Driver's view of a winter storm on a high through his windshield
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5 Defensive Driving Techniques to Use This Winter

First off, what is defensive driving? Defensive driving is anticipating danger and doing everything in your power to prevent an accident from occurring. While defensive driving is important all year round, winter weather can make driving conditions even more difficult, and drivers need to be alert and ready to avoid accidents that may appear in seconds.

Follow these 5 defensive driving tips to help put your safety into your own hands this winter season.

Maintain a Proper Following Distance

You should never closely follow the vehicle in front of you for multiple reasons. They could slam on the brakes or become involved in an accident, and you will not have the space to brake if need be. Similarly, it could take a few more seconds than anticipated to stop with ice and snow on the road. A good rule of thumb – drive with 3-4 seconds of space between you and the car in front of you. This means, if the car in front of you passes a telephone pole, you should not be passing that same telephone pole until 3-4 seconds later. Having an extra cushion helps to ensure you have time to avoid the accidents that may occur around you.

Always Be Scanning

Driving should not be a boring thing, as your mind and body should always be alert. Keep watch for pedestrians, cyclists, and animals that might cross your path while on the road. Your eyes should always be moving and shifting between what is going on in front of you, and your mirrors. You should be scanning and glancing through your mirrors often enough that you are aware of what is going on behind you. While scanning, if you notice aggressive, or unpredictable behaviour from anyone on the road, get out of the way as quickly and safely as possible.

Remove All Distractions

The best way to avoid and anticipate dangerous situations, is to be alert and aware of what is going on around you. This is difficult to attain when eating, texting, or talking on the phone. Anything that pulls your attention from the road should be avoided. The biggest player in distracted driving is cell phones. Put your phone away completely while driving and look into certain safety features your phone may have. For example, an automatic “do not disturb” mode when in the car will silence any notifications you get until you are safely where you need to be.

Red car with motion blur speeding down a snow covered highway
Adjust your driving to the weather and conditions of the road.

Watch Your Speed

Be aware that posted speed limits apply to ideal driving conditions, and in no circumstances should you exceed those limits, especially in winter weather with slippery, unpredictable conditions. Speeding does not give you the adequate control or time to slow or stop in case of an accident. When you speed, you rely on others to drive predictably and safely which is the opposite of defensive driving. To protect yourself, drive at a responsible speed, and adjust your driving to the weather and conditions of the road.

Rely on Yourself

Driving defensively means never assuming that others will drive safely. Even if you follow the proper rules of the road, always be scanning and watching other cars to make sure it’s safe, and clear to advance. For example, if you are at a 4 way stop and it is your turn to go, regardless of right or wrong, look at all cars at the intersection to make sure they will yield to you. Furthermore, winter weather brings ice and snow which can create some unpredictable driving, so keep a lookout for out-of-control vehicles. Never assume it is safe to advance solely because it is your right-of-way.

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