Sometimes, no matter how good your defensive driving skills are, you will be involved in an accident and there’s nothing you could’ve done differently to avoid it.  My future cousin in-law, Jon unfortunately was involved in a serious accident this past weekend when a drunk teenage driver drove in the opposite lane of the highway and crashed head-on with him. He was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Jon’s going to be at the hospital at least for the next 6 weeks recovering. I’m going to continue to pray for a speedy full recovery.

Accidents such as Jon’s are unfortunate and you hope you will never have to be in those situations. However, there are ways to avoid certain accidents if your defensive driving skills are intact. Here are my Top 12 Defensive Driving habits I try to practice every time I’m on the road.

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  1. Don’t follow trucks with heavy or loose cargo. There are so many utility trucks out there with all kinds of tools just waiting to fall off the truck. Avoid driving behind these trucks so you won’t be in the way of potentially loose objects that may drop onto the highway.
  2. Avoid driving next to big buses and trucks. These 18-wheelers and Greyhound buses take up a lot of space in one lane. If you drive next to them, they could swerve towards you unexpectedly for whatever reasons, causing your car to fall into a ditch. Either speed up (overtake) or slow down (undertake) to avoid such potential disaster.
  3. Don’t change lanes too often. Unless you’re in a super hurry to get to somewhere, you should really have no other reason to swerve left and right to pass everyone in your way. Just pick and choose a lane and stay put in that lane.
  4. Anticipate the other driver’s move. When you’re driving on the right lane and there’s an incoming ramp, you can either slow down or speed up to give the incoming vehicle plenty of space to merge. Some drivers ignore this fact and keep driving at the same speed as the merging vehicles, thus blocking them in. Anticipate their move before the move and you can avoid a potential collision.
  5. Leave plenty of distance. There’s no reason to tailgate the car in front of you. If the car in front of you is driving too slow, simply drive past them. If it’s a single lane highway, drive patiently until an opportunity arises to drive past them. Tailgating will probably make the driver in the front more nervous, making them drive even slower.
  6. Don’t brake too often. It is better to slow down by letting go of the gas instead of pushing on the brakes all the time.  Remember, the brake lights come on whenever you touch the brakes. They don’t give any indication of how hard your braking. So, the driver behind you does not know how hard you’re hitting the brakes. He may react more severely than necessary. When you use brakes relentlessly and unexpectedly, the driver behind you will react accordingly and may hit the brakes more severely than necessary, increasing the chance of an accident.
  7. Be aggressive when changing lanes. I know #3 says not to change lanes too often, but sometimes you need to. But when you do, make it decisive without hesitation.  When you hesitate, you lose focus and start second guessing yourself.
  8. Don’t turn blinkers on for more than 10 seconds. When you leave your blinkers on for too long, other drivers will start to think that you’ve turned it on by accident and will start to ignore the blinkers. This could end up being dangerous as you’re trying to change your lane. If you can’t find an opening to change lanes, turn your blinkers off and then turn them back on when the opening appears again.
  9. If you’re driving slower than the flow of traffic, drive on the right lane. Be courteous to everyone around you. If you are a slow driver, please use the right lane.
  10. If someone is tailgating you, simply change lanes and let them pass. There’s no need to keep driving at the same speed. If you’re driving on a multi-lane highway, it’s probably better to change lanes and let the other driver pass. He’ll probably appreciate it.
  11. Don’t travel the same speed as your neighboring cars. One thing I really hate to do is drive adjacent with other cars at the same speed with them. When you don’t overtake or undertake, then you create lane blockage for other cars, preventing them to pass you if they desire to do so. I also believe this is illegal in some states, but not 100% sure. Either speed up or slow down so you’re not driving right next to other cars.
  12. Don’t change lanes when you see another two lanes over. Some drivers only look at one lane over to see if there is an opening for a lane change. They fail to see if there’s another car two lanes over that may possibly be trying to change his lane as well. You and that driver don’t want to be changing into the same lane at the same time. To avoid this, if you see another car two lanes over, either speed up or slow down to change your lane to avoid any potential collision.

So there you have it. These are my top twelve ways to improve your defensive driving skills. Remember, just because you believe you’re a good driver doesn’t mean that you’re a safe driver. Although you may not be doing anything that violates any traffic law, if you’re not careful, you could be putting other drivers in danger.