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Critical defensive driving safety tips

In theory, defensive driving should not be necessary. If everyone obeyed all traffic laws and did not make any mistakes, you could zip along with hardly a care in the world. As long as you also followed the laws and never made mistakes, you'd never have an accident.

The reality

You know that's not how it works. On one simple commute home from work, you watch a driver run a red light. You get passed by an aggressive, tailgating driver who breaks the speed limit by at least 15 miles per hour. You watch a young driver text and drive, looking down for five seconds and driving nearly 100 yards without glancing at the road.

You get out of it unscathed, but the mistakes and illegal actions show up everywhere. You face that risk every time you drive.

To keep from getting in a car accident, defensive driving is necessary. Below are a few critical safety tips that can keep you safe.

1. Avoid all distractions

Keep your eyes on the road 100 percent of the time. Do not try to multitask. Pay attention to everything and keep your hands on the wheel. Other drivers will make mistakes. If you're paying attention, you see them as they happen and you can take immediate steps to avoid an accident.

2. Be mindful of items in your own car

If you know you'll need something -- like your wallet when driving on a toll road -- keep it close at hand. Make sure you can pick it up without looking down. If you drop something, never bend over to pick it up. Again, you must watch other drivers at all times.

3. Never drive while exhausted

People drive while tired constantly. It's problematic because it can reduce reaction times and may even cause you to nod off. If you feel exhausted after a long day at work, find another way home. You must be fully alert and physically ready to drive flawlessly.

4. Use your car's safety features properly.

For instance, take a second before every trip to check your mirrors. Adjust them to cover as much of your blind spots as possible. Engineers designed your car to help you avoid accidents; use it properly so that you really can.

5. Pay close attention to things other drivers do.

Specifically, watch for red flags. A driver who swerves between lanes could be falling asleep, texting or driving while intoxicated. Identify these high-risk drivers are early as you can. Keep an eye on them and avoid them when possible.

Your rights

Safety tips help. Responsible driving helps. Nothing prevents all accidents. Those who get hurt must know all of their legal rights after a crash.

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