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Defensive driving to protect yourself from distracted drivers

At every turn, it's easy to spot distracted drivers. Maybe it's the teenager on the phone with friends. Maybe it's the commuter trying to find the right podcast for the drive. Maybe it's the parent with three kids under five years old in the back seat of the van. Maybe it's the college student trying to do some last-minute studying at red lights.

People get distracted in a lot of different ways. Cellphones are the biggest issue, but they're not the only one. You need to know what to do to keep yourself safe. It goes beyond simply not giving in to distraction yourself. You have to protect yourself from everyone else. Here are a few tips that can help:

1. Let distracted drivers pass

For instance, perhaps a driver on the phone starts accidentally tailgating you. It's very common. People don't even realize they're doing it, but it massively increases the odds of an accident. If you're on a multi-lane road, get over and let the driver pass. It may take a moment of your time, but that's worth avoiding serious injury in an accident.

2. Don't tailgate

Distracted drivers are unpredictable. You may be tempted to drive closer than two or three seconds behind the next car, assuming you'll all move along at the exact same speed anyway. It feels safe. Unfortunately, it reduces your reaction times when someone does make a minor mistake. Keep your distance and stay ready to react.

3. Look out for signs of distraction

Speaking of keeping your distance, you want to stay as far as you can from a clearly distracted driver. Signs include swerving all over the road, not driving at a green light and having a massively inconsistent speed. If you see these signs or any others, back off and stay away from the car. Never assume that driver will follow the rules of the road. Your best defense is vigilance. Always watch for distracted drivers so that you can take action to protect yourself before they even cause an accident.

4. Watch cars far ahead of you

Don't get focused on the road immediately in front of your car. Scan the road ahead. Look for divers at stoplights, at crossroads or waiting to turn. Watch for signs of distractions further ahead in traffic. Keep your eyes up and moving, always looking for a threat. Keep your hands on the wheel and remain ready to react in a split second.

Your rights

Defensive driving means planning for others to make mistakes and working to avoid accidents every day. It helps, but nothing guarantees that you won't get hit. Make sure you know what rights you have to compensation if a distracted driver puts you in the hospital.

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