of harm’s way.
If you observe an aggressively reckless driver, call 911 and report the driver to authorities.
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