With this article, I've written 70 rules of defensive driving. I'm certain we could come up with a few more if we thought about it, but we've covered all the main concepts and more, from general to specific. In Rule 5, I said that if ALL drivers would do just four things, no one would ever die in a traffic crash. Please read on, and see if you don't agree (but I'm going to add a fifth…)
1. Pay attention. The number one over-arching cause of traffic collisions is inattention and distraction. Almost every collision involves one or both of these two related errors. When I'm behind the wheel, driving is my number one task. It is my responsibility to keep my ton of metal, rubber and glass pointed safely down the road without hitting you or your property. I am not honoring that responsibility when I'm daydreaming, eating a burger, or chatting away on my cell phone. I don't have the right to endanger you. Paying attention is the first and most important way I can shoulder that critical responsibility.
2. Don't speed. Speeders like to say that speeding doesn't "cause" collisions. That's rubbish. Speeding (driving at a speed higher than is safe for conditions) leaves you with less reaction time and distance than you may need to avoid a crash. An honest, intelligent person has to come to the conclusion that the cause of such a crash is the excessive speed. Speed also increases the risk of serious injury in a crash. "Speed not reasonable and prudent" is the most common measurable element in traffic collisions.
3. Use the Two-Second Rule. About 40% of all collisions are rear-end collisions. Avoid them by maintaining your following distance. This rule is so basic, and yet it is one of the most ignored. Also keep in mind that two seconds is the minimum -- three or four is better. Stretch it out when you can, because sometimes two seconds isn't enough. Don't believe for a second you can't use this technique in heavy traffic; you can, and that's when it is most important.
4. Don't drive impaired. Wait at least two hours for each drink before you drive. Staying on top of the driving task means being 100% there to do the job. You need all your skills and faculties for driving. Even small amounts of alcohol impair the most important skills you need to drive safely. Studies have proven that impairment starts with alcohol concentrations as low as .03% or.04% -- about half of the "legal limit" in most states, and the first thing affected is your judgment. Not surprisingly, studies have linked impaired driving to increased incidences of reckless driving. Typically, about 30% to 50% of all collisions have driver impairment as a factor, and fatality is more likely in alcohol-related crashes.
5. Buy and use safety equipment. Automotive safety engineering has a come a long way. Today's automobile is the safest vehicle ever produced for ground transportation. Take advantage of its safety features! Buy ABS brakes, traction-control systems, & air bags. Wear your safety belts. The use of safety belts alone typically cuts the rate of injury and death in traffic collisions by about 50%.
Remember these five key defensive driving rules, and chances are excellent you'll live to a ripe old age. And that's good, because I'll need someone to play checkers with me down at the Old Folks' Home!
See you on the Road!