Defensive Driving

Like many things, driving could be compared to a game of chess. This analogy may not seem obvious at first, but especially when applied to defensive driving, driving and chess are not too different.

Defensive driving is a term that many people have not heard before, yet it something that many people engage in everyday. The National Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course defines defensive driving as “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.” As stated previously, many people engage in this everyday. When you drive you try to avoid collisions, thus saving lives, and also reach your destination quickly, saving time. Despite the fact that defensive driving is common, there are many techniques that can be used while driving to drive more defensively, and thus save time and lives.

Driversed.com lists these generic driving tips:

  • Plan ahead for the unexpected.
  • Be able to control speed
  • Be Prepared to react to other drivers
  • Do not expect the other driver to do what you think he or she should do
  • Respect other users of the roadway.
  • Be aware of driving in special road and weather conditions
  • Be alert and avoid distractions, e.g., cell phone use, eating.

Read more here: (driversed.com)

These tips while helpful, also leave much to be desired. Several questions come to my mind as I read this list. How do I plan ahead for the unexpected? How do I become prepared to react to other drivers? How do I respect others use of the roadway? How can I plan for something unexpected, if I literally do not know what will happen? How do I follow these guidelines? Thankfully, there is an answer to all of these questions, and one way to follow these guidelines many people already do. The easiest way to follow all of these guidelines is to look ahead. Not just straight ahead in your own lane, but actually look ahead of you. Look for cars about turn in front of you or that are about to merge into your lane. Scan all lanes, looking not only for cars but pedestrians about to cross the street in front of you. Making sure you look ahead, and all around where you will be, will help you follow most of these guidelines naturally. For example, if you scan ahead you can see what will be happening in the roadway, meaning that you can plan ahead for events and be prepared to act.. You can see cars braking and now how to control your speed, you can see cars merging and slow to let them in, helping you respect them. If you are scanning, you will not be eating or looking at your phone either, because both of these actions keep you from scanning the road ahead of you.

An excellent representation of what I am trying to describe comes from floridabicycle.org (view article here). When you are driving you need to pay special attention to scanning zone 3, accurately labeled “Inattentional Blindness Zone” on the chart.


By now, you are probably wondering why I brought up chess at the beginning of the article. Chess can be used as a great example of defensive driving. An inexperienced chess player will not “look” into the future. They will only consider their possible moves this turn, and not how the other player will respond or what the other player is currently doing. This is similar to how a less experienced driver will act. They will look only at what they can do and look mainly in their own lane, without considering the actions of the other drivers around them. On the other hand, an experienced chess player will anticipate what moves his opponent will make and act accordingly. In a similar fashion, a defensive driver will look ahead and around at all other drivers, pedestrians, and obstacles. This will let the driver anticipate potential hazards and act accordingly, allowing them to avoid many problems and potential collisions.
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