Defensive driving is the learned practice of applying various defensive techniques, in an effort to reduce the risk of a car accident or personal injury while behind the wheel. Although some car accidents are simply unpreventable, in many cases they could have been avoided had one or both parties utilized basic defensive driving practices.

Before discussing defensive driving techniques, let’s first consider some of the more typical causes of car accidents and personal injury:

  • Inexperience
  • Inattention/Distraction
  • Weather
  • Road Conditions
  • Impairment
  • Speed
  • Attitude
  • Tailgating
  • Vehicle Condition
  • Fatigue
  • Health

The list goes on and can be quite intimidating. However, the good news is that you have the ability to defend against many of these causes. You can decrease the chances of a car accident or personal injury by practicing some very basic safety measures. Smith Systems, the leading provider of collision avoidance driver training, teaches a system called The Smith 5 Keys to Defensive Driving. This specific defensive driving system is recognized, taught and utilized all around the world by many different industries. These techniques are a great starting point for anyone wanting to learn basic defensive driving tactics:

The first key to defensive driving is: Aim High and Plan Ahead
Look ahead to where you will be at least 15 seconds into your future. Not just at the vehicle in front of you. A 15 second eye lead time provides advanced warning and gives you an additional margin of safety.

The second key to defensive driving is: Get the Big Picture
Look for possible hazards. Scan ahead and look for hazards, such as: other motorists, pedestrians, upcoming road conditions, possible delays or road closures. When scanning ahead be sure to scan side to side and to the rear as well. Attempt to check at least one of your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds and do not focus your attention on insignificant objects. Stay alert.

The third key to defensive driving is: Keep Your Eyes Moving
Don’t stare too long at one particular object, it diminishes your peripheral vision. Stop the fixed habit stare by keeping your eyes moving every 2 seconds.

The fourth key to defensive driving is: Leave Yourself an Out
Monitor the space cushion around you. The safest position in traffic is with the least amount of vehicles around you as possible. Create a space cushion and maintain it if you are able to. If you lose part of the cushion, work to keep at least the front and side open. This is a great precaution to avoid personal injury.

The fifth key to defensive driving is: Make Sure They See You
Use your signals and use them appropriately. Make eye contact. Seek eye contact with other drivers and pedestrians, in an attempt to communicate your intentions and warnings.

These five techniques are a great foundation towards familiarizing yourself with the basics of defensive driving. Practicing these driving strategies will help you to identify and avoid hazards, reducing the chances of personal injury to others and yourself. By making the active choice to be a defensive driver every time you get into your vehicle, you are consciously minimizing the risks on the road around you. Practicing these techniques means that you are going well beyond basic driving instruction and state laws and are committed to the safety of yourself, your family and other motorists.

To find out more about Smith Systems Defensive Driving and other Driver’s Training classes, please visit their website at:

If you have been involved in a car accident and would like more information on your legal options, please contact my office at 661.833.1090



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