Defensive Driving: How to Deal with On-Road Obstacles and Aggressive Drivers?

keyKey Takeaways:

  • Do you know that defensive driving is a crucial skill for the one who is behind the wheel? It helps in reducing accidents and injuries on the road.
  • Investing in defensive driving training or courses can help drivers improve their skills and reduce the risk of accidents or other incidents on the road.
  • Maintaining a safe following distance, watching for potential hazards, and minimizing distractions can help drivers stay safe and avoid collisions.

A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that more than 9000 people died in the USA in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first quarter of 2022. While the latter months have seen a decline in this rate, the risk of accidents still prevails. This is why you must possess defensive driving skills.

In fact, defensive driving is a type of training given to vehicle drivers to educate them about the driving rules, standard driving practices, and the importance of driving mechanics.

Thus, by opting for this defensive driving training, one will be able to handle hazardous situations on the roads. In this article, you will learn the exact defensive driving meaning and how to deal with on-road obstacles and aggressive drivers by driving defensively.

What is Defensive Driving?

Learning to drive a vehicle while following basic traffic laws and procedures won’t be enough to ensure safety. You must take a defensive driving training course to navigate blockages and rash drivers effectively. This is referred to as defensive driving. 

First, let’s learn defensive driving meaning Defensive driving classes mainly focus on safe driving strategies, issues involving vehicle crashes, and other hazards you may face while driving on the roadways.

With a defensive driving course, you will learn to anticipate the present situation regarding the road and the environmental conditions in a predictable manner and make safe, well-informed decisions. The courses generally train students based on the laws of their state, though the goal is the same: reducing the risk of vehicle crashes to zero.

Taking a defensive driving course means not only a reduction in getting a traffic ticket, but some online defensive driving courses also offer car insurance discounts. So, get the list of all state and American safety council-approved defensive driving courses and join today.

Must-have Safety Equipment for Drivers

Several deaths in traffic collisions could have been avoided if the victim had worn a safety device, like a belt or helmet, and other pre-installed safety equipment had worked properly. Having the equipment inside the vehicle is not enough when in traffic crashes. You must get to know how to use them properly and maintain their functionality, so you are not stuck with malfunctioning parts in time of need.

Must-have Safety Equipment for Drivers

Some defensive driving course classes and online driver education programs also offer tips on how to wear and use safety devices properly to ensure safety on the roadways. Every commercial motor vehicle driver should have the following tools along with the appropriate defensive driving techniques:

1. Fire extinguishers

The commercial vehicles must have OSHA-approved commercial fire extinguishers, which must be filled and ready to use at all times. So, monthly inspections and annual servicing are required.

2. Spare fuses

Particular fuses are required for operating specific parts and accessories, so the drivers should always have at least one spare fuse for each type and size.

3. Warning devices

Parking vehicles on the roadside can be dangerous. Meanwhile, you won’t be able to move the vehicles to a safe location if maintenance issues are present. Some warning devices could aid in such situations, as they will make you mindful of all possible issues. This may also cause your insurance company to charge you a lower insurance premium given the additional security devices in your vehicle.

The drivers may have as many additional safety and warning devices as are required, but having one of the following is a must:

  • Three bidirectional emergency reflective triangles
  • Three liquid-burning flares or 6-fuses

4. Hard hat

Truck drivers should always wear a good-condition hard hat with a full face shield for safety and better visibility. Wearing a hard hat is a must, specifically when at mills, warehouses, plants, and wood yards or when you step outside the truck cab.

Usually any workplace safety training videos will mention how important it is to have a hard hat on near construction sites.

5. Safety eyewear

According to the safety policies of mills and plants, wearing protective eyewear is a must where loading and unloading and any work for maintenance and repairs are taking place. Some defensive driving classes do make it a habit to reinforce the importance of visibility when operating heavy machinery.

The safety glasses will protect your eyes from splashes, droplets, dust, small particles, blunt impacts, radiation, and other hazards encountered in the workplace. That’s why the drivers of cryogenic liquid transport vehicles are provided safety goggles with side shields.

6. Safety vests, boots, and gloves

Drivers are most at risk of danger at a worksite when loading and unloading are going on while driving and pulling off on the road. To be safe, wearing the safety vests, made of highly visible reflective material sewn onto the orange fabric, is a must.

Your handwear and footwear must also stand up to harmful liquid spills or hazardous material, rolling objects, or heavy equipment falling on your feet at the worksite. 

Steel-toed boots with a steel shank and non-skid sole can provide adequate ankle support and traction in all conditions and are the right choice for truck drivers. 

Leather-palm gloves are safe enough for hooking trailers and loading and unloading goods.

If you have to deal with dangerous liquids or materials, special outer garments, boots, and gloves with long cuffs made of chemical-resistant material are required. The cryogenic drivers should wear a relatively thicker jacket or long sleeve shirt underneath the vest. Because uncovered skin could get burned if exposed to cryogenic fluids.

5 Useful Ways to Tackle On-road Obstacles and Aggressive Drivers

The worst thing many drivers may do is assume that other drivers are also driving safely, so they are not dangerous. Sometimes they may fail to see you. Besides all road rage, some unwanted negative psychological factors, such as stress, fatigue, and emotional distress, can affect your driving skills. Defensive driving courses also go over methods in which you could prevent road rage or accidents.

To avoid accidents a defensive driver should follow the below 5 ways.

1. Deal with patience

If you plan to go somewhere, try leaving your place on time. And give yourself time to get where you’re going without being impatient and breaking the speed limit or taking unnecessary risks.

2. Drive defensively

  • Stay focused on the road and aware of your surroundings.
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicles in front of you to avoid a collision.
  • Remember and follow all crash prevention techniques.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Always keep a positive attitude behind the wheel.

3. Fighting back and overcoming emotional distress

  • Take a break from driving if you are not feeling well mentally or physically.
  • Park your vehicle safely and try a deep breathing technique to calm yourself.
  • If you can’t pull over due to heavy traffic, find a less busy road or parking lot around you to take a break.
  • Stopping the vehicle all of a sudden could lead to a threatening situation for you and everyone around you. So, make fellow drivers acquainted with your future movements.

4. Politely deal with other drivers

Honking out of frustration in heavy traffic or if someone is driving slowly won’t solve any problems, rather than increasing the stress level for everyone on the road. Follow the hand gesture of the driver of the vehicle in front of you.

The same thing applies to you. If you’re struggling with difficulties, going to drive slowly, or parking the car on the roadside. Use your hand gestures wisely to let other vehicle drivers be aware of your future movements.

5. Maintain a distance

One of the primary rules that is taught in defensive driving classes is to never tailgate too closely. Never stop aggressive drivers from confronting you. Don’t reciprocate. Trying to avoid making eye contact with them is best.

Gradually slow down and try maintaining a safe distance from the aggressive driver. Try to exit the highways or change lanes safely. If the aggressive driver starts following you, drive to the nearest police station, keeping your doors locked.

Defensive Driving Tips for Drivers

Did you know that more than 90% of all vehicle or car crashes on the road are caused by driver’s error? This is why, if you are driving defensively, be cautious about your driving style. To be a safer driver, follow the below-given points.

1. Follow the 3- to 4-second rule

Defensive driving techniques usually teach the 3- to 4-second rule. If the greatest chance of colliding with another vehicle is in front of you, then quickly implement the 3- to 4-second rule.

How does the 3-second rule work? You need to take a fixed object, such as a tree, lamppost, or signboard, on the road and count the seconds after the vehicle in front of you crosses it. So, when your vehicle crosses the same object, it must be for 3 seconds.

This rule will help establish a safe following distance and allow ample time to apply the brakes when needed.

Caution: This rule works only under normal weather conditions. In bad weather, it is essential to increase your following distance for each condition, such as fog, rain, driving at night, or while following a motorcycle or large truck.

2. Consider an escape route

As many defensive driving courses will tell you, To avoid potential dangers, having an alternate path of travel helps. Thus, if the route you are traveling isn’t feasible or your immediate path of travel is blocked. Use an alternative path. Use route-optimization software such as Upper to create multiple routes to reach your destination.

3. Avoid getting distracted while driving

Avoid getting distracted while driving - defensive driving tip for drivers

If your attention is diverted, chances are you will bump into another vehicle. So, stay focused while driving. While performing time-sensitive deliveries, you need to keep more concentration on your driving.  

4. Pay attention to your surroundings

By scanning your environment for 20 to 30 seconds ahead of you, you can determine if things are under your control. So, keep checking your mirrors, keep your eyes moving, and if you suspect any unusual behavior around you, don’t hesitate to slow down.

5. Stop relying on other drivers

You never know if the other drivers moving ahead of you will follow traffic rules or stop signs. This is why you must assume things and plan and prepare your movements to handle the worst-case scenario of car crashes.

Opt for Faster Driving Routes on Upper Route Planner

How about abiding by the quote, “Prevention is better than cure”? Yes, instead of relying on a single route to reach your destination, why not plan multi-stop routes in one go?

Well, you don’t have to figure out multiple routes manually. Instead, you can use route optimization software such as Upper Route Planner and get the work done.

With Upper, you can easily plan your routes and accommodate last-minute changes easily all while abiding by traffic laws and the speed limit.

What makes this software stand out is that you can get an estimated time of arrival based on traffic. If you have opted for a route and suddenly the traffic becomes jammed, you can quickly reverse the entire route with just one click.

So, you no longer have to spend time in traffic. Instead, choose an alternative route and reach your destination quickly. Thus, save time and fuel costs by optimizing your routes with Upper.


Upper Route Planner

A simple-to-use route planner
that every one is talking about


Some important characteristics of a defensive driver are stated below.

  1. Having professional-level skills in driving and detailed knowledge of safe driving techniques
  2. Paying close and thoughtful attention to the traffic situation by maintaining a safe following distance, glancing at the front, side, and rearview mirrors to prevent car crashes.
  3. Having experienced the foresight to anticipate potential hazards by scanning the road for size and the current traffic situation.
  4. Good decision-making ability to choose the safest alternatives rather than speeding and doing the riskiest maneuvers
  5. Being mindful of the signs of engine trouble or maintenance issues and the capability of performing simple emergency repairs, like changing a tire

Defensive drivers know the safest and legal way to make turns, change gears, pass, and push the brake to avoid accidents and traffic tickets. Other important skills for defensive drivers are long-range foresight and the capability of identifying existing and all possible hazards.

Here are the basic principles of driving motor vehicles that every driver should follow on a regular basis.

  1. Always follow traffic rules
  2. Avoid using things that distract you
  3. Drive sober


To avoid unnecessary traffic crashes, speeding tickets, and maintaining a good driving record, taking defensive driving classes such as the American safety council defensive driving class is recommended.

Either enroll for an online defensive driving course or look for one near your house. Additionally, defensive driving courses are worth your money. In some states, you get eligible for insurance discounts, positive, safe driving points, and other such benefits.

In case you spend more time on route planning before you take a drive, we recommend using Upper to get rid of last-minute changes. Try a 7 days free trial to know more about Upper.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.