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6 Defensive Driving Tips

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By Madeline Klein on January 24, 2022 in Travel

Driver’s Education (although not required in all Say states) teaches you the rules of the road like speed limits, sign meanings, and the basics of operating a vehicle. However, defensive driving is taught in separate courses, sometimes used to dismiss speeding tickets or to score a discount on car insurance policies. If you prefer an informal education because you’re not actively trying to dismiss a ticket or save on insurance, just hit the road and implement these tips.

1. Don’t rush.

First things first, slow it down. When you’re hustling and bustling it’s much easier to forget the rules of the road and become distracted. Start by giving yourself enough time to safely travel to your destination, then add an extra 15 minutes for the unexpected. You’ll be happier arriving early instead of stressing and being late.

2. Prepare.

Set aside time before you head out to prepare. Check the weather, set up your map or plan your route, and pack any necessary items in the car. If you see ice, snow, or rain on the forecast during your travel time – be safe and add even more time to allow you to merge and turn safely. Map users, both old-fashioned-paper versions and digital versions, make sure you’re aware of where you’re going or set up your phone to notify you, so you don’t have to rustle with the map or look down at your phone while driving.

3. Focus on the road.

Eliminate in-car distractions because we all know we can’t control anything outside of the car. Constantly scan ahead, behind, and nearby lanes for possible hazards or other drivers. Also, this will help you avoid falling in line with the car in front of you. Have you ever realized how if you’re focusing super hard on the car in front of you and all of the sudden, they veer a little out of their lane and you instinctively follow them? Let’s avoid that and focus on the road!

4. Keep your speed and brakes in check.

Avoid speeding, duh. Brake early, double duh. These two are taught in Driver’s Ed because they’re an important part of being a safe driver. However, they’re also taught in defensive driving because they’re THAT important.

5. Follow general road etiquette.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget general road etiquette, we get it. However, the more you keep these rules of the road top of mind, the less likely you are to send another driver into orbit with unexpected moves.

So, indicate when changing lanes, use lights properly (only utilizing “brights” when no one is oncoming or in front of you), avoid the left lane unless you’re actively passing, give a little wave to drivers who let you in, avoid tailgating, slow down at crosswalks, and speed up efficiently on highway ramps.

6. Expect the unexpected from other drivers.

Finally, always expected the unexpected from other drivers. Go ahead and assume that drivers aren’t going to follow the rules of the road nor act rationally. This mindset helps prepare you for anything. An unexpected and sudden lane change right in front of you? No big deal. Someone quickly weaving in and out of traffic? You’ll be out of the way.

Also, avoid drunk or tired drivers. If you see a vehicle swerving in between lanes or off the road, steer clear and notify authorities if you believe them to be a danger to themselves and/or other drivers.


Most importantly, avoid agitating other drivers (i.e. tailgating, flipping the bird, etc.) because you never know how they’ll react. At the end of the day, it’s way more important to arrive safely at your destination than in record time. Stay focused, be prepared for anything, and enjoy your time on the open road!

Madeline Klein is Say's Digital Content Producer. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism, emphasis in Strategic Communication. Her experience is in writing and digital media. Madeline loves using her creativity to write and design new and exciting pieces of work for Say!