We all take risks every single day. Some of those risks, like driving, may be unavoidable. What can we do to ensure our own safety as well as the safety of others around us while we are behind the wheel? We can practice something called defensive driving.

What is defensive driving?

Defensive Driving is a set of skills one has to defend themselves from possible collisions with other vehicles on the road. Whether caused by bad drivers, drunk drivers, or hazardous weather conditions, there are several steps one can take to make sure they remain safe while on the road.

Give yourself extra time to reach your destination: It does not matter where you are going. While we cannot control the weather, we can take it upon ourselves to anticipate poor weather conditions by paying attention to weather forecasts, so we can make an informed, educated decision about how to proceed with our days. For example, if you know you are going to have an important appointment with your doctor, you can be proactive in finding out what the weather is going to be like that day and plan accordingly. If weather conditions are going to be rainy or icy, it would be a good idea to leave earlier for your appointment, so you do not feel rushed. Stress can lead you to make poor choices while behind the wheel. Road rage is not your friend. Aggressive driving is what we are trying to avoid.

Be able to control your speed on the road: As mentioned earlier, road rage is not your friend. Stay calm and focused while you are operating a motor vehicle. Not only will you be keeping yourself safer, but you will also be protecting other drivers around you. If you have a long commute with long stretches of road in front of you, consider using your cruise-control option in your car. This will allow you to conserve your energy and maintain your focus on what is in front of you.

Be prepared to react to other drivers: This is important. While we cannot control other drivers on the road, we can help protect ourselves by anticipating actions of other drivers. In order to protect yourself, maintain a safe distance between yourself and the car in front of you. Stay in your lane. If you are able to maintain a safe speed and a safe distance, you should be able to give yourself ample time to react should another driver do something. Because you have taken steps to anticipate bad driving techniques, you will avoid a collision and a potential insurance claim.

Do not expect other drivers to do what you think he or she should do: As stated before, ways to keep yourself safe are to maintain a safe distance between yourself and the car in front of you. Giving yourself that safe distance will buy you more time to react to a bad driver. If another driver is texting while driving, because you have maintained a safe speed and distance, it will not matter that they are not paying attention to the road. You will avoid a collision.

Use proper etiquette and driving techniques while on the road: We all learn how to properly operate a motor vehicle when we take our driver’s test. We all have to pass it before we get our learner’s permit. That is not to say that once you get your learner’s permit, you are suddenly an expert driver. We should all use our turn signals before switching lanes, maintain a safe distance between ourselves and the cars in front of us and around us, and stay calm behind the wheel.

Stay alert and avoid distractions: In most states, it is now against the law to hold your cell phone while driving. Texting while driving is against the law. Some police officers will pull you over just for having your cell phone in your hand. Eating behind the wheel can be another distraction because it, oftentimes, forces you to take at least one hand off of the wheel and your eyes off of the road. Finally, if you are listening to music or the radio, consider leaving the volume level at a place that allows you to hear other cars around you. For example, if a car is honking at you, you will be able to hear it. If a police cruiser or an ambulance needs to pass you, you will be able to hear it and move out of the way.

Defensive Driving is the best way to keep yourself safe while driving. You will be able to protect yourself as well as other drivers around you. And finally, you will be taking preventative measures to keep your insurance rates from increasing. No one wants to have their insurance rates go up or to have their insurance policy canceled altogether.