The 3 Cornerstones of Defensive Driving

How a car accident can happen and how to prevent it. What are the 3 cornerstones of defensive driving?

The “the best way to learn how to maintain your car is to” is a very important part of driving. This article will outline the 3 cornerstones of defensive driving.

A man holding steering while doing a defensive driving.

Note from the editor: This is a guest post by Dave Elniski.

Driving is perhaps the most risky activity that the contemporary man engages in on a daily basis. Vehicles are the safest they’ve ever been, and new technology provides drivers the impression of being protected from exterior risks, yet crashes at highway speeds continue to demonstrate that despite all of these technical advances, driving is still a dangerous activity.

The automotive operators with whom one is compelled to share the road are at the forefront of the remaining threats. There are individuals who drive aggressively on purpose, as though traffic regulations are for drivers with less skill, and who may even take delight in their ability to stunt. Those who get behind the wheel with no regard for the expertise required to drive are perhaps much more hazardous. These drivers may see driving as only a method of getting where they want to go, rather than a skill worth honing. Both of these sorts of drivers are harmful to themselves and others, but they usually don’t realize it.

I’ve always prioritized safe driving. Though I pushed the limits of what a rusted-out pickup truck could do in farmers’ fields and off-road trails when I was younger, and my brother and I raced cars in amateur events, our parents instilled in us the belief that driving should be taken seriously and that safety should be an internal value. When I was working as a long-haul trucker and safety officer for a trucking company, safe driving took on a whole new meaning for me as I realized that my driving behaviors were now tied to my livelihood, and following the rules of the road became more than just the right thing to do for me; it evolved into an activity in which I take pride.

I’m proud of the hundreds of thousands of kilometers I’ve driven without an accident, but becoming a parent solidified the necessity of safe driving for me. Having to transport my complete family in a tiny SUV instills in me a strong feeling of responsibility, and I believe that safe conduct is something I owe to my family, who is reliant on me. So, although talking about safe driving may not seem fascinating, it is something about which I am quite passionate.

Defensive driving has been taught for more than 50 years with the goal of promoting driver safety and cooperation on the road. I believe most people have heard of defensive driving and understand it to imply driving in a way that anticipates other people’s errors and tries to improve on-road safety for all road users, which is an appropriate description in my opinion. In this post, I’d like to talk about the fundamentals of defensive driving since I feel they’re the most reliable way to improve one’s driving skills and increase the chances of arriving safely at each location. Given that driving is likely to remain the most dangerous activity our children will confront in their lives, it is a skill that every male and father should learn in order to model and teach to our children.


I apply defensive driving tactics and approaches into my own driving and into training programs for other drivers as a professional truck driver and safety officer for a flatbed trucking firm. Although there are other strategies involved in professional and defensive driving, I’d want to focus on three essential principles that I feel are the foundations of this skill set: 1) fault vs preventability, 2) following distance, and 3) separation from other drivers are all factors to consider.

Preventability vs. Fault is the first cornerstone to consider.

One of the most crucial ideas in defensive driving is preventability. A avoidable accident is defined by the National Safety Council as “one in which the motorist failed to do all that could reasonably have been done to avoid it.” This is not the same as a mistake. For discussing an accident, most people focus on who was at responsibility; from an insurance viewpoint, this is critical when settling claims. Even if you were not at responsible for the accident, you may have contributed to it.

Let’s assume your car gets rear-ended while stopped at a stop sign. This is a typical example of an accident in which you were most likely not at fault. However, if your back taillights were out, it might be claimed that this collision may have been avoided if the other car couldn’t see you stopped. As a result of not having functional lights, you would have contributed to the accident and failed to take all reasonable precautions to avoid it.

The safety performance of trucking businesses is not judged in terms of faults. Unless we can establish that the accident was unavoidable, our accidents are considered against us. Pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections, as well as adhering to all traffic laws, are the best ways to avoid being involved in either preventable or at-fault accidents, and a professional driver can up his game by considering preventability in driving decisions and anticipating other drivers’ mistakes.

A mature non-professional driver should act in the same manner. Always keep in mind that avoiding accidents is more important than not being at fault. You can’t rely on other drivers to observe the regulations. What makes a defensive driver so safe is that he is always on the lookout for common blunders that other drivers make.

Cornerstone #2: Keep a Close Eye on the Following Distance

Following distance is one of the most critical criteria in determining a driver’s chances of being involved in a crash and their overall stress level while driving any vehicle.

The distance between the front of your car and the back of the vehicle in front of you is known as following distance. When the back of the car in front of you passes by an item, keep counting until you reach the same position. Your following distance is equal to that period of time. When the roads are dry, heavy truck drivers should strive for a 7-second following distance or greater; when visibility is impaired and the road is wet, slippery, or icy, even additional time should be added. 3-4 seconds is an acceptable amount for automobiles, but as road conditions change, this distance should be significantly extended.


The amount of time you have to respond to crashes and dangers in front of your car is known as following distance. It’s unsafe, rude, and stressful to drive too close to the car in front of you. I find that adjusting my pace to maintain a big following distance makes me feel lot more at ease. In addition, I am more confidence in my capacity to properly manage unforeseen events. Brake lights that are far ahead of me give me time to react calmly and rationally to a potential issue; brake lights that are straight in front of me are an instant catastrophe.

Cornerstone #3: Maintain a Safe Distance from Other Motorists

Being stopped behind or driving around novice, inattentive drivers may be exasperating and lead to rage. Sometimes it’s because someone is inattentive, and other times it’s because someone has cut you off. When you’re in a gorgeous region, it’s possible that someone is using the highway to snap photographs, which causes them to drive slowly and erratically.

We have no control over the behavior of others, regardless of the transgression. We are the ones who suffer when we get enraged because of the faults of others. If we do something in our anger that we would not do in a calm state, our anger might lead to future regret and, in severe situations, an accident or violent confrontation.

One of the finest pieces of driving advise I could offer someone is to recognize other drivers for what they are: uncontrollable road risks. If someone cuts me off and I see it as a personal assault, I am inclined to get enraged. If someone does the same thing, but I recognize them as a danger and respond by carefully slowing down and giving them space, I find that I am calmer and forget the event more quickly. This is referred to as staying detached from other drivers: defensive drivers do not take other drivers’ conduct personally and do not engage in deadly highway power and vengeance games.

Bad drivers are like deer on the road: they must be avoided at all costs, and we must not spend our rage on them. When I see other drivers engaging in risky behavior, I remind myself that they probably don’t know any better, attempt to go on with my day, and find that this attitude helps me remain calm and sensible.

By the way, a reader acquainted with Stoicism may recognize the concepts in this section. Driving philosophy is particularly related to Stoic philosophy. When I first began reading about Stoicism and putting it into practice, I realized how much it would benefit my driving. “Some things are in our control, while others are not,” Epictetus observed, and this advice surely applies when it comes to being cool and distant from other people’s conduct while driving.


Will Durant stated, “We are what we repeatedly do,” in an interpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy. I appreciate this saying and agree with what it says, since our actions speak louder than our words. No matter how talented and safe I claim to be, I can’t be a safe driver until I adopt safe driving tactics and use defensive driving concepts.


I am certain that practicing the three foundations of defensive driving outlined above makes me a safer driver and allows me to make better judgments while on the road. Furthermore, since defensive driving is less stressful and more fun when these rules are followed, it forms a positive feedback loop: the more I do it, the more I want to do it.

It is important to drive safely. Don’t expect your contemporary automobile to always keep you safe. Don’t put your faith on other drivers to always obey the rules. Take care not to get complacent behind the wheel.

Do approach driving as a skill that takes practice and attention, recognizing that we are responsible for our own lives, the lives of our passengers, and the lives of people in our immediate vicinity.

Do approach driving as a skill that takes practice and attention, recognizing that we are responsible for our own lives, the lives of our passengers, and the lives of people in our immediate vicinity.

Dave Elniski is a loving father to his three-year-old twins Susan and Mack and a joyful husband to Katy. He works as a safety specialist in the trucking sector and sometimes drives long-haul flatbed trucks to keep his abilities up to date.



Watch This Video-

The “how to look after your first car” is a guide that discusses the 3 Cornerstones of Defensive Driving. It includes tips on how to keep your vehicle safe, and how to make sure you are always prepared for what may come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 basic principles of defensive driving?

A: The three basic principles of defensive driving are common sense, attentiveness and anticipation.

What are the 3 primary goals of the Smith System?

A: The 3 primary goals of the Smith System are to provide a way for people to obtain a social security number, learn about their rights as citizens and understand how they can become involved in civic life.

What is the core of defensive driving?

A: The core of defensive driving is providing the best safe driving experience for yourself and others that you come into contact with.

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