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What is defensive driving?

Posted by Brad Ponder | Oct 08, 2020 | 0 Comments

Nearly 95% of car crashes are preventable with defensive driving, that's according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). If more people adhered to defensive driving tactics, we could significantly reduce America's annual 6,000,000 car crashes. But what is defensive driving, and how do we do it? Allow us to explain.

Defensive Driving Explained

Defensive driving means to avoid unnecessary driving risks while actively anticipating potential driving hazards. In practice, that means driving to the letter of the law and anticipating that drivers around you will always make the wrong decision.

Among other things, driving the speed limit (or the speed of traffic) may seem needlessly frustrating, but it's worth it. Even if you're going just 5 MPH over the speed limit, you're significantly more likely to be involved in a crash, especially when you're moving faster than the speed of traffic. The faster you're going relative to those around you, the less time you have to react if another driver makes a mistake.

Examples of Aggressive Driving

Speeding is just one example of aggressive driving. The fact is that most people indulge in some elements of aggressive driving whenever they get in the car. The following are a few examples of dangerous or aggressive driving described by OSHA.

  • Driving 10 MPH over the speed limit

  • Tailgating (driving too closely to another vehicle)

  • Passing in the slow lane

  • Merging without the use of signals

  • Running yellow lights

  • Preventing others from merging into your lane.

  • Waiting too long to merge into traffic

  • “Brake Checking”

  • Weaving in and out traffic, constantly changing lanes.

These are all examples of careless, if not reckless, driving. Moreover, these are exactly the kinds of hazards defensive drivers should be anticipating at all times. Any of these examples of aggressive driving significantly increases the risk of a crash.

Even if everyone drove with machine-like precision, perfectly following every rule of the road, defensive driving would still be important. We face hazards like potholes, bad weather, icy roads, animals standing on the highway, and other factors beyond our control. We need to be prepared to react to any of these dangers, not just those from the vehicles around us.

Defensive Driving Tips

Defensive driving is a mixture of preparation and mental focus. By following these tips, you can improve your defensive driving strategies and hopefully prevent a serious car crash.

Check the Weather

Before hitting the road make sure you check the weather forecast, especially in winter. Nobody wants to be caught off guard by icy roads or sharp winds that nearly force them into the other lane. Having an idea of the weather forecast tells you how much you should adjust your speed.

Keep Scanning

Always maintain awareness of your surroundings. Ideally, you want to look at all your mirrors about every 10 seconds. You don't want to start merging, only to realize there was someone cruising in your blind spot.

Give Them Space

Whether you're merging into a new lane or realize you're suddenly getting closer, you should always give other drivers a little extra space. A good rule of thumb at any speed is that you should be “2 Mississippis” away from their shadow. Similarly, whether you're merging in front of a car or a truck, you should be able to see the entire vehicle in your rear-view mirror before you try to merge.


It's not enough to anticipate other drivers' movements, you need to be focused on it. You need to fight the urge to think about what you're having for dinner or problems at work and instead focus on driving until you reach your destination. All the defensive driving strategies in the world don't matter if you become distracted and inadvertently contribute to a preventable car crash.

If you or someone you love were involved in a serious car crash, we can help. If you'd like an experienced Washington, DC accident lawyer from Ponder Legal Group to evaluate your case, please call our firm today at 888-201-0305  or contact us online for a free consultation.

About the Author

Brad Ponder

Brad specializes in complex litigation, including class actions and mass torts in both state and federal court. He represents consumer and business owners in a variety of lawsuits, including class actions and high-stakes litigation against major corporations. 


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