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3 Defensive Driving Tips You May Have Forgotten

In most states, qualifying for a driver’s license is a fairly straightforward matter of sitting through a few classes on basic traffic laws, going on a few practice drives with an instructor, and then going through a test which isn’t easy to fail (aside from the parallel parking, of course). But once you’ve done all that, all the DMV cares to know about when you renew is whether or not you can read road signs without any glasses. In other words, it’s rare to encounter any supplemental or refresher lessons even as the years and decades pass.

As such, here are a few defensive driving tips which you may have forgotten about or else dismissed because you were a teenager and you were certain you could drive better than your instructors.

1. Only Tailgate At Sports Games

No matter how much of a hurry you’re in, riding someone else’s bumper is not going to get you to your destination faster, and it’s rare that doing so will cause the car in front to speed up. All you really accomplish by tailgating is you make it more likely that you’ll add to the pileup if the car in front of you needs to brake suddenly.

Instead, your best bet to have that crucial braking time is to follow the three-second rule, which means that three seconds should pass before your car passes the same landmark as the car in front of you. This lead is sometimes described in terms of car lengths, but nobody really does that since counting out seconds is much easier.

2. Don’t Assume Courtesy

Instead, assume that every car you see is being driven by a first-time driver who never saw these roads before and who doesn’t know what half the buttons and levers in his or her car do. While this may be a worst case scenario, it also means that you won’t be surprised when someone jukes out of a merging turn lane or ignores all the other cars waiting at a stop sign to cross.

3. Let The Other Guy Win

Defensive driving means acknowledging that driving isn’t a contest and as such “winning” isn’t about reaching your destination first, it’s about reaching your destination without any fender-benders, broken bones, totaled cars, or police reports.

This also means that if you see someone acting foolishly, you have to let them have their way. The only way to really punish bad behavior like that is to put yourself at risk, and so you’d be punishing yourself just as badly. They may be the party at fault because they didn’t follow the rules, but getting into a crash is still a headache, a neck ache, and other assorted injuries that you wouldn’t have had to deal with otherwise.

Driving is so common in modern America that it’s often easy to forget that we’re all using controlled explosions to move hundreds of pounds of metal at several times the speed of an average person. But that’s what you do every time you commute to work or step out for groceries, and so it pays to act like you’re putting your life on the line whenever you climb into a car. Strictly speaking, that’s exactly what you’re doing.