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Why and how to drive defensively

Illinois motorists need to drive defensively in order to stay safe, and this begins with good planning. Giving yourself plenty of time to get where you are going and familiarity with the weather and route will mean you are not rushing and you have an idea of what to expect.

Your mindset

Some people may think of defensive driving as a particular set of skills, but while you certainly need to be a competent motorist, many aspects of driving defensively are more about your mindset. Primarily, you need to be alert. This means avoiding distractions, which can be anything from eating to using your phone. Even having conversations within the car, while it cannot always be avoided, can be distracting. If you need to settle your children down or are becoming emotional about a conversation while behind the wheel, it is better to pull over than to try to continue, risking a traffic accident.

Situational awareness

Even if you are avoiding distractions, it can take some extra practice to cultivate an ongoing situational awareness. You should always be scanning the road in front of you, keeping an eye on your mirrors and paying attention to your peripheral vision. You can’t see everything all at once, but you can reduce the chances of something unexpected happening. Remember to check your blind spots whenever you change lanes.

Leave space for braking

One important driving behavior is to make sure there is always ample space between you and other cars. You should make an effort to brake sooner rather than later, adding extra time when the road is slick.

Defensive driving is important because while you cannot control the behavior of other drivers on the road, you can control your own. This can help reduce both the likelihood of an accident and the severity if an accident does occur.