Driving requires a combination of skills and the ability to make the right decision at the right time. It takes years of driving experience for this to become second nature. But to a teen driver, defensive driving isn't always top of mind. Here are five simple tips to remember.
1. Expand your "look-ahead" capacity
Rather than focusing directly in front of the vehicle, a driver should be looking 10 to 12 seconds down the road - where many potential trouble spots begin. How can you tell how far 10 to 12 seconds is? Choose a stationary object in the distance (a street sign, traffic light, building, etc). While maintaining concentration on the road, count the seconds until you pass the object. If you pass it before you get to 10 choose another object slightly further away, until you have a good idea of how far ahead of your car you should be scanning the road.
2. Size up the whole scene
A defensive driver will continually scan for bicyclists, pedestrians, construction, traffic congestion, erratic drivers and changing road conditions. That includes checking mirrors every few seconds.
3. Signal your intentions early
Use turn signals, horn or lights, when appropriate, to help avoid surprises. This helps other drivers understand your plans, so they can make their own defensive driving decisions.
4. Plan an escape route
Carefully time passing moves, avoid tailgating and plan actions to help avoid a crash. Think ahead and allow enough time, space and visibility to stop or maneuver smoothly.
5. Take decisive action
Any driver - young or old - who practices the first four principles will be able to react to most traffic situations, with time and space to maneuver safely. Experienced drivers may have mastered defensive driving, but it will require additional experience and hours behind the wheel before teen drivers have it down.