10 Commandments for Safe, Defensive Driving
1) When driving, look as far ahead as possible while keeping your eyes moving.
DO NOT STARE AT THE CAR IN FRONT OF YOU! (Sorry, didn’t mean to yell!)
2) Make sure other people know that you exist.
DO NOT drive in the blind spot of another vehicle. Look for eye contact – people don’t hit things that they see. If you don’t have eye contact, then be prepared to honk if necessary. This includes distracted pedestrians.
3) Have an escape route at all times.
Do not leave yourself boxed in between vehicles with no free space anywhere. If nothing else, keep free space in front of you as that is the only area that you can actually control. This is your extra space to move into in case of emergencies or anything ‘unexpected’.
4) Keep track of what is going on around you (360 degrees) at all times.
The way to do this is to keep your eyes moving, including mirror checking. This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s ridiculously easy once you practice. Is there a space beside you on your left? Is there a truck beside you? Where are the cars, where are the chunks of space? Keep track of this all the time.
5) Be predictable: do what you say you’re going to do.
If you’re in a left-turning lane, then turn left. If you have a right signal on, then, turn right. Do not change your mind at the last second. Do not be unpredictable. Think of everything from the other driver’s point of view. Where do the people around you THINK you’re going to go? You should probably go there. Use signals early. Do not signal at the last second.
6) Be patient: in life, we must share the road (unless you own your own road; in which case, can I be your friend?).
All types of people are driving on the road, including new and inexperienced drivers, older drivers, and everything in between. We are not mechanical robots; we are humans, and humans make mistakes. Always leave room for errors. Yours, mine, someone else’s. Don’t expect perfection from other drivers. A lot of them are probably doing their best. If someone makes a mistake, it is not personal. You have no idea what is going on in their mind or in their life so do not make judgments.
7) If someone makes a mistake, get over it.
Did someone cut you off, or is driving 40 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone? This is no good reason to have a heart attack. Stress is not good for us. Take a deep breath. Driving is a privilege. We’re advantaged to live in a part of the world where we can afford private cars. Have some perspective and count your blessings. Similarly, if someone extends a courtesy, always acknowledge it.
8) Keep your distance: probably one of the most dangerous driving habits is to not keep a proper following distance.
For ideal conditions, you should have at least a 2 second following distance. Personally, I think this is almost too close and I would recommend 3 seconds. You should have at least 3-4 seconds if you are driving faster (i.e. on the freeway). There is no such thing as having “too much space.” You can still have a big space AND go the same speed as the traffic. There is absolutely no reason to drive so close to the car in front of you (unless you want to rear-end it).
9) Anticipate the movements of others.
Be an active driver, not a passive one. If a car is in a merging lane, but doesn’t have a signal on, well, it’s probably going to merge anyway. Leave it some room or at least time it so you are not in the blind spot or right beside the vehicle. Look ahead and be an active driver: figure out what is going to happen “up there” and make adjustments to speed and road positioning BEFORE it happens, rather than being a passive driver (minding your own business, waiting for things to happen, and THEN reacting to them). You should never be surprised by things while driving; you should be anticipating them way before they happen. Drivers are somewhat predictable. Most people don’t want to wait behind a left-turning vehicle. Most people don’t want to be stuck behind a slow-moving bus.
10) Have fun. Driving is supposed to be fun. There is nothing quite like driving!
Many moons ago, Carmen became an ICBC-approved driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, and has spent many years working with new and experienced drivers around the lower mainland. She can be found reading the Motor Vehicle Act for fun while receiving strange looks from others. May the quest for great driving continue!
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