What is Defensive Driving?

Defensive driving is about learning a series of skills and techniques that goes beyond the knowledge of traffic laws and standard driving abilities. These techniques provide you the abilities to anticipate a risk based on a situation and prevent a possible accident.

In order to be a safe driver, you will need to be able to consider the current traffic, weather and road conditions and be aware of your surroundings, as well as other drivers and any actions they are about to take, and foresee any unsafe situation and take actions to prevent an accident.

Key steps and techniques of Defensive Driving:

1. Stay Alert and Concentrate.
An important aspect of defensive driving is to be alert and concentrate on your driving and your surroundings. If you are not alert and cannot concentrate, your response time to a hazard situation decreases, and you may not be able to react promptly.

2. Scan and Identify the Hazard.
The Identify process is an important process of being able to quickly and accurately identifying a hazard. This process will require the driver to scan the surrounding environment constantly for hazards that can cause unsafe driving environment.

For example, if you are driving on the freeway, scan far ahead to make sure that there is no accident, a large object on the freeway, or a traffic jam ahead which requires you to slow down or come to a complete stop.

3. Predict the Implication.
In this phase, you quickly need to predict what happens if you do not do anything about the hazard, or what happens if you do something about it and are going to create other hazards as a result of your action.

Example: What happens if you hit a big object on the highway? Can you change the lane safely to avoid the object?

4. Decide what is the best course of action.
In this phase, you quickly need to make a safe decision of avoiding the crash or hazard. In this situation, you need to stay calm to make sure that your decision is not emotional and will not cause a more serious hazard.

Example: If you see a big object in the highway, you need to assess the situation and decide if you can safely change the lane away from the object, or stop because you cannot safely change the lane.

5. Execute the best course of action.
In this phase, you are safely taking actions or reactions based on your best decision.

Example: If you see a big object in the highway and you can safely change lanes away from that object, safely change lanes to avoid a collision with the big object.

Perception and Reaction Time
There are four phases to seeing a hazard, recognizing that it is a hazard, decide how to react and initiate the reaction. This four-phase process is called "PIEV":

  1. Perception time is the amount of time that it takes a driver to see a hazard.
  2. Intellection time is the amount of time that it takes a driver to figure out that the hazard can cause a crash or a dangerous situation.
  3. Emotion is the amount of time for the driver to decide what to do.
  4. Volition is the amount of time that takes to start the reaction (e.g., moving the foot from the gas pedal to the brake pedal).

Perception and reaction time depends on a driver's awareness and health condition.  Studies show that most alert drivers have perception and reaction times of less than 1 second.

Thus, if a driver is fully focused on driving, aware, not tired, and constantly scanning the road ahead and around for hazard, he/she can see and react to the hazard in a much quicker time, which provides a better chance for the driver to avoid a crash or hazard.