5 defensive driving tips to help you avoid accidents  

More than 30,000 people die each year in the United States in car accidents, and millions more are injured. These accidents also cause billions of dollars in property damage, but many could be easily avoided. Practicing basic defensive driving can help you keep you and your family safe when traveling. Here are five tips to get you started. .

Pay attention. Paying attention - and this means not using your smartphone while driving - allows you to identify and avoid potential hazards. If someone is drifting across the lane line, you'll have time to act to avoid the collision. The same things goes for people pulling out in front of you. If you identify the potential hazard, you can be on the brakes before anything bad happens. Keep your eyes on the road at all times, and avoid distractions such as eating, using a phone or looking for something in your car. 

Don't speed. Speeding creates two hazards: It reduces your reaction time in a dangerous situation, and any collisions that happen will be more dangerous. The faster you go, the less reaction time you'll have, so keep your speed at a reasonable level. The difference in reaction time between 50 mph and 70 mph is about 32 feet, meaning you'll need 32 extra feet to react to a hazard when traveling 70 mph than you would at 50 mph. 

Follow the rules. Remember all those things you learned about signs, lane changes and what's legal in order to pass your driving test? How many of them do you still follow? The rules exist to create uniformity so drivers don't collide with each other. This means following lane markings, not making U-turns, actually stopping for stop signs and not passing where you aren't supposed to pass. Other drivers expect you to follow the rules. When you don't, collisions often happen because the other driver was surprised by your actions. 

Keep your distance. Strive to create at least two seconds of following distance between you and the car in front of you. Pick an object on the road ahead. When the car in front of you passes it, start counting, stopping when you get to the same object. If it's less than two seconds, increase your distance. Also, avoid driving in others? blind spots, and if you're being tailgated, change lanes or change your speed to encourage the other vehicle to pass. In heavy traffic, try to keep open spaces on either side of your vehicle to allow for emergency maneuvers. 

Beware of intersections. Many serious collisions happen in intersections. Slow down when approaching one, and even if you have the green light, look left-right-left for any potential light-runners or inattentive pedestrians. Do the same thing when stopped for a red light. Look both ways once the light changes, as most accidents happen within four seconds of the light change. 

Not every accident is avoidable, but by following these five basic tips, you can greatly reduce the chances of being involved in a crash.

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