Defensive mother and daughter driver

Defensive Driving Tips and Strategies

Updated March 14, 2022 . AmFam Team

Hone your defensive driving skills with these tips. Discover safe driving habits that help you drive more safely with American Family's defensive driver tips.

Want to make the roads safer while protecting you, your loved ones and your car? Take the first step by honing your driving skills. Defensive driving is defined as driving safely as possible in order to save lives, time and money. It’s also about being aware so that you’re able to react safely in any situation.

Take a look at these tips to help you become a more fully engaged driver and stay safer behind the wheel, wherever you’re headed.

Be Aware of Your Blind Spots

It may seem overly basic, but one of the best ways to keep yourself and your fellow drivers safe out on the roads is to simply be aware of what is going on around you. Here are a few ideas to help you manage blind spots:
  • Check your rear and side-view mirrors frequently until it becomes second nature
  • Use your mirrors to verify the area’s clear before making a turn or changing lanes
  • Stay aware of your surroundings and know vehicle positions in adjacent lanes at all times
  • Keep an eye out for any potential obstacles or obstructions at least a quarter mile down the road

New advances in lane departure warning systems and crash prevention technologies are becoming standard in newer vehicles and can really help you stay safe. According to a 2015 Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) study, systems like these cut lane departure crash fatalities by a whopping 86%. That’s tech really worth having onboard when you’re buying a new car.

Don’t Text and Drive

It’s true: text messages and smartphones are an ever-present part of everyday life. And honestly, you’re a safer driver when you’re not texting and driving. According to a National Safety Council report in 2016 , cell phone use while driving led to more than 1.6 million accidents in one year alone.

Don’t Rely on Other Drivers

It may seem counterintuitive, but you may be best to assume that other drivers around you will make mistakes. This is the essence of defensive driving. Anticipate issues before they arise and think up a plan to prevent small miscalculations by others from turning into major pileups.

Expect drivers to run red lights and miss stop signs. By slowing down in intersections, you’ll be safer and so will other drivers around you. Minimum auto coverages vary by state, but with added uninsured motorist coverage on-board, you’ll be even better protected.

Adopt the 4-6 Second Rule

When you’ve got time to react, you’ll be better able to maneuver out of trouble and safely avoid multi-car accidents. And it’s as simple as following at a safe distance. Allow for 4 -6 seconds of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you.

Count the number of seconds it takes you to arrive at a marker on the road in front of you. Start counting as the vehicle ahead passes that marker, it should be no sooner than 4 seconds. And build out a bigger time buffer when traffic conditions are degraded like when it’s snowing or raining.

Slow Down

Arriving on time is frequently out of your hands. This is particularly the case when traffic is snarled due to rush hour or when an accident closes a lane or two on the way to your destination. By reducing your speed, you’ll help keep traffic flowing safely and you may be able to react more readily to changing conditions.

Always Have a Plan to Avoid Accidents

One great way to stay safe is to keep thinking about ways to avoid potential accidents that may pop up while you’re driving. And it’s a fantastic way to stay present and engaged when you’re on the road. Anticipate how drivers might mess up and drift into your lane and come up with an escape route that allows you to exit safely.

Look for alternative routes out of a situation and be ready for the unexpected when you’re on the road. You’ll have a better chance of making the right quick decision when seconds count.

Split up Individual Risks When Driving

Road hazards, bad weather, poor visibility, slippery conditions — sometimes, you get to drive with all of these factors in play at the same time. By separating these risks and having a plan for each of them on their own, you’ll be more prepared for issues where these problems surface at the same time.

Enroll in a Safe Driving Course Online

In addition to our DriveMyWay* program, refreshing your driving skills is another great way to step up and own your commitment to being a safer driver. In addition to a potential break on your insurance rates, online defensive driving courses allow you to review the basics and be a better driver every time you hit the road. Online driver courses like AARP’s Safe Driver program even offers a certificate of completion.

Find Auto Coverage for Your Car

Paying attention on the road starts with getting smart coverage before you get behind the wheel. It’s true, insurance rates can vary by zip code. But you can protect your savings best by selecting comprehensive insurance for your car. Additional insurance like collision coverage, bodily injury liability insurance protection and other coverage options that cover medical expenses can help to keep you and your family safer.

See? It’s really pretty simple! As you’re improving your driving habits and upping your game, be sure to reach out to your American Family Insurance agent for a quote. Be sure to request rental car reimbursement coverage to help keep you mobile if you do find your car in the shop due to a covered loss. You’ll have great coverage from an insurance company that really can help you be a better, safer driver.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

*Rate will vary based on driving behavior. Unsafe driving behaviors may increase your rate. Product eligibility will vary by state, vehicle type, policy form and company underwriting the auto policy. Some restrictions may apply. The DriveMyWay rate factor applies only to these coverages, which are typical for most auto policies: bodily injury liability, property damage liability, collision and comprehensive, medical expense, and personal injury protection. Additionally, the rate factor does not apply to fixed fees that are part of the policy. To refresh your understanding of coverages, visit the Car Insurance Coverage page. Adding or removing drivers from a policy may impact the overall score. Households where not all eligible participants on the policy are enrolled will receive a 5% introductory discount. If you unenroll drivers after the 100-day trial period ends, we’ll still use their driving behavior at the time of unenrollment when calculating your rate.

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