In a world where traffic conditions are unpredictable, and the actions of other drivers are beyond our control, defensive driving emerges as an essential skill for anyone behind the wheel.

This article will clarify ‘What is defensive driving?’ and explore practical tips and techniques that can be easily integrated into your daily driving routine, sharing the benefits along the way.

what is defensive driving

What is Defensive Driving?

Defensive driving is a set of skills and practices that involves employing a range of observational skills to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the road while driving.

What is the Benefit of Defensive Driving?

Adopting defensive driving into your daily driving entails thinking ahead, expecting the unexpected and being prepared to react calmly and efficiently to avoid collisions despite the actions of others or adverse driving conditions.

Top Tips and Techniques

Stay Focused

Sharpen your focus by planning routes before you depart and minimise distractions with your phone by putting it on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. For long drives, keep the vehicle cool and take regular breaks to stay alert.

You can also employ mindfulness, like deep breathing, to maintain concentration while behind the wheel.

Adapt to Weather Conditions

While driving in adverse weather, slow down to accommodate wet or icy roads. Increase your following distance to allow longer stopping times, and use your headlights in low visibility to ensure you’re seen.

It’s also essential that you maintain your vehicle regularly to ensure it’s equipped for any impaired visibility and vehicle handling. Check that your tyres are in good condition, and consider snow tires if you are living in snowy locations. Also, verify that all lights, especially fog lights, are functional.

Maintain a Safe Following Distance

A general rule is the ‘two-second rule’—stay at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front of you in ideal conditions and double that when weather conditions deteriorate.

To gauge this, choose a fixed point that the vehicle ahead passes, such as a lamppost, sign or tree, and ensure you do not reach the same point before two seconds have elapsed. This gives you a clear view of the road ahead, enabling more measured and controlled braking.

Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre (MSM)

Before changing lanes, turning or adjusting your speed, check your mirrors and signal your intentions. This not only keeps you alert to the often-unseen areas but also provides clear communication with other drivers, who can then respond appropriately.

Stick to the Speed Limit

Drive at or below the designated speed limit to ensure adequate time to react to sudden stops or pedestrian crossings. This is particularly crucial in school zones.

To maintain the speed limit, be conscious of your surroundings, always check for speed signs and regularly glance at your speedometer to ensure you’re within legal limits.

Know the Highway Code

Familiarise yourself with the highway code and keep updated. This can help you to anticipate and understand the actions of other drivers, which is critical for making informed decisions.

To stay updated with the UK Highway Code, frequently check for the latest version on the Gov.UK website or search motoring organisations like the AA or RAC for regular updates.

Handle Emergencies Effectively

To prepare for an emergency breakdown, keep a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle, including a torch, blanket and first-aid supplies. Ensure your phone is always charged when travelling, and consider a subscription to a breakdown cover service for professional assistance when needed.

Mentally rehearse emergency manoeuvres or go through different scenarios with a driving instructor. This can help you respond quickly, calmly and effectively in any emergency.