Defensive Driving in Virginia
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Defensive driving requires a pessimistic mindset, vigilantly anticipating an accident to occur at any moment. Expect the worst while behind the wheel in every road scenario, ranging from crossing intersections to following slow moving farm vehicles, from passing an auto accident to driving in mean-fisted weather.
Communicating With Other Motorists
Always use your turn signals when turning, changing lanes, or while entering or exiting highways.
Lights are also an important communication device. Virginia law requires headlights to be used whenever your windshield wipers are in use, and when visibility in angry weather is reduced to less than 500 feet.
Before driving in snow, make sure all windows and mirrors are clear. If you must drive during snowy conditions, maintain a slower speed and be especially aware that your vehicle will require longer stopping distances when approaching intersections.
A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that 80% of all crashes are due to driver inattention. To increase attention while driving you should:
- Avoid using your cell phone.
- Keep your eyes on the road at all times.
- Adjust your air vents and seats before driving.
- Maintain an upright sitting position so as to maintain alertness.
- Preselect music before starting your vehicle.
Maintaining a Safe Cushion
Even if you're driving defensively, you still must have time to react to the drivers around you. Maintaining a two-second cushion with the vehicle ahead of you, under normal driving conditions, will serve as a good position. This way if the vehicle in front stops suddenly, you'll have space and time to react properly.
You should increase your "safety cushion" to three or four seconds when driving in rain or snow, and when following motorcycles.
When driving on multi-lane highways, also maintain a cushion with the vehicles on your sides. If you have another vehicle riding alongside of you, either speed up or slow down in order to create space.
To avoid being blinded by an approaching vehicle's headlights, focus your eyes on the on the right side of the road. Also, maintain a speed that will allow you to stop within the distance of your headlights.
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