Defensive Driving: The Top Hazards and How to Avoid Them

The bad news? Traffic fatalities in Arizona rose for the third straight year in 2022 according to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report

There were 1,294 traffic fatalities across the state (pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcyclist deaths all increased last year), which is the second-highest total ever recorded in Arizona. 

What has caused the number of traffic fatalities to go up every year since 2019? The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) says, “Figures show crashes associated with inappropriate speed and speeding accounted for a greater share of deaths and injuries, providing a sobering reminder for Arizonans to avoid such unsafe driving behaviors.” 

So, what’s the good news then? Is there a way to cut down on traffic crashes, injuries and deaths? It starts with understanding the worst hazards on the roads and the defensive driving techniques that can make you a better, safer driver. 

Hazard #1: Distracted driving

Distracted driving is easily the largest threat facing drivers – and the number of distractions sadly keeps growing. From smartphones to smartwatches, in-car Wi-Fi, and theater-style entertainment systems, the road is full of drivers focused on what’s in their hands rather than what’s outside their vehicle. While you can’t necessarily make other drivers put the phone down, you can recognize the signs of a distracted driver. These include:

  • Driving much faster or slower than the speed limit or flow of traffic
  • Needlessly or erratically changing speeds
  • Stopping longer than needed at a traffic light or stop sign
  • Weaving unpredictably through traffic
  • Not maintaining lane position 

Hazard #2: Tailgaters

We’ve all been there, where someone is cruising so close behind your car that you can see the whites of their eyes in your rearview mirror. If you have to brake for any reason, they may not have time to react safely, and you could have an accident on your hands. As with the distracted driver, you can’t control whether someone is tailgating too closely behind you. But unlike distracted driving, it’s easy to know when it’s happening. To mitigate the danger they’re causing, you should:

  • Don’t slam on your brakes. It could cause even more danger for everyone. 
  • Take a deep breath and remain calm. 
  • Keep your hands on the wheel, and pay as much attention to the road as you can. 
  • If possible, carefully make room for the tailgater to simply pass you. 
  • You might need to slow down. Do this slowly enough that the tailgater has time to react without causing a crash. It is even better if you can use your brakes so the tailgater has a chance to see your brake lights. 

Hazard #3: Drunk Drivers

You’ve seen enough PSAs to know how dangerous drunk driving can be. It comes with many of the same risks as other forms of reckless driving, but with the added complication that the driver’s judgment is severely impaired. You should respond to this scenario similarly to a distracted driver as the signs are much the same: erratic driving, randomly changing speeds, or disregarding road rules and etiquette. Take these precautions when dealing with a drunk driver:

  • Create distance between yourself and them. 
  • Do not honk, yell or attempt to stop the vehicle. 
  • Take note of the car’s make, model, color, and license plate. 
  • Pull over safely, call 911 and report the incident. Tell the dispatcher you’d like to report a drunk driver. The dispatcher may ask you to describe the vehicle and location as well as the behavior that made you believe the driver was drunk. 

More Defensive Driving Tips to Keep You Safe

Every time you get behind the wheel, you’re putting your safety as much in the hands of other drivers as your own. Just because you take every precaution and follow every rule of the road doesn’t mean everyone else will. Other cars can still weave into your lane, follow too closely, neglect their turn signals, or pose any number of other threats. Follow these additional defensive driving tips from the Arizona Driver to keep yourself as safe as possible:

  • Plan Ahead: Before you venture out, think about factors that could alter your driving environment (weather, rush hour, children in the car, etc.). 
  • Pay Attention: Be sure that you are as alert as you could possibly be because hazards can come from anywhere. It bears repeating: Watch out for bicyclists, and start seeing motorcycles.
  • Watch Your Speed: Speeding increases your chance for a collision or losing control of your car. Watch for sudden speed changes and respond accordingly.
  • Control Your Emotions: Ensure the aspects of your mental state are appropriate for driving. If you can’t, hold off on getting behind the wheel. 
  • Eliminate Distractions: There are so many things that can distract you from driving, eliminate everything that can affect your safety behind the wheel. 
  • Drive Defensively: Your goal is always to arrive at your destination safely, every time you get on the road you should defend yourself and your passengers. Take a defensive driving course to improve your driving skills. You may even be eligible to use the course as a way to have a traffic violation dismissed. 

The road can be a dangerous place, and no matter what precautions you take or how you respond to bad situations, accidents can still happen. If you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced Tucson personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.