Most of us would like to believe we are above average drivers, but the truth is, the majority of drivers on the road never get past the basics. A philosophy called defensive driving is the basis for a more advanced course in driver and passenger safety. It involves learning a more proactive attitude behind the wheel, anticipating potential hazards instead of simply reacting to them. There are professional defensive driving courses available online or through accredited driver education programs.
One aspect of defensive driving involves understanding a vehicle's limitations and abilities. In an emergency, precious reaction time could be lost while trying to find an emergency brake, clutch or gear shift. Instructors teach students to know what to do in case of brake failure, for example. The idea is to develop an instinct for grabbing the parking brake or putting the car in another gear without losing control.
Another defensive driving skill is knowing how to steer the car out of hazards while maintaining control. Situations like skidding or avoiding road debris call for steering maneuvers not required for a driver's license. Specific lessons on oversteering, understeering and recovery are usually provided in defensive driving schools. Professional drivers also learn techniques to turn a vehicle around quickly or minimize damage during a wreck.
One important skill is anticipation. A defensive driver is constantly scanning the area for potential dangers. A bicyclist on the right could suddenly swerve or fall. The pedestrian on the sidewalk could decide to cross in front of the car, or a small child may jump into the street. The driver ahead may be tired or drunk, while the driver in the oncoming lane could be distracted by a passenger. The box on the road may be empty, or it could contain roofing nails. Defensive driving means anticipating every possible outcome, so that a real situation won't catch the driver unprepared.
Many insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who successfully complete accredited defensive driving courses. Online courses are also available for those who want to improve their driving habits and receive a break on their insurance premiums. Driving defensively is a proven way to reduce the number of accidents on the road caused by inattentive or inexperienced drivers.