How To Drive Defensively

John Wayne with youngest son Ethan.

Hitting the open road is a lot of fun, but you should remember every time you get behind the wheel, you’re taking control of a potentially lethal machine and need to comport yourself accordingly. Follow the below advice on defensive driving to make sure you head off trouble before it happens.

1. DRIVE WITH YOUR HEAD

Not literally, of course. Your brain is the most important organ you have when it comes to driving (and a lot of other things, for that matter). Handling a vehicle safely and defensively means making dozens of snap judgments that can mean the difference between a smooth ride and a disaster, so stay focused on the road. That means no music, no texting, no eating, no anything that distracts you from the task at hand.

2. EXPECT THE WORST

It would be nice if everyone else on the road always obeyed the traffic laws, in the same way, it would be nice if your boss decided to double your salary and vacation time in appreciation for all the hard work you’ve done— in other words unlikely. Depend on the only person you can (hint: the same one that’s reading this book right now). Instead of barrelling through the intersection just because you have the right of way, assume other drivers will run the red light or stop sign. This doesn’t mean slow to a crawl through every green light, but definitely keep your eyes peeled for any reckless drivers.


“Keep your eyes peeled for any reckless drivers”


3. COUNT TO THREE

No matter how diligent you are about checking your mirrors and keeping your eyes on the road, you can only react so quickly to a car that decides the middle of a four-lane expressway is an excellent spot to slam on the brakes. In ideal conditions (sun shining, birds singing, John Wayne movie waiting at home) you want to keep about three seconds worth of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. When the person in front of you hits a landmark, count in your head how long it takes you to reach the same point to figure out your distance in terms of time. Of course, when driving through a hailstorm or any other dangerous conditions, you want to increase the distance to reflect the increased danger of a collision.

4. STAY IN SIGHT

Remember the goal of defensive driving is to minimize the risk of an accident, particularly with another driver on the road. But people can’t avoid what they can’t see, so don’t spend a lot of time driving in the blind spot of that huge semi-truck on the highway. Also, be sure to signal all of your turns and lane changes to make sure there’s no confusion about where you’re headed

This post was derived from “The Official Handybook for Men” by James Ellis. For more handy tips, you can purchase the book from our online store.