Here are a few tips to help you drive defensively:
Stay focused. It's hard to ignore that plaintive cell phone ring or text message signal. If you're running late, you may be tempted to finish breakfast or put on your mascara while driving. Don't do it. A 2006 study finds that almost 80 percent of all crashes involve some kind of distraction in the three seconds immediately before the accident [source: Auto Trader]. When you're driving, the only thing that should be on your mind is the road in front of you. Put your cell phone out of reach, even if it's hands-free -- research finds that any kind of phone can take your concentration off the road [source: CNN Money]. Pull over to talk and text, eat, put on your makeup, change the CD or read the newspaper (yes, some people actually do this in traffic).
Be in control. Taking any controlled substance could slow your reflexes and mar your judgment enough to cause an accident, so avoid drugs and alcohol when you know you have to drive. Sleepiness is also a danger on the road. Driving drowsy is like getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 (the legal limit in the U.S.), and it leads to nearly 2 million crashes each year [source: Sleep Foundation]. Get a good night's sleep before you drive, and if your eyelids are starting to droop, get off the road and find a place where you can nap.
Be wary. You may be the best driver in the world, but you still need to worry about other drivers, including the woman who's putting on her lipstick at 70 miles per hour (113 kph). Put extra space between your car and the one in front of you to give other drivers enough room to make unexpected moves. Check your mirrors constantly and always try to look as far as you can down the road ahead. Always have an escape route you can use quickly if someone sneaks into your lane unexpectedly.
Be safe. Make sure your car is equipped with accessories like air bags, ABS brakes and traction-control systems. Check your tire pressure, lights and fluids before you hit the road. Lock your doors, wear your seatbelt at all times and make sure your passengers do the same (children should be in age-appropriate car seats). Drive within the legal speed limit and follow local traffic laws.