Safe Driving Practices

Safe practices are usually defined as methods showing how to perform a task with minimum risk to personnel, equipment, materials, environment, and processes.

Go home safe from the party.

Drinking Alcohol

Being a responsible driver is simple: If you are drinking, do not drive for any reason. Call a taxi, a ride-hailing service, or a sober friend. Remember, your best defense against drunk drivers is to wear a seat belt.

Keeping Your Friends Alive

How do you successfully keep your friend from driving drunk? Click on the button to see some simple ideas to help make sure your friend doesn't get behind the wheel after drinking too much:

  • Be a leader. Before drinking alcohol, offer to be the designated driver.
  • Don't be afraid to speak up. If it can save a life, don't think twice about taking action.
  • Don't be confrontational. If you are accusatory, your friend might get angry or defensive. Try to calmly suggest alternate transportation. Ask if they would be willing to split a cab fair with you. If you're driving, offer a ride or suggest they sleep over.
  • Express concern. Tell your friend that you care about them and don't want them to get hurt or killed.
  • Get backup. Get a friend or two to help – it's harder to say "no" to several people. Your friend is more likely to agree if others agree with you.
  • Grab the keys. Having the keys in your possession gives you a lot of leverage.
  • Call the police. If all else fails, call law enforcement. It's better to have a friend upset with you for a few days than hurt or killed. They may not even remember the incident after sobering up.

1. What's your best defense against drunk drivers?

a. Report all apparent drunk drivers
b. Be aware of oncoming traffic
c. Do not drive after drinking
d. Always wear a seat belt

Speeding and Aggressive Driving

Don't let emotions take over - Defensive Driving

Speeding behavior and aggressive drivers may not only affect the speeder—it can also affect other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Here are some tips for encountering speeders on the road:

  • If you are in the left lane and someone wants to pass, move over and let them by.
  • Give speeding drivers plenty of space. Speeding drivers may lose control of their vehicles more easily.
  • Adjust your driving accordingly. Speeding is tied to aggressive driving. If a speeding driver is tailgating you or trying to engage you in risky driving, use judgment to safely steer your vehicle out of the way.
  • Call the police if you believe a driver is following you or harassing you.
  • Don't respond to someone who gives you "the finger" with a like response. Just ignore it.
  • Use your turn signals regularly.
  • If you must, tap your horn, but don't use long blasts.
  • Do not flash your high beam lights if someone has not dimmed their lights as they approach at night.
  • Don't respond to aggression with aggression.
  • If you feel threatened, call 911.

2. Which of the following is a safe practice when dealing with aggressive drivers?

a. Flash your lights to give fair warning
b. Move over so they can pass
c. Meet their aggression with resistance
d. Ignore it when someone gives you "the finger"
Defensive Driving Skills - Smart Drive Test

Reckless and Careless Driving

You can't control what anyone else is going to be doing on the road. But you can control what YOU are doing. Whatever type of driver you encounter on the roads, be prepared for them. Do not engage them but rather prioritize your safety and that of your passengers so that you arrive at your destination safely and alive.

Click the button to check out best practices to protect yourself and your family from reckless drivers.

  • Look far ahead for any signs of abnormal activities, lights, dust clouds, etc.
  • Switch lanes. Get some space between you and the other driver.
  • If you have a passenger, have them call the police to report the other driver.
  • If the other driver is in a company or government car, get the other vehicle's information and report it to the employer.
  • Be cautious when crossing an intersection. Wait three seconds after the light turns green. Never assume your right-of-way. Look to the left first, then to the right, and ahead of you, twice, before moving off.
  • Never keep pace with a speeder, and let them pass if they are tailgating you.
  • Increase your following distance if you are behind a reckless driver. If they crash, you will come up on them very quickly and possibly crash into them. A large distance between you and a reckless driver will give you time to react should the other driver not signal their intentions.
  • If a reckless driver is acting aggressive, never meet the aggression with aggression. That will only escalate a bad situation.
  • If you see reckless driving ahead, you may want to consider pulling off the road into a parking lot or, if on a highway, taking the next exit.
  • Always be on the lookout for reckless drivers, especially on-coming traffic.

3. Which of the following is a good defensive practice before crossing an intersection?

a. Before moving off, check traffic to the right first, then to the left
b. Wait three seconds before crossing the intersection
c. Honk midway through the intersection
d. Assume you have the right-of-way when crossing
How to Avoid Distracted Drivers - AAA

Distracted Driving

Although most distractions are avoidable, some distractions are impossible to completely prevent; instead, they must be managed. Driving requires your full attention. In the last few decades, cell phone use has become a major distraction causing accidents.

You can take charge of eliminating distractions by focusing on the road ahead.

Click the button to review ten tips the AAA gives to avoid distractions while driving:

  • Fully focus on driving. Do not let anything divert your attention, actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Store loose gear, possessions, and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
  • Make adjustments before your get underway. Address vehicle systems like your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls, and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.
  • Finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
  • Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving. On the road, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.
  • Secure children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
  • Put aside your electronic distractions. Don't use cell phones while driving – hand-held or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games, or the internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle while driving.
  • If you have passengers, enlist their help so you can focus safely on driving.
  • If another activity demands your attention, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull off the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place. To avoid temptation, stow devices before heading out.
  • As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it's a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel.

4. What has become a major cause for accidents in recent decades?

a. Cell phone use
b. Eating and drinking
c. Smoking
d. Changing radio stations

Drowsy Driving

Sleepy Drivers Can Dose Unknowingly

As we learned in the previous module, sleepiness, like alcohol, slows your reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs your judgment. People who are driving while drowsy behave in similar ways to people who are drunk.

If you are sleep-deprived, you may have an episode of "microsleep," which is a brief loss of consciousness that can last for a few seconds or longer. This means that at 55 miles per hour, you may travel over 100 yards down the road while asleep.

  • Get adequate sleep every day. It's the only true way to protect yourself against the risks of driving when you're drowsy. Make it a priority to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Before the start of a long trip, get a good night's sleep.
  • Avoid drinking any alcohol before driving. Consumption of alcohol interacts with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment.
  • If you feel sleepy while driving, drink coffee and pull over for a short 20-minute “power nap” in a safe place. This has been shown to increase alertness in scientific studies, but only for short periods.
  • Always check the prescription and over-the-counter medication labels to see if drowsiness could result from their use.
  • If you take medications that could cause drowsiness as a side effect, use public transportation when possible.
  • Avoid driving during the peak sleepiness periods (midnight – 6 a.m. and late afternoon). If you must drive during the peak sleepiness periods, stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness, such as crossing over roadway lines or hitting a rumble strip. This is especially important if you're driving alone.
  • Pull over at a rest stop and take a nap if you begin to feel drowsy.

You can learn more about the effects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs by visiting NHTSA's There's More Than One Way to Be Under the Influence website.

5. What's the only true way to protect yourself against the risks of driving when you're drowsy?

a. Open windows and eat snacks
b. Drink coffee before each extended trip
c. Try to get 6 hours of sleep the day before
d. Get adequate sleep every day

Drug-Impaired Driving

Drug-Impaired Driving - The Jam TV Show

Despite being illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, impaired driving is still one of the most significant dangers on our roadways. It's important to get smart about driving while under the influence of any kind of drug.

  • Update your knowledge of drug-impaired driving, and learn more about this dangerous driving behavior.
  • If you use an impairing drug, designate a sober driver, call a cab, or use a ride-hailing service.
  • Don't let friends get behind the wheel if they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • If you're hosting a party where alcohol or other substances will be used, it's your job to make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
  • Always wear your seat belt—it's your best defense against impaired drivers.
  • Read and follow all warning labels before driving. Take special note of warnings against operating heavy machinery, including driving any vehicle.

6. What is the best defense against drug-impaired drivers?

a. Wearing a seat belt
b. Never ride with a drug-impaired driver
c. Always report those who may be drug-impaired
d. Get educated on the symptoms of drug-impairment

Use Seat Belts

How Seat Belts Work - Learn Engineering

One of the safest choices drivers and passengers can make is to buckle up. Many Americans understand the seat belt's lifesaving value – the national use rate was 90.7% in 2019. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that seat belts saved the lives of almost 15,000 people in 2017 and more than 69,000 lives during the five years from 2013 through 2017.

Things You Should Know

  • Buckling up is your best defense to protect yourself from injury in a crash. Being buckled up helps keep you safe from being completely ejected from a vehicle.
  • Airbags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them. If you don't wear your seat belt, you could be thrown into a rapidly opening frontal airbag. Such force could injure or even kill you.
  • Insist that everyone in the vehicle, front seat, and back, buckles up. Don't move the vehicle until they do.

Guidelines for Wearing Seat Belts

Click on the button to see important guidelines on how to buck up and the importance of seat belt fit.

How to buckle up:
  • The lap belt and shoulder belt are secured across the pelvis and rib cage, which are better able to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body.
  • Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and away from your neck.
  • The lap belt rests across your hips, not your stomach.
  • NEVER put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm.
Fit matters
  • Before you buy a new vehicle, check to see that its seat belts are a good fit for you.
  • Ask your dealer about seat belt adjusters, which can help you get the best fit.
  • If you need a roomier belt, contact your vehicle manufacturer to obtain seat belt extenders.
  • If you drive an older vehicle with no seat belts or outdated lap belts, check with the manufacturer about how to retrofit your vehicle with today's safer lap/shoulder belts.

7. Which one of the following statements about the use of seat belts is FALSE?

a. Update seat belts in older vehicles
b. Keep the shoulder strap away from your neck
c. Never wear your seat belt with a loose fit
d. Seat belts are not required if you have airbags

Rough Road Safety

There are things you can do to avoid vehicle crashes while driving in hazardous road conditions.

What to do if you hydroplane - Defensive Driving
  • Slow down. If you drive fast, you may not react fast enough when facing certain maintenance problems or conditions on a rough road. If you slow down, you'll also be more successful at avoiding potholes, rocks, and downed tree limbs.
  • Use the safe lane. On roads, especially busy highways, lanes that are used most by trucks and vehicles using studded tires create ruts that cause puddles. It’s safer to use the lane that has been traveled less to avoid "hydroplaning" across the standing water in puddled areas. Hydroplaning happens when your tires encounter more water than they can scatter, so they lose contact with the road and skid along the water's surface.

Winter Driving Safety

Winter driving tips - AAA

Winter driving can be hazardous and scary, especially in northern regions that get a lot of snow and ice. Additional preparations can help make a trip safer or help motorists deal with an emergency. The best defensive driving technique to use while driving on snow is, of course, to slow down. However, be careful you don't go too slow or suddenly stop, which might cause a rear-end collision. The next most important thing to do is to allow ample space between you and the vehicle in front of you.

The "Four P's" of safe winter driving are: Prepare, Practice, Protect, and Prevent. Click on the buttons to learn more about the 4 P's of winter driving.


  • Maintain Your Car: Employers should ensure properly trained workers' inspect the following vehicle systems to determine if they are working properly:
    • Brakes: Brakes should provide even and balanced braking. Check that brake fluid is at the proper level.
    • Cooling System: Ensure a proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water in the cooling system at the proper level.
    • Electrical System: Check the ignition system and make sure that the battery is fully charged and that the connections are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition with proper tension.
    • Engine: Inspect all engine systems.
    • Fuel: Fill up frequently. Keep at least a half-tank of fuel. A full tank is even better.
    • Exhaust System: Check exhaust for leaks and that all clamps and hangers are snug.
    • Tires: Check for proper tread depth and no signs of damage or uneven wear. Use snow tires. Check for proper tire inflation.
    • Oil: Check that oil is at the proper level.
    • Visibility Systems: Inspect all exterior lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window), and wipers. Install new winter windshield wipers.
  • Have On Hand: flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter, even floor mats), shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, warning devices (flares, lights, cones), and blankets. For long trips, add food and water, medication, and cell phone.
  • Stopped or Stalled? Stay in your car, don't overexert, put bright markers on antenna or windows and shine dome light, and, if you run your car, clear exhaust pipe and run it just enough to stay warm.
  • Plan Your Route: Allow plenty of time. Check the weather and leave early. Be familiar with the maps and directions, and let others know your route and arrival time.

Practice Cold Weather Driving

  • During the daylight, rehearse maneuvers slowly on ice or snow in an empty lot
  • Steer into a skid
  • Know what your brakes will do: stomp on antilock brakes or pump non-antilock brakes
  • Stopping distances are longer on water-covered ice and ice
  • Don't idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space

Protect Yourself

  • Buckle up and use child safety seats properly
  • Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an airbag
  • Children 12 and under are much safer in the back seat

Prevent Crashes

  • Always put your lights on when driving in the snow to be visible to others
  • Use low beams when driving in fog
  • Slow down and be watchful for ice in shady areas, on bridges, and below overpasses
  • Slow down and increase distances between cars
  • Keep your eyes open for pedestrians walking in the road
  • Avoid fatigue – Get plenty of rest before the trip, stop at least every three hours, and rotate drivers if possible
  • If you are planning to drink, designate a sober driver.

For more information on winter driving safety, see the NHTSA Winter Driving Tips webpage.

8. What are the two most important practices to stay safe while driving in snow?

a. Ensure a full tank of gas, and drive below the speed limit
b. Keep windows clear and warm vehicle up before traveling
c. Pump your tires to stop and don't turn wheels
d. Slow down and allow extra space

Check your Work

Click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.



Bright Side offers 15 defensive driving secrets that can save your life.

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