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SAFTEY FIRST / Post date:
1 November 2013

There are many cases in which accidents can be avoided through the use of defensive driving techniques and principles. In this article, we will discuss some of the principles of defensive driving and techniques that may be used to avoid accidents.

In general, defensive driving is the ability to recognize potentially hazardous situations sufficiently in advance to allow time to avoid them or safely maneuver past them. A defensive driver always assumes other drivers may make mistakes and is focused on avoiding accidents.

There are numerous defensive driving techniques and countermeasures that can be used to avoid accidents under many different scenarios. This article is focused on defensive driving techniques that may be used in the three specific types of situations described below.

Each of the following techniques can be found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website.


1. Tractor-trailer hit by a passenger car while a left-hand turn at an intersection

Because of their length and slow acceleration, trucks take much more time to cross and clear an intersection than do automobiles and therefore present problems that automobiles do not have.


Driving Tips

  • Do not force other drivers to use avoidance techniques like braking or steering because of your obstructive maneuver into their path
  • Move into your intended path only after you are assured you will not conflict with other traffic
  • As you approach a turn with your signal on, watch for drivers who may misinterpret your signal as an intention to turn somewhere before or after your intended turning point
  • Don’t start turning until there is enough time for the rear of your vehicle to safely clear the intersection without forcing opposing drivers to slow down or swerve
  • Don’t assume opposing drivers will see you, because they may be looking elsewhere


2. Tractor-trailer sideswiped by another tractor-trailer while passing it on an interstate highway

Safe passing maneuvers require well-developed skills and judgment. Because drivers must perform several tasks in a short time during passing, the chance of an error is high unless the maneuver is done cautiously. Because it sometimes takes a long time before an opportunity to pass safely arises, some drivers take risks and assume other drivers will compensate for their own aggressiveness.


Driving Tips

  • Before you pass, check to be certain no one is passing you
  • Always signal your intentions to pass
  • Assume the driver in front of you doesn’t know you are passing
  • While you are passing, watch for vehicles entering the roadway from side roads or driveways
  • Assume vehicles approaching from the opposite direction will not see you or slow down enough for you to complete your passing maneuver
  • Do not pass when going uphill unless you can safely do so
  • Do not drive alongside other vehicles
  • Watch out for other vehicles passing from the opposite direction
  • If the vehicle you are passing speeds up, discontinue trying to pass and do not get into a dangerous race
  • If in doubt, do not pass


3. Driver left the roadway while making an inadequate evasive maneuver

Inadequate evasive maneuvers can be described as instances where drivers are not using sufficient steering inputs, not using sufficient brake pedal or a combination of both. According to a study by the FMCSA, 14% of safety-critical events occurred when a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver made an inadequate evasive maneuver.

Perhaps the most common consequences of inadequate evasive action are roadway departure, steering to the wrong side of roadway, cargo or trailer-shift, excessive braking creating potential hazard, loss of control, and locking of brakes.


Driving Tips

  • Stay alert to changing traffic conditions
  • Anticipate other road user’s actions
  • Scan far enough ahead to be able to react sufficiently to approaching situations
  • Be aware of the size and weight of your vehicle
  • Adjust your speed depending on driving conditions and familiarity with the roadway

Carriers can reduce the number, severity and cost of vehicle-related accidents by providing drivers with training on the proper use of defensive driving skills. Importantly, these types of skills are also required knowledge for all CMV drivers under 49 CFR 383.111. The required knowledge under this regulation includes speed and space management, visual search, hazard perception, and emergency maneuvers.