Web Traffic School
Defensive Driving Strategies
HOW TO DRIVE AND SURVIVE
If you haven't figured out that driving can be hazardous, well, I'm not sure you should be operating a motor vehicle. Or even a toaster oven for that matter.

No question about it: driving is a serious business. But that doesn't mean you have to be paranoid about it. You can drive and survive.
In this segment you'll learn some of the driving strategies that can help you survive out on the road.

First and foremost is paying attention to the matter at hand -- in other words, concentration.
Yes, that's right, concentration. Concentration is the key: when you're driving around, you can't get distracted by small, insignificant occurrences. You have to keep your eyes and your mind on the road.

Here are some defensive driving strategies to help you concentrate.
There are potential hazards in every mile of road you travel. You're literally surrounded by people, objects, signs and other vehicles that can affect the safety of your driving.

But you can drive and survive in this frightening world we've created for ourselves.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

  • Control your emotions
  • Control your emotions
  • Develop defensive driving strategies
Two keys to survival are (1) Learning to control your emotions, and (2) developing defensive driving strategies. As you learned earlier, emotions have a tremendous influence on driving behavior. However, you can keep your feelings under control by sheer concentration.

Another key to safe driving is getting a good overview of the scene around your vehicle to spot potential problems before they become a threat. This involves your senses of sight and sound: you have to rely on your perceptual skills to be able to identify critical objects and conditions in and around the roadway and be able to predict how they could cause a problem.

WATCH OUT FOR:

  • Roadway conditions

WATCH OUT FOR:

  • Roadway conditions
  • Control devices

WATCH OUT FOR:

  • Roadway conditions
  • Control devices
  • Other traffic
Some of the objects you have to watch carefully include road conditions, traffic control devices, and other traffic on or near the roadway.

Road conditions generally refer to the kind of road you're on, the condition of its surface, and the objects nearby.

SCOPE

S = Scan
C = Concentrate
O = Organize
P = Plan
E = Execute

Remember, safe drivers scan the road; they concentrate on their driving, on all threats immediate, developing and potential. The safe driver organizes driving threats in their order of urgency and has a plan to deal with each threat. The choice of which driving tactic to employ is based on several factors: the driver's training, experience and skill level; road conditions, light, weather and traffic; and the amount of time available to execute that choice. A driver has four basic tactical maneuvers to choose from: steering, braking, accelerating, and communicating.
OVERVIEW OF THE SCENE ON THE ROAD
What kind of problems do you think you might encounter on this road? Curves and bad pavement are two potential hazards you can see immediately.

Weather also can play a part. Do you think this road might be slippery in the rain? Rain can make hazardous roads even more treacherous.

Commercial areas present additional problems. It's a good thing you were anticipating the possibility of a car making a quick right turn in front of you. Otherwise, you might not have been able to stop in time.
The second group of objects we have to be alert for are traffic control devices like signs, signals, lane markings, and so forth.

The third group of objects to watch closely is the traffic around you: cars, trucks, bikes, vans, and any other moving object in and around the roadway.
Pedestrians are also included in this group. You never know when someone might try to cross the street, or step into the street to get into one of those cars parked along the roadway. To be a safe driver, you have to be alert for possible problems all around your vehicle.
You also need to be able to spot problems far ahead -- and give yourself time to react. Safe drivers scan for any person, vehicle, animal or anything else that might cause them to have to slow down, speed up or turn. Safe drivers identify all of these things as potential threats.

Scan at least 12 seconds ahead of you.

Safe drivers usually scan 12 to 15 seconds down the road.
That covers a lot of ground, so you have to keep your eyes moving. It takes work to sharpen the perceptual skills you need for safe driving. But safe drivers are alert and constantly aware of what's going on around them. Most of what you do as a driver is in response to what you see.
Rain can greatly reduce visibility as well as cause road conditions to become treacherous.

Remember our discussion of hydroplaning? You could be floating on an emulsion of oil and water right now, so give yourself a good safety margin.

IDENTIFY.

Use your perceptual skills to identify potential problems before they occur and be ready to act. Let's presume that you are approaching an intersection controlled by a traffic light. It's been green for a while and it's sure to change any second now. You've identified a potential problem -- act by slowing down and preparing to stop. That way you won't have to make a split second decision when the light turns yellow. This is especially important when streets are slippery.

IDENTIFY

But keep in mind, there's more to recognize than just planning ahead, because what you think will happen might not. As you scan the area ahead, what do you see? Traffic lights, parked cars, quite a few pedestrians, and a bicyclist.

A car door might suddenly open. Or the bicyclist might pull out in front of you. Or a pedestrian could try to cross in the middle of the block.

ANTICIPATE THE WORST

When safe drivers identify a threat, they anticipate what could happen. They always anticipate the worst. That way, they're usually ready for any eventuality.

Don't let pedestrians or other drivers force you to do something. When you identify a threat, act in advance so you won't be forced to react.

DON'T BE FORCED TO REACT

Drivers who constantly have to react to unexpected traffic situations may not be checking far enough ahead to identify critical objects and they may not be anticipating what could happen.

SAFE DRIVING TACTICS

One of the most important elements of safe driving is the ability to control the situation. As we've just seen, the ability to recognize potential problems means being ready to take action. You use safe driving tactics to help prevent a collision.

SAFE DRIVING TACTICS

All actions in response to a threat should be the result of a rational, intelligent decision and not a reaction to an unexpected danger. In other words, act -- don't be forced to react. Select the safe driving tactic that best fits your situation and execute it in a smooth, predictable manner -- and do it in time to avoid a collision.

BREAK DOWN THE RISK

One safe driving tactic is to break down the risks and to take them one at a time, if possible. When you cannot break down the risks and find it necessary to deal with two or more threats at the same time, decide which is the greatest threat and give it the safest space.

BREAK DOWN THE RISK

You can better control the situation and reduce potential driving hazards by creating safe spaces to the front, rear and on both sides. This safe space gives you an extra margin of protection while driving in traffic situations that are constantly changing.
SAFE SPACE
To insulate your car from potential hazards, you should drive within a physical safe space, a clear space around your car that moves with you as you drive. Depending on your speed and driving conditions, you should maintain a safe distance between yourself and the cars near you. It's a margin of safety in front, behind and on both sides of you.

Since you never know what other drivers might do, control your distance from other cars. This way you'll have time to react to avoid a collision when someone does something you don't expect. In other words, you constantly have to be prepared to compensate for the mistakes of other drivers.

If you would like to see the animation again, right click on the animation and choose "Rewind" from the menu list.

You should always try to keep these spaces free of traffic so you'll have time to compensate for what other drivers are doing.
One technique for maintaining your space is the two-second following rule. Under good driving conditions, you're safe as long as you have a full two seconds between you and the car ahead of you. Pick out a fixed object as a reference point. When the car ahead of you reaches that point, count to yourself, "one thousand and one, one thousand and two." If you reached the reference point in two seconds, you're okay. If you got there in less than two seconds, your safety zone is too small. Slow down and distance yourself from the car ahead until you're at least two seconds behind.

If you would like to see the animation again, right click on the animation and choose "Rewind" from the menu list.

But don't forget about safe space to both sides of your vehicle, as well as to the rear. If you get boxed in by other vehicles, pedestrians, or objects, your ability to respond to a situation is limited to speeding up or slowing down. You can keep your safe space to the sides by speeding up or slowing down and then changing lanes.

To help create a safe space on both sides, avoid driving alongside other vehicles on multi-lane streets for any length of time. Keep as much safe space as possible between your car and oncoming vehicles. And keep a safe space between yourself and parked cars. Always be watchful of car doors opening or pedestrians stepping into the street.
Having safe space behind you is almost as important as safe space ahead. A driver that tailgates you limits your ability to slow rapidly in case of an emergency ahead. Although the driver behind has more control over the space than you, there are several things you can do.

IF A DRIVER TAILGATES:

  • Move to the right

IF A DRIVER TAILGATES:

  • Move to the right
  • Reduce your speed

IF A DRIVER TAILGATES:

  • Move to the right
  • Reduce your speed
  • Pull off the road

IF A DRIVER TAILGATES:

  • Move to the right
  • Reduce your speed
  • Pull off the road
  • Proceed to a law enforcement station
If you're on a multi-lane roadway, move to the right so the tailgater can pass you. Or reduce your speed to encourage the driver behind you to pass -- if they do not, go to a well-lit public place and pull off the road. If the tailgater is still there, proceed to the nearest law enforcement station. However, don't be so focused on the tailgater that you lose sight of what is happening in front of you.
MAJOR DRIVING ERRORS
Drivers who tailgate are not obeying traffic laws and failure to obey traffic laws is a major driving error.

If you would like to see the animation again, right click on the animation and choose "Rewind" from the menu list.

Failure to maintain your vehicle is another major driving error. If you don't take care of your vehicle, it might break down, leaving you stranded and creating an obstacle on the roadway.
Discourtesy to other drivers or being combative in traffic is also a major driving error.
Lack of driving knowledge is another major driving error. So is bad judgment and poor decision making.

Drive with a mature attitude.
There are ways for safe drivers to avoid and compensate for these major errors of other drivers. The first thing is to assume a mature attitude when driving a vehicle. It may be the most important factor in defensive driving.

BEYOND THAT YOU SHOULD:

  • Always scan the road ahead

BEYOND THAT YOU SHOULD:

  • Always scan the road ahead
  • Be alert

BEYOND THAT YOU SHOULD:

  • Always scan the road ahead
  • Be alert
  • Use good judgment

BEYOND THAT YOU SHOULD:

  • Always scan the road ahead
  • Be alert
  • Use good judgment
  • Break down risks

BEYOND THAT YOU SHOULD:

  • Always scan the road ahead
  • Be alert
  • Use good judgment
  • Break down risks
  • Identify the greatest threat

BEYOND THAT YOU SHOULD:

  • Always scan the road ahead
  • Be alert
  • Use good judgment
  • Break down risks
  • Identify the greatest threat
  • Give yourself safe space
Always scan the road at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead and identify potential hazards. Be alert to the driving environment and try to anticipate how the potential hazards in your intended path of travel could affect you. Also make sure to pay attention to hazards that are within two seconds of travel in front of your car. Anticipate the worst.
Use good judgment in determining safe driving tactics. This will help you to act in a crisis situation instead of having to react. Break down the risks and try to deal with them one at a time if possible. Identify the greatest threat and give that priority. Finally, maintain your safe space and implement necessary maneuvers to find the path of least resistance.
TRUCKS
When we use our roads and highways, we have to share them with all types of moving objects.

Some have a decided advantage over us.

Others are at a great disadvantage. They each present their own set of hazards to your driving safety.
Most trucks are driven by professionals who understand the importance of safe driving.

A few, however, act very immaturely, as they go barreling down the highway well over the speed limit. They tailgate, change lanes unsafely, and act like the road is their exclusive property.

A bad truck driver is definitely a driving hazard.
Before you challenge a truck for road space, think about its stopping ability. Trucks are frequently heavily loaded, which means it takes them longer to stop than it does your passenger vehicle.

Also, air brakes on some trucks have a one-second lag time before they engage. At 55 MPH, a truck will travel 80 feet before it even begins to stop and you must also consider the 3/4 of a second reaction time that all drivers have, which will increase the total stopping distance.
You should also consider the truck's cargo load. It could shift or break loose, causing a serious hazard for any vehicles close by.

If you would like to see the animation again, right click on the animation and choose "Rewind" from the menu list.

Some trucks are top heavy and can easily flip over on curbs or when rounding corners too fast.

Also, be aware of the many blind spots the truck driver faces. He's pulling a huge trailer, so he can't see vehicles that are following too close behind him. And, since the cab of the truck is so high, a careless trucker may not see smaller cars as they pull alongside. If the truck were to change lanes while you're passing, guess who'd still be standing?
Driving in the city where trucks are present poses its own special set of hazards. Trucks have to swing out wide to make right turns on narrow city streets. Be extremely cautious, and don't pass a truck on the right, especially near an intersection. Also, trucks sometimes have to start their turn on the wrong side of the road where you could easily have a head-on collision.
When you need to pass a truck, you will have to start your pass farther back than when passing a car. Remember, it will also take longer to complete the pass because of the truck's length. Be sure you have plenty of clear road ahead before you start to pass. And try to stay as far away from the truck as possible. Turbulent air movement around the truck may make it seem as though you're losing control of your vehicle.

When it's raining and water is standing on the road, remember that spray from a passing truck can seriously reduce your vision. Move as far away from the truck as safely possible.
Also remember that trucks have more trouble braking and stopping on slippery roads, so give them plenty of room to maneuver.

If you would like to see the animation again, right click on the animation and choose "Rewind" from the menu list.

TRAINS
Collisions with trucks, cars, and other vehicles on our roadways are sometimes hard to avoid. But there's almost no excuse for a collision between a train and a motor vehicle.

Don't be on the tracks when the train is. Sounds simple, so why do an average of 629 people a year die from collisions between trains and motor vehicles? This may not seem disproportionately high when you consider there are more than 220,000 railroad crossings in the United States.

But even one death is unusually high when you consider all the safeguards.
Signs warn us that we're approaching railroad tracks. Signs tell us how many tracks we have to cross and at many crossings, there are flashing red lights, alarm bells, and gates with flashing red lights.

In addition, the locomotive gives several loud blasts from its air horn to further warn motorists of its approach.

So what causes so many deaths?

CAUSES OF RAILROAD CROSSING COLLISIONS:

  • Excessive speed

CAUSES OF RAILROAD CROSSING COLLISIONS:

  • Excessive speed
  • Misjudging the train's speed

CAUSES OF RAILROAD CROSSING COLLISIONS:

  • Excessive speed
  • Misjudging the train's speed
  • Rolling onto the tracks after stopping

CAUSES OF RAILROAD CROSSING COLLISIONS:

  • Excessive speed
  • Misjudging the train's speed
  • Rolling onto the tracks after stopping
  • Collision with a second train

CAUSES OF RAILROAD CROSSING COLLISIONS:

  • Excessive speed
  • Misjudging the train's speed
  • Rolling onto the tracks after stopping
  • Collision with a second train
  • Stopping on the tracks
Here are main causes of railroad crossing collisions:
1. A vehicle is going too fast to stop after seeing the warning signs.
2. The driver misjudges the speed of the train and thinks he can beat it across the tracks.
3. After stopping, the vehicle somehow rolls onto the tracks.
4. After the first train goes by, a hurried motorist darts across the tracks only to be hit by a second train going the opposite direction on separate parallel tracks.
5. Stopping on the tracks. This frequently happens in cities where there are a lot of congested roadways crossing tracks.
If for any reason your vehicle gets stalled on railroad tracks, the first thing to do is GET EVERYBODY OUT OF THE VEHICLE and safely away from the tracks. Once everyone is out of the car, try to push the car off the tracks, if no train is coming. If you can't, then call the police. They'll notify the railroad company to stop the trains on the route until the car has been removed.
MOTORCYCLES
Motorcycles also pose special hazards for drivers of cars and trucks. They're smaller and harder to see. And if they're involved in a collision, they don't have the protection of a steel shell or the added safety of restraining devices.
There are six basic rules to follow when you're driving near a motorcyclist.

One, create a large, safe space between your vehicle and the motorcycle in front of you.
Two, when you pass a motorcycle, treat it as though it's the same width as a car. Move all the way over to the next lane.
Three, allow an oncoming motorcycle plenty of room if you're turning in front of it.
Four, when stopping at intersections, don't creep into the intersection where the front part of your vehicle could strike a passing motorcyclist.
Five, before changing lanes, take a good look to make certain there's not a motorcycle alongside in your blind spot.

And six, take a second look to be absolutely certain the motorcyclist is not in your lane.
BICYCLES
Even though bicycle riders have to obey all the same laws and have the same responsibility as motorists, you are required to yield the right-of-way to bicycles at intersections, when changing lanes, and when making left and right turns (s. 316.2065, s. 316.151(1)).

Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all the rights and all the duties applicable to a driver of any other vehicle -- except, of course, for any special regulations and provisions, which by their nature do not apply to bicycles.
In reality, however, many bicyclists don't think the laws apply to them. Some of them routinely ignore stop signs, red lights, yield signs, and speed limits, and even ride on the wrong side of the street at night without lights.

Since bicyclist don't always watch out for motor vehicles as well as they should, it's your responsibility as a safe driver to be especially watchful for them.
When approaching a bicyclist, tap your horn slightly to alert the rider. Don't wait till you're too close, though: it might sound like an emergency and cause the rider to swerve or fall.

Give all bicycle riders an extra measure of room when passing. Sometimes there may be bike lanes on the side of the road. Use extreme caution when driving near these lanes.

USE EXTREME CAUTION WHEN DRIVING NEAR BICYCLE LANES

You may have to use these lanes for turning if there is no right turn lane. However, you should first check to make sure there are no bikes present, yield to any bicyclists, and signal your intentions prior to turning into this lane.

WHEN DRIVING NEAR BICYCLE LANES:

  • Check for bikes

WHEN DRIVING NEAR BICYCLE LANES:

  • Check for bikes
  • Yield to bicyclists

WHEN DRIVING NEAR BICYCLE LANES:

  • Check for bikes
  • Yield to bicyclists
  • Signal prior to turning
Be extra careful around any bicyclist riding down the right hand side of the street next to parked cars.

The driver of a parked car might swing his door open, causing the rider to collide with the door and be thrown head first onto the pavement. Or it may cause the rider to swerve left into a lane of fast-moving traffic.

Most of all, remember that many bicycle riders are kids and you can never predict what they might do. So allow an even greater safe space when you encounter kids on bicycles.
PEDESTRIANS
You are required to yield to pedestrians legally using crosswalks and crossing with a green light. You are also required to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks when exiting private driveways. (s. 316.075(1)(a)1, s. 316.125(2)).
Remember, when you're scanning the roadway for immediate and potential driving hazards, pedestrian traffic is a very important consideration. By constantly scanning the road ahead, you're better able to recognize potential problems before they occur and anticipate what might happen far enough in advance to be prepared for just about any eventuality. That's what safe driving is all about.