4 Defensive Driving Tips that You've Probably Neglected

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Defensive driving is a skill set that every driver should develop if he or she values safety. Calling defensive driving a skill set makes it sound like something new that you have to learn, but as a driver, you probably know 90% of it already: wear your seatbelt, signal before turning, keep a safe distance, etc. This blog post is about the remaining 10% - How exactly do you use your turn indicator? How exactly do you keep a safe distance?

Seating position is more important than you think

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Most people simply adjust their seats to the most comfortable position, without giving it much thought later. Some like to sit close to the steering wheel so that they can see the roads better. Some sit further back so that they can relax their legs. But both are far from ideal.

The ideal seating position serves one very important purpose: give you the most control of your car. Sitting too close to the steering wheel (or too far) limits your arm movements. During crucial moments when rapid reaction is required, your arms cannot move fast enough to steer the car in the direction needed.

To determine the correct distance between you and the steering wheel, put your hand on it. Adjust the seat so that you can hold the steering wheel with a slight bent in your elbow. If your elbow is straight, you are sitting too far back. Your shoulders should be touching the back of the seat for best comfort. This position gives you the most control.

The 2-second Rule

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We all know tailgating is bad. So how much distance should you maintain between you and the car in front? While driving, it is difficult to gauge distance accurately. The idea here is to use time as our guide.

While driving, take note a particular stationary item ahead, say, a lamp post. After the car in front passes the lamp post, count 2 seconds. If your car passes the same lamp post before the 2 seconds elapse, you are too close. You should hang back. Why do we need those 2 seconds?

Let's say the car in front brakes suddenly. It will take 0.25 second on average for you to perceives the danger. That's the median perception reaction time in human. Then, you will need another 0.75 second to move your foot from the accelerator to the brake. That's a total of 1 second before you actually begin decelerating. Add another second on top of that as buffer, and you get the 2-second rule, which gives you time to react to emergency.

Some argue the 2-second rule isn't enough because it does not take braking distance into consideration. For your car to come to a halt from 100km/h, you will need about 5 seconds. Hence, a 3-second rule should be advocated instead. But I leave that decision to you.

Avoid other drivers' blind spots

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You are aware of your own blind spots. These are the spots that you can't see in your rear and side mirrors. You have learned to quickly glance over your shoulder to make sure it's clear before changing lane. But how can you be sure that other drivers practice this good habit of yours too?

You can't be. Therefore, do not linger in the blind spots of another driver. Either overtake swiftly and safely, or hang back. If the situation prohibits neither, at least honk politely to let the other driver know that you are there.

Signal BEFORE you turn

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It's common sense. It's a habit. You can even say it's instinctive. Yet, that's exactly where the problem lies. We don't think about it anymore. Many drivers signal AND turn at the same time, leaving other road users very little time to react. It's time to re-examine your own driving habit. Signal BEFORE turning.

So there you have it. Do you have other tips about defensive driving to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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