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Although defensive driving is linked with safe driving practices, it requires a slightly different approach.
Defensive driving means always trying to anticipate what may happen next, and being prepared to take action to avoid danger. To successfully do this, you must be constantly surveying what is happening on the road, and planning ahead.
Incorporating these defensive driving tips into your everyday habits will make your day safer.
- Plan an escape route in case an emergency situation arises. To effectively do this, you must continually be cognizant of the space around you.
- Attempt to always keep a safe distance from the vehicles around you.
- Scan the path ahead of you at least 12-15 seconds. Don't just lock in on the space immediately ahead of your vehicle.
- Check every direction before crossing an intersection, even when you have the right-of-way.
- Exercise increased caution anytime you have a limited field of vision, such as when approaching the top of a hill.
- Be aware of school buses, ice cream trucks, mail trucks, and delivery trucks. Each represents an increased chance that someone may be leaving or entering a vehicle, and possibly creating a safety hazard.
- Be especially vigilant in construction zones and around emergency scenes, as other drivers may be distracted and not properly focused on their driving in these areas.
- Slow down when around erratic or careless drivers, as they increase the likelihood that an accident will happen.
- Cover the brakes and be extra alert in areas such as shopping centers, school zones, toll plazas, playgrounds, and intersections.
- Automatically reduce speed when conditions require it, such as when driving in rain, snow, fog, or on icy roads. Be proactive, and realize that it's not safe to drive at the posted speed limit in all situations.
- Be especially watchful when around parked cars, as someone could dash out from between the cars. Also, drivers may be opening a car door, or trying to pull out of a parking space directly into your line of travel.
- Exercise increased caution when driving on roads that are very wet or slushy as other motorists could splash your windshield, leaving you unable to see for an instant.
- Be wary of drivers with out-of-state plates or rental cars, as well as drivers who have a map out or their interior lights on. All point to drivers who may not be familiar with the area, and thus may be confused or distracted. This is especially relevant in parts of Oregon that receive a lot of tourists.
- Look out for drivers backing into the road from a driveway or parking lot, as these drivers may have a limited field of vision.
- Watch out for slippery conditions during the first several minutes after it begins to rain, as the rain will mix with the oily residue on the road surface.
- Anticipate the worst moves that drivers around you could make, and know how to safely react to each move.
- Strive to keep your vehicle as visible as possible to other drivers, and whenever you can, stay out of other driver's blind spots.
- Keep a secure distance, whenever possible, behind trucks with cargo that could easily spill onto the road. These vehicles could send debris flying into your line of travel, or into the path of those around you.
- Stay well behind a vehicle with an accumulation of snow on its roof, as this situation can create instant white-out conditions for anyone unlucky enough to be driving behind the vehicle.