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Defensive driving: Techniques to become a safer driver

Defensive driving helps to avoid accidents and mishaps with your car. Defensive driving does not mean that you are constantly on the brakes and are a rolling obstacle in traffic. In this article, we will discuss what is defensive driving and techniques you should follow to become a safer driver.

defensive driving techniques

What is defensive driving?

Defensive driving is answered incorrectly in over 30% of all cases. This is reason enough for us to take a closer look at this question. Defensive driving means drive carefully and anticipate dangers at the early stage. Also, leaving your own right of way when necessary for the safety.

However, it does not mean that you always waive your own rights. An example to explain: If you as a motorist drive to an intersection and have the right of way, defensive driving means that you pay attention to whether the other motorists give you their right of way.

So, if you drive off without paying attention to what others are doing, this is considered offensive. On the other hand, you start driving with paying attention to what the other drivers are doing, then this is considered defensive driving.

Defensive driving techniques

In official theoretical driving tests, you are often led up the garden path by asking if defensive driving means that you generally give up your right of way. This is clearly not considered defensive driving and is therefore wrong. Giving up your right of way only makes sense if there is a dangerous situation, so you can avoid an accident.

But just by following a few rules, you can increase driving safety for yourself and for other motorists.

Drive with foresight

No one can be clairvoyant. But with a little experience, you can assess traffic situations, and you can anticipate upcoming situations. Do you see children on the side of the road? Then drive especially carefully. Do you see a cyclist on the right-hand side of the road, just a few meters from an intersection? Anticipate that he may be crossing the roadway to make a turn. Of course, in such a case, the cyclist is behaving incorrectly. But by defensive driving techniques with foresight, you protect his life and yours as well.

Thinking for others

This is also part of anticipatory driving: help other drivers think for them. This means you can anticipate upcoming situations more quickly if, for example, you anticipate that a non-local driver may be slowing down or turning quickly because they are looking for the right road.

Use turn signals

Use your turn signal when changing lanes or turning. This will help others correctly assess the traffic situation and avoid accidents.

stay predictable with turn signal

Read our another guide to check Oil Level in car and top up oil.

Keep an eye on the traffic

Looking in the rearview mirror is just as important as looking ahead. Keep an eye on the traffic behind you. Also, important: the good old shoulder view when turning and changing lanes. Even if the current rearview mirrors have almost no blind spots, there should be time to look over your shoulder. It greatly reduces the risk of overlooking something.

Stay predictable

Help other drivers by staying predictable yourself. This includes signaling as well as avoiding abrupt braking or other hectic driving techniques. Of course, exceptions are emergency situations in which you must brake or swerve.

Make sure you have a clear view

In winter, clearing snow and ice from your car is a must. But in other seasons, you should also make sure that you always have a clear view in your car. This includes cleaning the windows regularly and keeping the headlights clean. The best way to do this is in a car wash.

make sure clear headlines

Defensive driving: Keep your distance

One of the most common offenses when driving is not keeping a safe distance from the car in front. If you drive too close, you endanger yourself and the car in front of you.

You can make sure you don’t tailgate by using two rules of thumb:

  1. You must be able to say “twenty-one, twenty-two” at a normal speaking pace before you pass an imaginary point that your car in front has just passed.
  2. The distance to the vehicle in front should be at least half the speed you are traveling. Popularly known as “half the speedometer distance”. So if you are driving 100, there should be 50 meters between you and the car in front. This corresponds, for example, to the distance between two boundary posts on country roads.

Bear in mind that you:

  • at 100 km/h, you travel almost 28 meters per second,
  • at 130 km/h, the distance is 36 meters,
  • and at 180 km/h, 50 meters whiz past you.

By the way, the reaction time of a healthy person is just over half a second. This means that in the case of full braking from 100 km/h, at least 14 meters are covered before your foot hits the brake. Depending on the car model and the driver’s skills, the braking distance is around 40 meters.

In view of these figures, there is no harm in increasing the distance to the car in front above the minimum permitted.

Watching out for the car in front

If you pass an accident on the highway and police and emergency services are already there, pay particular attention to the road and the car in front of you. You can read our another article on car jerking when accelerating.

Consciously not looking

Deliberately refrain from looking at the accident. Pay attention to the brake lights of the car in front. This is because there is a very high probability of taking a good look at the accident. And if you do the same and the car in front brakes, you have produced a rear-end collision.

If you observe the accident and there are no emergency personnel on the scene yet, you are legally obligated to help.

Defensive driving: Form emergency lane

Remember that you must also form an emergency lane on your side of the road when traffic is already backed up. Since 2017, this has been regulated in such a way that, in principle, the vehicle in the far left lane drives to the left. All other vehicles in the other lanes move to the right. Therefore, the emergency lane is formed between the leftmost lane and the lane immediately to the right.

Overtaking a bicycle at a distance

The Road Traffic Act stipulates that you must overtake cyclists at a sufficient distance. However, overtaking the whole car in the opposite lane is not allowed. Do it anyway when overtaking a bike at high speed on a country road.

Because if you are overtaken as a cyclist at a distance of one meter at 100 km/h, you may become frightened. The draught created in the process can even cause you to yank your handlebars and get even closer to the car traffic.

Also, keep in mind that a cyclist is exposed to the wind. Gusty crosswinds can easily push a cyclist half a meter to the left toward the center of the road. In addition, road cyclists occasionally have to dodge small stones or potholes. They are dependent on the consideration of motorists.

In the event of an accident, the cyclist is generally weaker. While your car at most gets a scratch or a dent if you touch a cyclist on the side, the cyclist cannot protect himself with a sheet metal body. The result: bone bruising and other serious, sometimes life-threatening injuries.

Therefore: Please be considerate of cyclists. And if it is ever too tight to overtake, take the 20 seconds, brake briefly and overtake only when there is sufficient space.

Mutual consideration on defensive driving

Car drivers should

  • Overtake briskly so that the truck also has opportunities to pass slower road users. If you force the truck to brake, it takes a long time to get back up to speed and slows down traffic.
  • Also, let a truck pull out once so that it can overtake quickly at a spot that is convenient for it. But that doesn’t mean suddenly pulling out of the center lane into the passing lane because a truck is flashing its lights. Remember that such maneuvers can cause serious accidents.
  • Do not overtake a truck just before an overtaking ban or a bottleneck and then pull back into the lane very close to it. A truck cannot brake as quickly as a car.
  • Dim the lights earlier before crests. Truck drivers sit higher and are more easily dazzled.
  • Think when parking. Incorrect parking not only blocks the truck also the fire truck and the ambulance.

Truck drivers should

  • Observe speed limits. This is especially true in poor visibility and inclement weather.
  • Keep your distance. Unsafe drivers easily panic when a truck is following too closely. You may also provoke sudden braking by the vehicle in front.
  • Don’t pull out suddenly. A sudden lane change can put drivers in a bind.
  • Take breaks. An overtired truck driver puts himself and others in danger.

Be especially considerate in winter: Remove ice sheets and snow from roofs and tarpaulins put on snow chains in good time.

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