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How to Drive Defensively

You often hear the advice, “Drive defensively,” but what does it really mean?

The philosophy of defensive driving dictates that drivers should anticipate and prepare for any number of dangerous or tricky situations, particularly those involving other motorists. Defensive drivers are mindful that their fellow motorists may not react sensibly in certain highway situations and may aggravate those situations by exercising poor judgment or lack of care.

While it may be misperceived as “bashful” or “passive” driving, defensive driving is actually the opposite: an assertive effort to control what can be controlled, and to prepare to react to what can’t be. The defensive driver expects the unexpected and adjusts their own driving according to the conditions of the road.

It all sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Federal transportation agencies seem to agree.

Defensive driving courses are even offered as incentive for reduced insurance premiums in some states—or as a way for drivers to expunge violations from their driving record.

The phrase “defensive driving” originates from a U.S. National Safety Council driver safety program developed in 1964, which included a “Defensive Driving Course.” Since that time, other, similar courses have been developed in the effort to teach teen drivers, truck drivers, elderly drivers, and other at-risk demographics to exercise vigilance, sound judgment, and defensive driving techniques in order to minimize risk behind the wheel.

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