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What Is Defensive Driving? Safe Driving Techniques for Teenagers

Updated on September 10, 2019

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 10.8 million auto accidents in the United States in 2009 (the most recent statistics available as of 2012). The actual number may be even higher, since sometimes the parties involved decide not to report the accident to police or to their insurance companies, preferring to simply settle the matter themselves. (Not recommended…you should report all accidents to your insurance company.) Many of those accidents could have been avoided if the drivers involved had been more actively practicing defensive driving techniques.

Defensive driving is the practice of maintaining an awareness of road and weather conditions, other vehicles and pedestrians, and potentially hazardous situations…and then taking steps to prevent becoming the cause of – or becoming involved in – an accident.

Nobody who gets behind the wheel really expects to get in an accident on their way to wherever it is they’re going. They expect to simply drive from point A to point B without incident, and most of the time it all works out just fine. But if we were to actively anticipate and watch for the unexpected, could we significantly lower our chances of getting in an accident? Yes we could.

Expect The Unexpected

When I was a teenage driver, every time I’d go out my dad would tell me, “Drive safely, son, and expect the unexpected.” This advice helped me avoid more accidents than I can possibly keep track of. Thanks, Dad!

You don’t want to be paranoid and expect everyone around you to suddenly freak out and swerve right into you, but you do want to avoid being lulled into a false sense of security. Defensive driving is all about awareness and prevention. Expect the unexpected is now your defensive driving mantra.

EXAMPLE: Say you’re at a red light, about to make a right-hand turn, and there’s a car coming from your left. The driver has his right turn signal on and is slowing down to turn right, so that means he’s gonna turn, and it must be safe for you to pull out and make your own turn, right?

Expect the unexpected…sometimes drivers will change their minds at the last second, accelerate, and then continue going straight through the intersection. When that happens, you don’t want to be in his lane, or you’ll get creamed…and since he has a green light and you have a red light, guess who will be held liable for any damages and injuries?

So how do you learn more about defensive driving? There are actual classes you can take, and insurance companies will offer some drivers a discount for taking a certified driver safety course. It might be worth looking into.

But there are also truckloads of free defensive driving tips you can find online. Here are a few to get you started…

Ten Simple Defensive Driving Tips

1. Look Farther Up The Road. Don’t just watch the car directly in front of you, but check out what’s going on a mile ahead, too. See all those brake lights coming on way up there? Something’s up

2. Make Necessary Lane Changes Way Ahead Of Time. Sudden, hurried lane changes cause accidents, so get in the lane you need to be in about a mile before your turn or off-ramp.

3. Don’t Make Unnecessary Lane Changes. Just pick a lane and stay in it for a while. You’ll catch up to everybody at the next red light.

4. What’s The Speed Limit Right Now? If you’re not consciously looking for those speed limit signs, you might not even think about how fast you’re going until there’s a flashing blue light in your rear-view mirror.

5. Maintain A 3-Second To 5-Second Following Distance. If something happens to the car ahead of you, or there’s a hazard in your lane, you’ll need more than a second or two to react.

6. Bicycles Are Everywhere. Don’t just check for cars when turning into and out of driveways, or when making turns. Watch out for bikes, too…they’re sneaky.

7. Don’t Drive Angry. DON’T DRIVE ANGRY!!! Getting in an accident won’t make your day get any better. Take some deep breaths, put on some quiet music, and drive safely.

8. Try To Avoid Following Big Trucks. You can’t see what’s happening up ahead if there’s a giant truck right in front of you. Plus, their massive tires often kick up pieces of debris, and launch them right into your windshield.

9. Drive Slower In Rain And Darkness. Fact: you simply cannot see as well when visibility is limited. And if the roads are wet or icy, you’ll need more time and space to slow down and stop.

10. Other Cars Don’t Just Stop For Nothing. If everyone in the lane next to you is stopped, don’t just zoom past them in your lane. They may be stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk or a hazard up ahead that you can’t see yet. If the other guys are hitting the brakes, then something’s going on, so be alert.

NEXT: How To Park Like A Pro


This article is for information purposes and should not be interpreted as a recommendation to buy any insurance product, or to provide financial or legal advice. Articles on this website are copyrighted material and cannot be reproduced in any form without the author's written permission.


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    • swati17 profile image

      Swati Chandiramani 

      8 years ago from India

      Nice Hub !! Useful Tips!! Voted up!!

    • califonium profile image


      8 years ago from NIGERIA

      well i really don't know much about driving, but i know one can't be too careful when it comes to safety. thanks for your life saving tips

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      Yeah, this one actually doesn't get as much traffic as the others. I need to put an image on there; maybe that will draw people's attention.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 

      8 years ago from Southern California


      I am surprised that you didn't get more comments, as it is an important subject.

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      Oh, that's tragic. I picked that tip up from personal experience too. When I first moved to Hawaii years ago, I didn't realize that nobody here will stop when there's a pedestrian waiting on the sidewalk at a crosswalk, like I learned to do in California. I'm sure we're supposed to in every state, but people rarely do it here.

      So one day I stopped for this girl (teenager) who wanted to cross. As she passed the front of my car and walked into the next lane, a car came zooming past and slammed on the brakes. The girl froze in horror, right in the path of the screeching car. Fortunately, the car stopped just inches from her, and she scurried off to the sidewalk and the driver took off.

      So now I also try to stop well in advance of the crosswalk to give the pedestrians and other drivers as much room as possible.

      People just don't think. Or worse, they THINK...but they THINK that they only need to follow the traffic laws when they feel like it.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 

      8 years ago from Southern California


      This hub has a lot of good points, and the last one is the best.

      Cars don't stop for no reason.

      Years ago a neighbors child was crossing an intersection to go home, he was about 11. He waited for the car coming towards the intersection to stop. He then walked into the intersection to cross the street, and when he cleared that car, a car in the next lane was going pretty fast and knocked the kid across the road about ninety feet.

      The driver that hit him was in back of the car that stopped but not real close to it. Seeing the car stop in front of him, he immediately changed lanes while not even slowing down, and he didn't see the kid until he hit him.

      The kid died on the operating table.

      When I stop for people in the intersection, I stop way before the intersection an I put my blinker on towards the empty lane.

      Another thing is not to use the green light as a drag strip send off. Many times a driver that is in the roadway that is perpendicular to you, may try to run the light. And if you are quick enough the two of you could meet in the intersection.


    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      @ Christy and Paul

      Oops, sorry I forgot to comment =/ Thanks for the votes and shares.

      @ twig

      Thanks for the comment =)

    • twig22bend profile image


      8 years ago

      All of the pointers that you have mentioned are so very important. They will defiantly help us avoid an accident. Thanks for reminding us as to how to not be engaged in an accident.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      8 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I remember having a defensive driving class for one semester when I was a sophomore in high school back in the 1950s. What I learned in that class made me a good responsible driver. Your defensive driving tips are all so true, especially the ones to keep your eyes moving all the time while driving and try to anticipate the unexpected. Voted up and sharing.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      These are great tips that I wish more drivers would follow! Well done and well worth the vote up and share I am giving the hub.

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks, John. I'm glad you liked it.

    • John MacNab profile image

      John MacNab 

      8 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      A sensible hub full of practical tips for staying alive on the road, CarNoobz


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