What is Defensive Driving?
Defensive Driving is essentially driving in a manner that utilizes safe driving strategies to enables motorists to address identified hazards in a predictable manner. These strategies go well beyond instruction on basic traffic laws and procedures.
With defensive driving classes, students learn to improve their driving skills by reducing their driving risks by anticipating situations and making safe well-informed decisions. Such decisions are implemented based on road and environmental conditions present when completing a safe driving maneuver.
Benefits of Defensive Driving
The benefits of taking a defensive driving class vary with each state, but often include a reduction of points on your driver’s license following a ticket and the assurance that insurance rates will not increase. In some states, taking a defensive driving course can mean a reduction of up to 10% in your insurance rates for a period of three to five years.
Just as the benefits of defensive driving classes vary with each state, so do the requirements. While most basic defensive driving classes are four hours long, some can be as long as six or eight hours.
In some states, students have the option to take defensive driving courses online or by watching a video tape or DVD, while other states only allow students to take defensive driving in a classroom setting.
What’s Included in a Basic Defensive Driving Course
The contents of a defensive driving course are regulated by each state and are designed to train you based on the laws of your state. However, most defensive driving classes contain similar information.
The sections below provide a basic outline of the information that is typically covered in defensive driving courses.
Losses from traffic crashes have both social and personal impacts. Approximately 41,000 die annually as a result of traffic collisions, with an additional 3,236,000 injuries. About 38% of all fatal car crashes are alcohol related with another 30% attributed to speeding.
The causes of these crashes, emotional impact and cost in dollars spent on car crashes are typically covered in defensive driving courses. The goal of good defensive driving is to reduce the risk of these accidents by properly educating students to exercise caution and good judgment while driving.
On the roadways, drivers have to deal with several factors that can affect their driving. Though some of them are beyond the control of the driver, psychological factors can be controlled by the driver if he knows what to look for and how to handle it.
Defensive driving courses tend to focus on how drivers can overcome negative psychological factors such as unneeded stress, fatigue, emotional distress and road rage. They also offer instructions for developing a positive attitude behind the wheel and increasing your focus on the driving task.
Human Factors – DUI
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol continues to impact thousands of American drivers each year. While the specific effect of each drug on your body takes place in differing stages, the effect of drivers operating a vehicle while under the influence is disastrous.
A very common component of all defensive driving courses is education about the role that drugs and alcohol play on America's roadways. Topics tend to include the state’s limits as to blood-alcohol level, how your judgment, inhibitions, motor skills and senses are affected by drugs and alcohol and the consequences of being found guilty of driving under the influence.
The Dynamics of a Crash
Vehicle crashes are almost always a preventable result of a series of events. The combination of speed, place of impact and size of object being impacted can determine the severity of the crash. In every accident, however, the act of one vehicle hitting another vehicle or other object is not the only collision that can occur.
The concept of the second collision, in which the driver and other passengers collides with the windshield, seat or other object within the car when not wearing a seat belt can be just as dangerous as the initial collision.
Defensive driving courses address the issue of vehicle crashes and second collisions by listing the elements of a crash and illustrating how the forces of impact can be avoided or limited.
Approximately half of all deaths that are result of an automobile crash could have been avoided if the victim were wearing a safety belt properly. Of course safety belts are only the most commonly thought of vehicle safety equipment. Items such as air bags, child safety seats and head rests all serve to protect drivers and passengers and reduce the risk of injury or death in the event of a crash.
Defensive driving courses offer tips on how to use these devices properly and ensure your safety when traveling the roadways.
Crash Prevention Techniques
The key to any good defensive driving strategy is knowing how to avoid traffic crashes and recognize potential hazards before it’s too late. That’s why defensive driving courses tend to present a lot of information on crash prevention techniques.
In a typical defensive driving course, students learn crucial crash prevention techniques that include:
- Scanning the roadway and adapting to surroundings
- Employing the two-second rule for following distances
- Knowing your vehicle’s stopping distance
- Being aware of reaction distance
- Environment hazards
- Vehicle emergencies
- Sharing the road
- Passing and necessary clear distance
- Right of way
- Speed adjustments and railroad crossings
State Traffic Laws
The final portion of many state defensive driving curriculum requirements is state-specific traffic laws. While for many students this portion serves as a mere refresher course, state traffic laws are not always known by all students.
And especially in states were defensive driving courses are taken as a result of receiving a speeding ticket or other traffic violation, relearning these traffic laws can help turn a traffic offender into a good defensive driver.
If you are looking for an online defensive driving course in your state, choose from the list of courses below:
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This article was written by SafeMotorist.com defensive driving staff writers and reviewed for accuracy by defensive driving instructors. All articles are based on current traffic laws and defensive driving practices. This article is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as legal advice or literal interpretation of any specific traffic law.