Defensive Driving

You've all heard of aggressive driving, road rage and reckless driving.... things NOT to do.  But what about things you CAN do to be a responsible and safe driver?  We have collected a few tips to help you become a defensive driver and to help you make sure that you reach your destination as safely as possible.  Sometimes you can't control what other drivers do, but you can control what you do.

1.  KEEP DISTRACTIONS TO A MINIMUM:  Hold off on phone calls until you reach a safe location to stop (rest area, get off at an exit, etc.).  Never text while driving.  Not only is this extremely dangerous, but it's illegal in Michigan.  Many people have been killed by drivers who were texting.  Your eyes should be on the road at all times.  If they're not, you could miss seeing something that could cause an accident - like a vehicle suddenly stopped in front of you.  Talk to your kids about the importance of behaving (not distracting you) while riding in the car.

2.  BE AWARE OF OTHER DRIVERS:  Know where other vehicles are in relation to where you are driving.  Check your mirrors and blind spotsperiodically so you know when vehicles are coming up behind you or next to you.  Always check your mirror and look over your shoulder before changing lanes.  Stay out of blind spots of other drivers whenever possible, especially semi-trucks.  Watch for motorcycles and know that they are harder to see than regular sized vehicles.  Keep a good distance away when traveling behind a motorcycle.  If they crash in front of you, they do not have a vehicle to help protect them in a crash. 

3.  REPORT HAZARDOUS DRIVERS:  If you see another driver who is driving in a hazardous manner, do not hesitate to report them to the police.  It's a good idea to program your local police department's phone number into your phone in case you need police assistance.  Always call 911 in an emergency.

4.  NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE:  Driving under the influence is illegal for good reason.  It is impossible to drive to the best of your ability when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Drugs and alcohol, by their very nature, alter your ability to function at a normal level.  Always play it safe and plan to have a sober driver.  The consequences of driving under the influence are life shattering.

5.  ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEATBELT:  Wearing a seatbelt greatly reduces your risk of injury or death in a crash.  Traffic crashes are the #1 killer of people under the age of 32 and take more young lives than all types of crime combined. In 1996 more than 1,500 persons lost their lives from traffic crashes on Michigan roadways, and nearly 60% of those who died were not wearing safety belts!  Many crashes occur close to home, so be sure to wear your seatbelt every time - even when driving just down the road.

6.  NEVER DRIVE WHILE YOU ARE TIRED:  Tired drivers can be just as dangerous as drunk drivers.  If you are driving and begin to get drowsy, stop in a safe location and take a rest.  At minimum, stop somewhere and get out of your vehicle - walk around a bit and get some fresh air.  Getting to your destination safely is your most important task when driving. 

7.  USE YOUR HEADLIGHTS:  Headlights aren't just for nighttime use and use during inclement weather. By driving with your headlights on at all times, even on bright sunny days, recent statistics show that you reduce the likelihood of being involved in a collision by as much as 32%. Turning on your headlights lets the other driver see you first; because the human eye is light-seeking, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists will see an oncoming car sooner and be less likely to pull into its path.

8.  USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS:  Let other drivers know where you are going.  If you plan to turn off a roadway or change lanes, use your turn signal so the driver behind you knows where you plan to go and can allow you plenty of space to stop or turn safely. 

9.  DRIVE FOR CURRENT ROAD CONDITIONS:  In inclement weather, always be prepared for slippery road surfaces.  Allow yourself additional time for driving so you are not in a hurry when you should be driving slower than normal.  Expect that intersections and overpasses will be slippery.  Allow extra room for braking.  On a slippery surface, it will take your vehicle longer to come to a complete stop.  Many road surfaces may not appear slippery but actually are.  Often, you may not realize it until you're sliding across a lane of traffic or trying to stop and you're unable to do so.  Plan for the conditions to be slippery and you can avoid unexpected loss of control of your vehicle. 

10.  BE PREPARED:  Make sure your car is in good mechanical condition.  Temperature extremes always bring out the worst in your car, like dead batteries, soft tires, gasoline freeze and carburetor and heating problems.  Make sure that your anti-freeze is at the proper level, that your wiper blades are in good working condition and that you have plenty of washer fluid.  Prepare an emergency kit for your vehicle and keep it in your vehicle.  Include things like warm clothing, a hat, boots, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, blankets and first aid supplies.  You might also consider a few non-perishable food items and a candle with matches.  A single lit candle in your vehicle can help provide you with warmth necessary to survive in cold conditions and, with precautions, is much safer than running your vehicle engine.  During inclement weather, plan your route of travel and let someone know where you are going and when you should arrive.  Stay alert and know where you are at all times so if you need to call for help, you can direct emergency responders to your location.