What is Defensive Driving?

••• AGrigorjeva/iStock/GettyImages

Related Articles

Aggressive driving and road rage gets far more publicity than defensive driving. For some reason, when there's a traffic confrontation or someone is really a danger to the roads, the smartphones get whipped out to film. But nobody takes videos of someone driving defensively and not getting into an accident. Maybe they should.

Defensive Driving

Every driver knows something about defensive driving, even if the techniques do not stay in the front of their minds as they drive the morning commute crawl to work. When you are driving defensively, you actively seek to reduce driving risks by keeping eyes on the road, searching for hazards ahead and taking steps to avoid them. Defensive driving techniques and strategies are not limited to the information you study for the knowledge part of the driver's license test.

What is a defensive driving technique? It means a strategy or thought pattern that encourages you to anticipate situations and hazards on the road ahead. For example, keeping your eyes moving from side to side on the road ahead is one defensive driving technique. Seeing potential dangerous situations early is important, both those based on traffic conditions and those based on weather and environment. It allows you make informed decisions about possible maneuvers to reduce risk, avoid hazards and stay safe.

Defensive Driving Training

Some defensive driving techniques are obvious, like keeping your eyes on the road, but many are counter intuitive and a driver needs to learn them and practice them to make them habits. For example, one defensive driving technique is to assume that every other driver on the road is going to make a mistake or break a driving law. That allows you to get ready for trouble before it arrives.

If you are interested in defensive driving training, look for a defensive driving class, also called traffic school. In these classes, drivers improve driving skills as they learn how to evaluate risks ahead and plan for maneuvers to avoid them. In every state, defensive driving classes will make you a better driver. But in some states, there are other benefits.

Benefits of a Defensive Driving Course

Defensive driving courses can help you in various ways with your driving record. But these benefits vary from state to state. They can include removing points from your driving record or avoiding additional points.

Let's say you get a speeding ticket in a state where drivers accumulate points for citations. Some states will reduce the points you got from the ticket if you take a state-approved defensive driving class. Most basic classes are about four hours in length, but in some states, they can be up to twice that long. You may even be able to take the course online, but some states require that you are taught by an instructor in a classroom.

Successful completion of a course at a defensive driving school may also reduce your insurance rates or avoid an increase in insurance premiums. If you have lower-cost, basic insurance coverage, your reduction may max out at 10 percent. If you have a full-service insurance provider, the discount could be as much as 20 percent.


  • Defensive driving means driving in a way that uses safe-driving techniques to anticipate, identify and address hazards ahead. The term also refers to defensive driving classes drivers can take to improve their driving skills and, in some states, clean up their driving records.