How Defensive Driving Works

Image Gallery: Car Safety Accidents can and will happen out on the road, but defensive driving techniques can make your commute a little less nerve-wracking. See more car safety pictures.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Approximately 6 million collisions occur on America's roads each year [source: NHTSA]. These accidents kill approximately 40,000 Americans and injure 2 million more annually. They also cost the U.S. government about $164 billion -- or about $1,000 per person per year [sources: KCBS, CDC Faststats, Los Alamos National Lab].

No one plans to get into a car wreck, but accidents can and often do happen. Drivers get distracted by cell phones and text messages, take their eyes off the road or simply don't pay attention. Aggressive drivers hit the gas pedal too hard, switch lanes without warning or follow other drivers too closely.

You can't prevent accidents entirely, but you can decrease their likelihood by practicing some good defensive driving skills. Defensive driving is all about anticipation -- knowing what's going on around you, predicting what might happen and knowing how to react quickly in case another driver catches you off-guard. It's also about protecting yourself so that you're less likely to be injured in a crash. Something as simple as putting on a seat belt could save your life in an accident; in fact, they save about 11,000 lives per year [source: NHTSA]

In this article, you'll learn some tips to help you drive more defensively. Although no amount of defensive driving can prevent a crash, this advice should help you stay alert, in control and safer out on the road.