Defensive Driving: It’s Not About Them, It’s About You

Car accidents happen. In 2013 alone there were 5.7 million crashes in the United States serious enough to get police attention, and just under 33 thousand men, women, and children died in these accidents. 2,407 of these deaths occurred in Florida, and while that’s not too bad when you consider we’re the third most populous state in the Union, statistics are cold comfort to the thousands of parents who mourn for their children, the spouses who mourn for their partners, and the brothers and sisters who mourn for their siblings.

What makes car crash fatalities particularly painful is the fact that a lot of them are potentially avoidable. Even in cases where no one is at fault, it may be that if one of the drivers involved was undistracted and knew exactly what to do, the accident would never have occurred. For all the millions of reported accidents, there are millions more too minor to get the police’s attention, and perhaps tens or even hundreds of millions of close calls where nothing happened because at least one person was paying attention and braked in time or else swerved out of the way.

Keeping Your Guard Up

Driving schools call what they teach “defensive driving” because their goal is to provide their students with a healthy distrust of other drivers. Even if you’re not distracted or inebriated or otherwise unable to perform at your best, you can’t be certain that the same is true for every other driver on the road. Someone may be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, he or she may be using a cellphone or eating, or a driver may simply be too tired from a long trip to pay 100 percent attention.

Here are a few defensive driving tips that may have slipped your mind since your time in driving school:

  • Don’t stick up for yourself. It can be tempting sometimes to stick to your guns and refuse to yield when you see someone else break the rules of the road, but ultimately it’s better to avoid an expensive and possibly deadly crash along with all the headaches that come with dealing with insurance companies than it is to teach the other driver a lesson.

  • Keep the worst-case scenario in mind at every intersection. For instance, when turning right at a stop sign or a traffic light, you may not want to make your turn if only the nearest lane is clear. You aren’t supposed to change lanes while driving through an intersection because of this exact scenario, but people will do it anyway, and not all of them believe in signaling first. At the same time, while pedestrians traditionally have the right of way so long as they’re on the street, it’s best not to test this right by stepping out in front of a moving vehicle.

  • Do exactly one thing while driving: drive. It is possible to listen to the radio and to chat with someone in the car with you without getting too distracted, but you should avoid any task or activity that involves your hands or eyes, and even your radio shouldn’t be so loud that you can’t hear the traffic around you. Even actions as simple as changing the radio station or setting a destination for your GPS are best performed either when the vehicle is stopped or by someone who isn’t the driver.

Unfortunately, sometimes even your best efforts are not enough and you wind up in an accident anyway. If that happens, you may discover that insurance companies are surprisingly unwilling to pay for damages even in what you would consider a fairly straightforward case.

If you find yourself in this position, you should contact a personal injury lawyer right away. An experienced lawyer can tell you if your case is taking unusually long, and just by simply hiring the services of a reputable law firm, you may see your case wrapped up in a hurry as the insurer considers the alternative of losing an expensive court case..