Defense wins championships and the driving game

Defense wins championships and the driving game

Legendary football coach Bear Bryant is credited with the quote “Offense sells tickets; defense wins championships.” When it comes to driving, offense is likely to get you a ticket and defense will save your life.

Defensive driving skills allow a driver to react to possible collisions caused by the poor driving of others or bad weather. By being prepared, analyzing conditions and reacting appropriately, you can prevent an accident from happening even when those around you are not driving safely.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the likelihood of being involved in a fatal accident depends on a variety of factors including where you drive. There were 34,247 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2017 in which 37,133 deaths occurred. The fatality rate per 100,000 people ranged from 4.5 in the District of Columbia to 23.1 in Mississippi. The highest number of large truck occupant deaths occurred in Texas (90).

Here are some defensive driving tips to help make every trip a safe one.

Prepare for your trip

Complete a thorough pre-trip inspection to ensure the vehicle has functioning brakes, headlights, taillights, and turn signals. Check mirrors for proper adjustment. These items ensure that you can see others and they can see you.

Take advantage of safety devices

If your vehicle is equipped with advanced automated safety devices – such as lane-keeping, blind-spot detection or automatic braking – know how to use the systems properly, understand their limitations and use them when appropriate.

Always buckle up

Many car accident fatalities could be prevented each year, by simply wearing a seat belt. The National Safety Council says that seat belts reduce your risk of injury in a crash by 50 percent, and that 75,000 lives were saved by seat belts between 2004 and 2008. Those least likely to buckle up are teens, rural drivers, intoxicated drivers, and commercial truck drivers.


Avoid distractions while behind the wheels. Don’t let the radio, phone or others in the vehicle take your eyes and mind off the road.

Stay alert in construction zones

Before entering the zone, watch for signs indicating which lane to use. Pay attention to the location of workers, trucks entering the work zone, and the road surface. In a construction zone, there is always a possibility for debris. If the road is being mended, repaved or widened, the road’s surface is more likely to be uneven. Be cautious and aware of potholes or miscellaneous debris.

Watch your speed and keep a steady pace

Maintain a safe speed and following distance – never less than seven seconds. Sudden increases and decreases in speed, unexpected lane changes, and unpredictable stops make it hard for other drivers to anticipate your actions. Be predictable and avoid surprising anyone around you.

Adjust for the environment (link to driving in rain and fog flyer; being added to site)

When the roads are slick, wet, snowy, slushy or icy, your braking times increase. Turn off cruise control. Add extra space between your vehicle and other vehicles. Slow down as much as is feasible. Learn to detect and react properly to hydroplaning and skidding.

Safely clear crossings

The leading cause of intersection collisions is running the red light. Sometimes it's a lack of attention to the road. Sometimes it's glare from the setting sun. Sometimes it's just plain hurry. The best practice is to slow down before each intersection, and evaluate the situation. Approach every intersection assuming that cross traffic may not see you or stop. Look left, right and then left again. Know where you are going, which lane you should be in and communicate your intent to turn with signals.

Use your turn signals

Confusion is the enemy of safe driving. Make your lane changes, merges and turns predictable and smooth, and always signal in advance. Lane change and merging collisions are two of the most common types of incidents that occur between large trucks and passenger vehicles. Double check mirrors and surroundings before making a move.

When in doubt, yield

If you aren't certain who has the right of way, err on the side of caution. If you know you have the right of way, but another motorist seems to disagree, give in. Better to lose a bit of time than to get caught in a collision.

Use headlights wisely

Anytime visibility is impaired on winding roads, during fog, rain, snow, or low light, make sure you can be seen by turning on your headlights. Only use your high beams in low-traffic areas, and turn them down for oncoming drivers.

Don't drive drunk, buzzed, high, or low

Even an over-the-counter cold medication can alter your response times, so assess yourself honestly before deciding to drive. The average drinker can only metabolize one drink per hour. One drink equates to 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. If you are under the influence of any mind-altering substance, stay away from the wheel. NHTSA estimates 28 people die daily in the U.S. from drunk driving accidents.

Respond safely to tailgaters

If someone is following too closely, add space between your car and the car in front of yours. This increases your ability to see and prepare for a collision. Then carefully and gradually decrease your speed and try to move into a right hand lane to let the tailgater pass. Do not hit the brakes suddenly, unless you are forced to do so to avoid a collision.

Let it go

Road rage is not just an urban myth. Since you don't know who might be behind the wheel of that vehicle that just cut you off, it's safest to back away and overlook the offense. Road rage has led to murder over trivial offenses in all 50 states. Getting even could get you killed, not to mention the innocent drivers in your vicinity. If you suspect that another driver may be drunk, stay away, and alert the authorities as soon as it is safe to do so.

Look far ahead of your vehicle

Keep your eyes far down the road, and anticipate problems before you come to them. Look for erratic drivers, slow traffic, intersections, and highway debris.

Expect other drivers to make mistakes

Don't trust anyone but yourself.

Defensive driving courses are available through the National Safety Council.

  • Categorized in:
  • Transportation Safety
  • Driving Techniques
  • Distracted Driving
  • Seasonal Driving Tips
  • Sharing the Road
  • Weather Conditions