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Defensive driving tips to help avoid car accidents

Driving is a serious risk. Many people never do anything else that leads to the same high level of fatalities and serious injuries suffered on Pennsylvania's roads every year. No matter how safe your vehicle is, getting behind the wheel could be the most dangerous activity of your life.

You do not have to blindly accept this risk. There are steps you can take to keep yourself safe and prevent accidents. A few examples include:

1. Avoid all distractions

Even when distractions do not make your own driving worse — which they often do — they still slow down your reaction times when someone else makes a mistake. If you're looking down to text when someone cuts you off, you lose precious seconds to hit the brakes. Never give in to distractions. When you're driving, focus solely on that task.

2. Slow down

Stick to the speed limits. Driving even five miles faster than the limit also reduces your reaction times. You know other people are going to make driving errors. Don't put yourself at risk by barreling along at such a fast speed that you need everyone else to drive perfectly to avoid an accident. They're not going to do it.

3. Keep your eyes scanning for hazards

Do not just look at the road in front of you. Don't just think about your own vehicle. Keep your eyes up and look for any potential dangers as they approach. Even drivers that haven't broken the law yet could be a risk. For instance, if you see a driver waiting at a light to turn left, keep your eyes on that car to make sure the driver does not accidentally cut you off on your way through.

4. Understand real following distances

It seems like most drivers think being one or two seconds behind the next car is a safe following distance. They're actually tailgating. It's not safe to be closer than three or four seconds. Almost no one keeps that type of gap. Stay farther back so that you can stop in time if you need to.

5. Never count on someone else

With the choices you make behind the wheel, never count on other drivers to do the right thing. If you're worried that someone will not stop and wait for you at a four-way stop, assume they won't. At a stop light, check both ways, even if you have the green light. Never count on others and you can avoid the consequences of their mistakes.

Of course, these defensive driving tips cannot guarantee that you'll avoid all accidents. Make sure you know your legal rights if you get hit.

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Blue Bell, PA 19422

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