Regardless of location, time of day or the drivers with whom you have to share the road, defensive driving is always wise. It is one way to mitigate some of the risk of driving, as it allows you to react as soon as humanly possible to potential threats. You have to stay alert, look for potential threats, and attempt to avoid them even before an accident becomes imminent.
One of the greatest threats that drivers face is their proximity to other impaired drivers: those who have been drinking or using drugs. Like distracted drivers, these individuals cause a lot of completely avoidable car accidents year in and year out.
It's always a risk
Nothing can completely eliminate this risk. Careful, safe drivers get hit and suffer injuries. It happens. That said, defensive driving can help and may allow you to avoid such a crash. It all starts with knowing what signs to look out for so that you can spot drunk drivers and slow down to keep your distance. Some of these critical signs include:
- Tailgating, or following other cars -- including your own -- too closely.
- Drifting from one side of the lane to the other.
- Swerving into the oncoming lanes, at least partially, before correcting the course.
- Driving the wrong way, in the wrong lanes, especially on the interstate.
- Driving in the middle of the road, with part of the car in each lane.
- Braking erratically, perhaps when a stoplight is far ahead of the car or when there is no reason to brake at all.
- Keeping the headlights off even when driving at night; modern automatic lights lower the odds of this mistake, but it still happens.
- Failing to drive forward right away when a red light turns green.
- Missing clear traffic signals, from green turn arrows to stop signs.
- Making wide turns in a vehicle that does not require them.
- Speeding up far too quickly after a stop.
- Braking at the last second or slowing down more quickly than is needed.
- Driving too slowly when traffic around the car is moving at a normal pace.
- Sitting very close to the front window of the car, almost as if they are having trouble seeing the road -- which they are.
- Actually taking a drink from a suspicious container while in the car.
- Making motions or yelling out the window to those near the vehicle.
If you see someone doing any of this, and especially if you note multiple signs at once, it is time to start driving defensively and protecting yourself from the upcoming accident.
As noted above, though, nothing is a surefire guarantee that you will never get injured. If you do, you need to know what rights and options you have.