Driving is an essential skill that helps make life a little more convenient. Being able to drive means you wouldn’t have to depend on other people or on public transportation to go from Point A to Point B.
For many, driving is a rite of passage that signals maturity and entry into adulthood. Many parents worry about their teenagers getting behind the wheel. Learning and following the principles of defensive drivers will not only help ease the minds of anxious parents, but it will also keep you safe while on the road.
Defensive driving is using safe driving strategies that allow the motorist to identify and address possible dangers predictably, and creating a margin of error to allow for other drivers’ mistakes. Here are some fundamental principles and helpful hints for keeping safe and driving defensively:
Drive within the speed limit – You may be tempted to step on the gas, especially when the roads are empty. Even without other drivers sharing the space, driving above the speed limit is not only dangerous but can get you in trouble with the law. Always keep an eye on your speedometer and maintain a safe speed.
Avoid distractions – Distracted driving can account for many accidents that happen on the road. To address this issue, Ontario has updated distracted driving laws of the province, providing heftier sanctions and fines for drivers who fail to follow the new law. Avoid distractions while driving by keeping your smartphone on silent. If your car is of a newer model, take advantage of its Bluetooth feature so you can answer calls hands-free. However, only accept or make calls that are of utmost importance. It is still in the best interest of you, your passengers, and other people on the road that drivers give driving their full attention.
Leave some room between you and the car in front of you – Drivers are advised to keep a safe distance between them and the car in front of them. Many experts recommend the “three-second rule” to help estimate a safe distance: Find a stationary object on the side of the road. When the car in front of you passes it, start counting. At least three seconds should pass before you overtake the object.
Watch out for other drivers – When driving, it is safer to assume that everyone else is a potentially dangerous driver. This means that you must be prepared for sudden lane changes, stops, swerving, tailgating, unsignaled turns, and other undesirable driving behaviours. This is another reason why it is important to keep alert when driving and why having quick reflexes is an advantage.
Be extra alert in bad weather – When driving through fog, snow, a storm, heavy rains, or on icy roads, it pays to pay extra attention. If you’re driving through a weather condition that you’re not used to, delegate the task to a more experienced driver. Should weather conditions worsen, pull over as soon as it is safe (or don’t go out at all) and wait until the conditions improve.
Maintain your vehicle – Keeping your vehicle in optimum condition doesn’t only extend your car’s life; it is also a reasonable safety precaution. A qualified mechanic can tell you if your car has any safety issues that may need to be addressed and suggest ways on how to fix these. Some of the most common maintenance issues that lead to motor vehicle accidents include incorrect tire pressure and malfunctioning breaks.
Find a designated driver – Being under the influence of alcohol and drugs — even at low levels — can significantly reduce inhibitions, reaction time, reflexes, and ability to make critical decisions. When out drinking, agree with your buddies on who will be the designated driver. That person must stay completely sober and make sure everyone gets home safely at the end of the night.
Be aware of your medications – You can still be charged with DUI when on a prescription drug if it impairs your ability to operate your vehicle safely. Review all the possible side effects of new medications. If these include drowsiness, hallucinations, or other conditions that might compromise your ability to get behind the wheel, make alternate transportation arrangements until you know whether or not you suffer from those side effects.
Benefits of Defensive Driving
Drivers who drive defensively improve their driving skills and reduce risks by being able to anticipate situations and make well-informed decisions based on road conditions and environmental factors. Other reasons to learn defensive driving strategies include:
It is safer
Safety is one of the most compelling reasons why people choose to be defensive drivers. While you can’t be completely safe on the road, defensive driving tactics make it easier for you to avoid situations that may lead to injuries, loss of life, or property or vehicle damage.
Fewer tickets and citations
As a defensive driver, you are less likely to be penalized for traffic violations, as driving defensively includes being conscious of traffic laws and being careful not to break any of them.
Helps you qualify for car insurance
Having car insurance is mandatory for driving in Ontario. Safe drivers generally have little or no record that will cause them to be dropped by their auto insurance companies. A clean driving abstract may also prevent your insurance premiums from skyrocketing. As Ontario has some of the most expensive auto insurance rates in the country, reduced monthly premiums are unquestionably a welcome relief.
Keeps your car in good shape
Defensive driving is not only a safety measure; it is also good for the maintenance of your vehicle. Defensive drivers don’t find themselves needing to slam on their breaks and wearing their brake pads and tires quickly. If you are an aggressive driver, switch to this driving style and notice that your car will experience fewer issues.
Driving Safety for Older People
Some of the minor irritants that we accumulate as we age can become impairments to safe driving. Being aware of ways that aging can affect the ability to drive safely will allow us to look out for these situations and pre-plan coping strategies for dealing with them when they arise.
Ways that Aging Affects Driving
Slower reflexes and reaction time
Difficulties with hearing
Limited movement and range of motion
Problems focusing or processing what we see and hear
As a senior, several precautions can be taken to ensure you are healthy enough to drive. Report any vision changes, dizziness, fainting spells, or new pain to your doctor. Have your vision and hearing checked regularly. Avoid driving if you are experiencing any pain, as this can restrict movement and focus. Take a defensive driving course to refresh your skills and knowledge on safe driving practices, and to keep updated on new traffic laws.
Unfortunately, no matter how safe a driver you are, your driving record will not be immaculate your whole life. At some point, you might meet an accident or violate a traffic rule. Should this happen, it is best that you are well-oriented on what steps you must take. Having a competent lawyer by your side would also be an advantage, especially if you plan to contest tickets issued to you.
If you need the assistance of an accident lawyer in North York, Rooz Law Personal Injury Lawyers is at your service. Call to book an appointment to consult with our team at (416) 229-6000.
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