What is the solution to the distracted driving epidemic? It could be working to become a defensive driver to protect yourself from those who just cannot seem to put the phone down behind the wheel.

Defensive driving means anticipating hazards and putting yourself in a position to react to them right away. Drivers who do this stay alert, they stay focused and they stay in control of their vehicles at all times.

There are practical tips you can use, such as increasing your following distance. If you have a bit of extra space, you’re more likely to be able to stop in time if something happens ahead of you, and you’ll see hazards in advance. You get an extra second or two to avoid a crash, and it can make all the difference.

But there’s also just a mental side. You want to think about when accidents are likely and then look out for warning signs at that time.

For instance, maybe you’re passing a semitruck on the interstate. You know that some truckers do not see cars in their blind spots and will merge into them accidentally This is a high-risk part of the drive. You can pay extra attention to the truck as it goes by, looking at its lane position, the blinker lights and the orientation of the wheels. Knowing that you could get hit at this time means it’s less of a surprise when that truck begins merging, and you can take steps to avoid the crash — like speeding up or slowing down.

Defensive driving acknowledges that other drivers make mistakes, get distracted and cause accidents. If even that is not enough for you to avoid these crashes, make sure you understand your legal options.

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