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The holiday season is undoubtedly a time of joy and celebration, but it also ushers in heightened risks on our nation's roads. With heavy traffic, adverse weather conditions and reduced daylight hours, the odds of accidents occurring rise significantly. To help ensure your safety on the road during this festive period, it's essential to adopt defensive driving techniques.

Defensive driving is about using your skills and knowledge to protect yourself against the unsafe acts of other drivers and against extreme weather and ever-changing roadway conditions. It means using the following four-step process whenever you are behind the wheel: (1) Observe roadway situations; (2) Recognize potential hazards; (3) Decide on the appropriate response(s), and; (4) Carry out the response(s).


Size up the entire traffic picture. Keep your eyes moving, observe weather and roadway conditions and look well beyond the vehicle(s) immediately in front of you. Focus ahead a minimum distance of 12 seconds in city driving and 20 seconds on the highway. Also, scan your mirrors frequently—every five to ten seconds—and make a mental note of the actions of other vehicles around you. This will allow you time to prepare for hazards rather than simply react to them. Also, don’t allow yourself to become distracted…after all, you can’t practice good defensive driving if you’re distracted.


Think about what may happen as far ahead of encountering a situation as possible. Don’t assume that a condition will have passed before you reach it. Train yourself to use a “what if” method. By doing so, you can anticipate the actions of other road users and adjust your own driving to avoid hazardous situations that might be developing.


These “what if” scenarios should result in a choice of actions and include a planned escape route out of a situation. It’s important to know your limitations, as well as those of your vehicle, in order to choose the best possible response. By continuously evaluating your position in traffic, you can develop a plan that gives you visibility, stopping room and enough operating space to make a safe decision.


Action is the final step of defensive driving, where you put your observation, recognition, and decision making into practice. Importantly, once you’ve recognized a hazard and decided upon an appropriate response (e.g., braking, accelerating, steering, or a combination of maneuvers), act immediately. The sooner you act, the more time and space you will have to avoid an accident.

An Ongoing Process

You don’t have to have lightning-fast reflexes or unusual mental and physical abilities to be an effective defensive driver. Defensive driving is simply an ongoing process of using your skills of observation and anticipating the likely outcome of traffic situations to avoid an accident. As you navigate the busiest traffic season of the year, remember to apply these defensive driving principles to help ensure a safe and joyful holiday season.

Article provided by Lancer insurance co.


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