Driving defensively is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of being seriously injured in a car accident. While you cannot control what other drivers do, you can control what you do, and if you take steps to keep yourself (and your passengers) safe, you will be significantly less likely to end up dealing with the consequences of someone else’s mistake.
So, what is considered defensive driving in Florida?
Defensive Driving: Putting Safety First on Florida’s Roads
The American Safety Council, a “leading source for online driver education” based in Florida, defines defensive driving as follows:
“Defensive Driving is . . . driving in a manner that utilizes safe driving strategies to enable motorists to address identified hazards in a predictable manner.”
On Florida’s public roads, predictability is the key to defensive driving. If you are able to anticipate potential risks—and if you are able to respond in time to avoid these risks when they present themselves—you will be able to protect yourself and your passengers in the vast majority of cases.
With this in mind, some of the fundamentals of defensive driving are:
- Staying Focused on the Task at Hand – To drive defensively, you need to be fully aware of your surroundings. This means staying focused on the task at hand when you are behind the wheel. Set your GPS directions and choose your playlist before you go, put your phone out of reach, and do not let your passengers shift your focus from the road ahead. Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents, and even a distraction of just a second or two can be enough to put you in a dangerous situation.
- Maintaining Plenty of Space Around You – If you aren’t near any other cars, you can’t get in a car accident. While it isn’t practical to avoid other cars altogether, you can (and generally should) maintain plenty of space around your vehicle. Driving defensively means leaving plenty of buffer between your car and the car in front of you, avoiding other drivers’ blind spots whenever possible, and letting tailgaters pass when necessary.
- Driving At a Safe Speed – Along with distracted driving, speeding is another leading cause of car accidents in Florida. The faster you are traveling, the less time you have to react and the longer it takes you to slow down. Generally, driving at a safe speed means observing the speed limit. But, in some circumstances (i.e., in heavy traffic or heavy rain), you may need to go slower to preserve your ability to react in time to avoid a collision.
- Making Sure You are Visible to Other Drivers – As we mentioned above, you should try to stay out of other drivers’ blind spots whenever possible. You should also take other steps to maximize your visibility to other drivers. For example, it is a good idea to periodically check to make sure your headlights, taillights and brake lights are all working. Use your headlights from dusk to dawn (and in bad weather), and if you are pulling out from a place where other drivers can’t see you, go slowly just in case they aren’t paying attention.
- Approaching Intersections Cautiously – While all drivers should stop and red lights and stop signs, many drivers do not. Likewise, it seems that far too few drivers in Florida understand the meaning of the word “yield.” With this in mind, it is a good defensive driving practice to approach all intersections cautiously. Do not assume that other drivers will stop or yield the right of way. Once you see that an oncoming vehicle is stopping, then you can pass through the intersection and continue on your way.
- Knowing When Other Drivers Present Risks – Defensive driving also involves knowing when other drivers present risks on the road. Weaving, failing to maintain a consistent speed, and braking abruptly are all signs that a driver may be drowsy, drunk or distracted. Speeding drivers often make other reckless and dangerous decisions as well, and drivers who simply aren’t focused on the task at hand may make mistakes ranging from changing lanes without looking to running stop signs in broad daylight.
- Making Decisions with Your (and Your Passengers’) Safety in Mind – Ultimately, you can consider yourself a defensive driver if you make decisions with your (and your passengers’) safety in mind. When you are behind the wheel, safety should always be your first priority. If you focus on avoiding unnecessary risks for the benefit of yourself and those around you, you will do your part to make Florida’s roads a safer place to drive.
Another way to think about defensive driving is to focus on avoiding high-risk behaviors behind the wheel. For example, the following are not defensive driving behaviors:
- Texting, reading emails, and scrolling social media behind the wheel
- Speeding up to “beat” yellow lights
- Passing stop signs without coming to a complete stop
- Driving above the speed limit—even if you are just keeping up with traffic
- Tailgating drivers who are going below the speed limit until they move over
- Assuming that other drivers will slow down to let you over
- Driving when you are tired or when you may have had too much to drink
Defensive Driving Won’t Protect You In All Scenarios
Unfortunately, no matter how defensively you drive, your good decision-making will not protect you and your passengers in all scenarios. In some cases, there is simply nothing you can do to avoid being hit. If you are involved in a car accident while driving defensively, you should call 911 from the scene of the accident, contact your insurance company, and discuss your situation with a lawyer as soon as possible.
We Help Car Accident Victims Recover Just Compensation in Florida
If you were injured in a car accident while driving defensively in Florida, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses. To discuss your legal rights with an experienced attorney in confidence, call 954-784-6310 or send us your contact information online today.