Anytime you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you’re taking a risk. Not only can random acts of nature or mechanical failure affect you at any time, but you’re trusting every other driver around you. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 3,000 people die in crashes involving a distracted driver yearly. Moreover, in 2019 about 424,000 more people were injured in crashes with a distracted driver, a 6% increase over the previous year.

The number of distracted drivers on the road is one of the most significant reasons defensive driving is an important skill to learn. You can never account for everything you’ll encounter while on the road. Plus, you might be surprised to discover that defensive driving can save you money in several ways. Keep reading to learn how to be a defensive driver, what defensive driving courses are available, and why driving defensively could benefit you.

What Is Defensive Driving?

A car driving in heavy fog through a forest.

Heavy Fog on the Rim of the World by San Bernardino Nat’l Forest is licensed with Public Domain

Defensive driving is about utilizing specific strategies to help you identify and avoid common risks and dangers and adjust your driving accordingly. At its core, defensive driving uses these skills to help you prevent collisions with distracted or intoxicated drivers. You’ll also need to deal with severe weather or road hazards. Below are some of the primary practices you should employ to drive defensively.

Control Your Speed and Following Distance

While many drivers think nothing of going faster than the limit, speeding is a significant factor in over 25% of accidents that result in deaths. Speed limits exist for a reason, and adhering to them helps you remain safe while driving.

Stay Vigilant and Plan for the Unexpected

Remaining vigilant at all times is a crucial piece of defensive driving. This alertness means monitoring what’s ahead and the other drivers around you. Continually scanning your environment will help you to spot danger and adjust quickly to unexpected situations.

Watch for Severe Weather and Road Hazards

Part of staying alert is observing and adjusting for weather, road hazards, and other differences in road conditions. We all know that potholes and road debris can be dangerous, but so can swerving to avoid them. Changing your driving to accommodate bad weather and unusual road conditions is also essential. For example, you must decrease your speed and increase your following distance when driving in inclement weather or on uneven surfaces, such as gravel or dirt roads.

Pass With Care and Let Speeders Pass

Be especially careful if you need to pass someone. You never want to cut off or get too close to another vehicle. Conversely, if someone is speeding and tailgating you, continue driving at the speed limit until you can safely move over to let them pass.

Stay Sober

Around 30% of all traffic fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. Alcohol, drugs, and certain medications can impair your driving and lead to accidents, injuries, and even death.Always ensure you’re fit to drive before getting behind the wheel. 

Avoid Potential Distractions

As mentioned above, distracted driving is a factor in many vehicle accidents that lead to injuries and fatalities. When driving, your sole focus should be on the road.

Follow Traffic Rules and Laws

The skills noted above comprise most of the content in defensive driving courses. Still, wherever you drive, you must understand and follow the relevant traffic rules and laws, whether specific to a particular state or applicable across the country.

Defensive Driving Courses

You can take defensive driving courses either online or in person. Typically lasting four to eight hours, these classes will teach you the fundamentals of defensive driving and how to apply what you’ve learned on the road. Generally, defensive driving courses include topics such as:

  • Psychological factors that may affect your driving, such as stress, fatigue, or road rage.
  • Human factors that can affect driving, such as personal judgment, motor skills, and senses.
  • Crash prevention techniques.
  • Components of a crash.
  • Safety equipment.
  • State-specific traffic laws and rules.

If you’re concerned about the cost of these courses, there are affordable options for any budget. For as little as $25, you can complete an online defensive driving course and become a better driver.

Benefits of Defensive Driving Courses

While no states require defensive driving classes, they can benefit you and everyone you share the road with. These courses can help you become a better and safer driver — no matter your age or skill level. In addition, depending on the state, taking a driving course can reduce the points on your driver’s license from a traffic ticket or accident. Becoming a safe driver is becoming more critical every day. In 2020 alone, over 38,000 Americans died in traffic crashes. So it’s clear that driving as safely as possible isn’t just important — it saves lives.

Being a defensive driver also helps you save money. The fewer accidents you’re in, the less you spend on costly repairs, auto insurance, and hospital bills. In addition, your auto insurance provider may forgive an accident or even give you a discount on your coverage once you complete a defensive driving class. Some insurers will reduce your auto insurance bill by as much as 10% for 3-5 years.

Before enrolling in a defensive driving class, check with your insurance provider to ensure the course applies for a discount. An insurance agent can tell you what discounts their company offers and which you are eligible for. If you’re dealing with a traffic violation, you’ll want to contact the court to determine if your case qualifies for dismissal before you sign up for a defensive driving course. If your ticket qualifies, double-check that your selected class meets the court’s requirements.

Get Instant Coverage Through American Auto Insurance

Do you want to find out if you qualify for a discount on your auto insurance? American Auto Insurance is here to help regardless of your credit or driving history. We serve all drivers, even those with suspended or international licenses. You can get insured for as little as $14 a month. Plus, when you use American Auto Insurance, you get instant proof of coverage and 24/7 roadside assistance at no extra cost.  

Fill out our online form for a free auto insurance quote to get instant coverage at a great price. If you have other questions, please contact us online or call 777-286-3500. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


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