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What is Defensive Driving?
December 12, 2022 Mandurah Mazda Team
Defensive Driving

What is Defensive Driving?

Before modern safety features became somewhat ubiquitous, defensive driving was the surest way to get home safely from the roads. But this should never become an outdated concept, as no piece of technology can truly avoid every potential accident scenario. Cars with advanced safety features have certainly helped reduced incidents on the roads, but the only feature in the car that can realistically be relied upon the avoid them is you—the driver.

So, What Is Defensive Driving?

It refers to a number of safe driving techniques that empower drivers to spot risks and therefore approach driving in a way that reduces the chances of being involved in a car crash or other road incident.

When you drive defensively, you are in better control of your vehicle, and therefore better able to anticipate what other drivers are going to do. This awareness of your surroundings is what will enable you to avoid potential hazards on the road.

We don’t all necessarily need to attend defensive driving courses to be safe road users. But if you’re aware of some basic principles, you’ll go a long way in keeping yourself and others out of harm’s way on the roads.

What are the 5 rules of defensive driving?

There are five key principles that are important to keep in mind when driving defensively.

  1. Maintain a Safe Following Distance

The one thing on the road that you have absolute control over is your distance from the car in front. In good conditions—a sunny day with good visibility and a dry road—you should drive at least two seconds behind the car in front of you. You can determine this by watching the car in front as it passes landmarks such as a signs or light poles, then count to two (starting from zero, of course). If you pass the same landmark before you finish counting to two seconds, you’re too close to the car in front. However, don’t forget this is not a hard and fast rule, and a safe distance even in good conditions may change. For example, you may need to leave a longer gap on higher speed roads if you’re not confident that your brakes can handle an urgent situation at such a speed.

If you’re travelling in poor road conditions such as wet weather, regional roads, low visibility, or on roads with excess dirt or gravel, you should increase your following distance. Read our previous blog on safety tips for driving in wet weather here.

Defensive Driving - Maintaining Safe Distance

  2. Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

This is one of the most important aspects of defensive driving.

One of the big mistakes that a lot of drivers make—particularly young drivers—is to focus only on the car in front. But driving defensively means looking beyond one car ahead of you so you can anticipate potential hazards further up the road.

Cars with advanced safety features, such as the Mazda 6, can help keep you on top of your surroundings but it’s still good to check your mirrors regularly so you’re aware of the movements of other road users around you.

Always limit in-car distractions like disruptive passengers, and it should go without saying, but never use your mobile phone while driving.

Defensive Driving - Be Aware Of Surrounding

  3. Anticipate What Other Road Users Are Going To Do

This is probably the most important of all defensive driving techniques as so many traffic crashes are caused by cars failing to predict each other’s movements.

It can be a mistake to assume that all cars are going to correctly follow the road rules or follow through with the signal they may be making. In other words, don’t assume that a car is going to turn just because of a flashing indicator. Pay attention to other factors that may contradict their signalling. Being aware of reckless driving by others is one of the best ways to avoid becoming entangled in a dangerous situation.

As well as being aware of other, less scrupulous drivers, it’s important to just be aware of how road conditions affect everybody’s movements, so be aware of things like upcoming merge points so you can get yourself into position before it’s too late.

  4. Signal Your Intentions Clearly

Just like you can’t always trust other drivers to correctly follow traffic laws, other drivers may feel the same way about you. But if you signal clearly and correctly, you’re doing everything you can to prevent yourself from causing any accidents. Clear and effective signalling is something we’re all taught as learner drivers, but like many driving skills, it’s a habit that some drivers lose over the years.

Defensive Driving - Signal Your Intentions

  5. Be Cautious At Intersections

The traffic light may be green for you, but unfortunately a traffic light can’t tell you if another car is running the red light. So, when the light turns green for you, it’s still a good idea to quickly look both ways as you set off, just in case a reckless driver is running the red lights. In such a situation, you’re the vulnerable one, so take your own measures to keep yourself safe.

Extend these same precautions to pedestrians when you’re turning at an intersection. They are just as capable of rushing through a red light as drivers are, so make sure you look ahead before you turn through a light.

Being a good defensive driver doesn’t mean being a slow driver who holds up other road users. It simply means being aware of your surroundings and predicting what other drivers are going to do. Follow the tips above and you’re doing everything in your power to keep yourself and your passengers safe.

Get Your Mazda Serviced Today

As cutting edge as Mazda safety features are, it’s still important to keep your vehicle in excellent shape to ensure your ability to avoid hazards. If your car is in need of a service, book it in with our Mazda service department at our Mandurah Mazda dealership. We’ll make sure your car is ready for any situation the road might throw at you.

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