5 Defensive Driving Tips

At Young Drivers, we believe the best way to drive from Point A to Point B is by using defensive driving tactics. These habits help drivers be aware of their surroundings, anticipate potential conflicts and respond accordingly. It’s the difference between being a reactive driver and a proactive one. (If you’d like more information on what it means to be a proactive driver, put your signal on and make a controlled turn over to our 5 Ways Proactive Driving Can Save Your Life.)

Here are 5 key tips to help you become a defensive driver:

Eye lead time
Eye lead time refers to the distance in seconds your eyes scan the road ahead for potential danger. Anticipating potential hazards and proactively determining safe manoeuvres to mitigate those hazards is essential to defensive driving.
According to Road Safety at Work, an initiative managed by the Justice Institute of British Columbia, eye lead time should be 20-30 seconds for highway driving and 12-15 seconds in the city.[1]

This might seem similar to eye lead time, but awareness is more than scanning the road ahead. Awareness is directing 100% of your attention to driving at all times. This means no scanning the radio, checking your phone and no eating or drinking while driving. Perhaps the best awareness safeguard is to “assume other motorists will do something crazy, and always be prepared for it.”[2]

If you can’t see, you can’t drive. As we approach the snowy, winter months, take the time to properly clear your car of all accumulated snow and ice.[3] This means your front and rear windshields, as well as your headlights and taillights.
This is a simple and effective way to ensure you can see and be seen by other drivers.
Also, clearing snow and ice from your vehicle will increase the safety of those around you by removing a potential hazard and causing a collision.

Clear communication is paramount to safe driving. Similar to everyday life, clearly articulating your intentions is one of the best ways to avoid problems. “Make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and drivers at intersections and signal whenever you want to slow down, stop, turn or change lanes.”[4]

Always have an out
This is something we’ve championed before – knowing how to react to a potential incident and safely positioning your vehicle to exit a dangerous situation. Through some of the defensive tactics discussed above, you might be able to anticipate a collision and remove yourself from potential danger. “Having an escape plan can be as simple as making sure that you always have space around your vehicle”[5] to allow yourself time to safely react.

Life is short, so defend your own with these defensive driving tactics. Be safe, not sorry.


[1] “Driver Assessment Companion Document,” Road Safety at Work, posted January 31, 2017, https://www.roadsafetyatwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Driver-Assessment-Companion-Document-Jul-15-14.pdf.
[2] “Driving safety tips every driver should know,” Nationwidehttps://www.nationwide.com/driving-safety-tips.jsp.
[3] “Stay safe with these winter defensive driving tips,” Wheels.ca, published November 4, 2016, https://www.wheels.ca/news/stay-safe-with-these-winter-defensive-driving-tips/.
[4] “Safe and Responsible Driving,” The Official Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Driver’s Handbook, Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2012‑17, updated February 28, 2017, https://www.ontario.ca/document/official-mto-drivers-handbook/safe-and-responsible-driving.
[5] “Defensive Driving Techniques to Protect Yourself on the Road,” Geotab, published May 10, 2017, https://www.geotab.com/blog/defensive-driving-techniques/.