by: Craig Howie | AOL Autos

    Someone got cut off. They bleeped their horn. You bleeped back. They gesticulated, you gesticulated. And now you're stuck with a lunatic on your back, tailgating and swerving, keeping up with you with a crazy grimace on his face and trying his best to force you off the road. Whoa there. Not everybody lives in Orange County, Calif. Or Miami, Fla. And maybe you're the lunatic, who knows? Or perhaps you take a more considered path of action. We've chosen eight often overlooked defensive driving tips that hopefully will help ensure situations like this one don't develop, and which come with the added bonus of avoiding an expensive insurance payment or minimizing the risks of injury or death in a serious crash.

    Tip 1: Don't do unto others

    So the crazy-driver pursuit is unlikely to occur, but remonstrating with another driver can not only prove dangerous to your health and wellbeing -- remember you may be inflaming a road-rage situation -- but perhaps more crucially, it distracts a driver for a split second or longer. The entire event could adversely affect their driving for the rest of the day. Remember: Don't take it out on others. And though I usually don't subscribe to the fractured logic of bumper stickers -- mean people, and in particular mean drivers, really do suck.

    Tip 2: Stay out of the way

    One of the first defensive driving tips listed by Dr Leon James, a professor at the University of Hawaii who publishes DrDriving.com, is: "Stay out of the way. Give aggressive drivers plenty of room to get around you." If another driver is endangering you or his actions are threatening to cause a smash, the best tactic is avoidance, usually by slowing down (with one caveat: always check mirrors before hitting the brakes).

    He tells AOL Autos: "One thing to remember is that there is a diversity of drivers on the road. They have different goals for being there -- some are in a hurry to get somewhere, others are just looking around or don't know where they are going exactly and have plenty of time. Others are challenged by sickness, age, drugs, anger, depression, etc. So the best defensive driving advice is to give them more latitude. Let them do what they want at all times."

    Tip 3: Yield

    Dr. James also says it is never a given that other drivers will follow the rules of the road, and to never insist on your own right of way if another driver is challenging you. Mark Sedenquist, the publisher of RoadTripAmerica.com, agrees, advocating a "yield anyway" strategy. He says: "Even if the right of way is yours by law, custom, or common sense, always remember that the real object is to get home safely. So when someone barges out ahead of you when it's not their turn, put your ego and irritation in the back seat and ... yield anyway."

    Tip 4: Be aware of your surroundings

    Riding Chicago's L train system to O'Hare Airport alongside the Kennedy Expressway, as I did recently in transit to Los Angeles, gives a great opportunity to observe what drivers get up to behind the wheel: text messaging, applying lipstick, talking on cell phones and reading (!), often at speed. Sedenquist advises keeping an eye out for others' -- and also your own -- bad habits. He says: "One major key to safe driving is observing and responding to the unexpected things that other drivers do. Drivers should be scanning the road constantly, both ahead and (in a rear-view mirror) behind. Another strategy is the 'two-seconds-plus rule,' ensuring a safe following distance between your car and that car or truck in front of you."

    Tip 5: Overcome overconfidence

    Russ Radar, of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, suggests overconfidence could be at the root of the problem and also offers a practical approach to safety. "We all think we're good drivers and it's all the other drivers out there that are dangerous. We need to examine our own driving behavior: Slow down, obey traffic laws, and always wear safety belts. If everyone did those things, our highways would be a lot safer."

    Tip 6: Take a refresher course

    I attended a brief defensive driving course as part of an assignment a few years back and was shocked by just how much my road habits had decayed in a decade or so behind the wheel, perhaps as a result of overconfidence. One-hand steering wheel spins? Please no. Even crossing hands is frowned upon here. Quick to point out and work on combating bad habits, my instructor also offered valuable lessons on everyday road stuff that I'd forgotten, some as surprisingly basic as road position or safely approaching a stop sign or street entrance. It's valuable in other ways, too: Any money spent on the course may end up saving larger payouts on speeding tickets or traffic misdemeanors -- both of which will probably necessitate the taking of defensive driving course, usually in a class or online.

    Tip 7: Rest and refresh

    The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 56,000 crashes annually are caused by drowsy drivers. It also suggests some startling characteristics of crashes involving a drowsy driver: The crash occurs late at night or early in the morning; it is likely to be serious; a single vehicle leaves the roadway; the crash occurs on a high-speed road; the driver does not attempt to avoid a crash; the driver is alone in the vehicle. A friend of mine, who crashed a Volvo 850 into highway safety barrels at 70 mph (and thankfully walked away without a scratch) will bear witness that all of these factors occurred in her early-morning smash when she fell asleep at the wheel. The NHTSA says that, young people (ages 16 to 29), especially males, are most at risk. Shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working long or irregular hours also face the same risks. Sedenquist, who has tallied a half million miles in his 30 years on the road across America, says "Before you push on for 'just another fifty miles,' keep in mind that sleepy drivers can be just as dangerous as drunk ones." Stay alert, it can save your life.

    Tip 8: Take a Zen-like approach

    Dr James advises: "The secret of being a "supportive driver" -- the opposite of an aggressive driver. Facilitate what they are trying to do. Do not put your sail in their wind. Be a smart driver, a peaceful driver, and be safe and calm that way."

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    1 - 9 of 9 Comments
    vinchenz97 Feb 22, 2010 10:55 AM
    http://www.NYDDOP.com Take The NY Defensive Driving Online Program from Home Any Time Day Or Night. Save $100's of Dollars On Your Car Insurance Automatically. Also remove up to 4 points from your driving record and become a Certified NY Defensive Driver. Be Safe New York, Take the course today. http://NYDDOP.com
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    cidpusaorg Jan 24, 2010 9:26 PM
    You the driver should not act like a traffic judge so do not pass judgment on other drives do no act like a policeman and do not enforce traffic laws Someone may be going in a emergency so let them go leave a clear path Some one may be sick and driving slowly so do not harass them
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    jasou65 Nov 29, 2009 5:28 PM
    Now that they are closing "Rest Areas", there will be more accidents than ever. I don't feel safe stopping at convenience stores to take a walk day or night. Most rest areas have more people stopping for a break. The rests area with attendants are much cleaner than service areas. Appears our government feels it is more important to worry about the safety of other countries than our country.
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    realwolfe Nov 29, 2009 5:08 PM
    Such psychobabble. Buy a gun, and don't be afraid to use it!
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    dwb13 Nov 21, 2009 8:33 AM
    I think Craig Howie is unsure of who his audience is. His terminology is as if he's writing a novel and wants to be clever Forget it. He needs to make hi point clear by using simple terms. "Gesticulated? ???? come on. Why not simply say "Gestured"? How about remonstrating? Come on again. Your audience is someone young trying to gain some insight on how to drive safely. Not someone that's been driving for years. I've been driving for years. I've never heard the term remonstrating or gesticulated and I think bleeped may be a typo? Wake up Howie
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    bminteriors49 Nov 21, 2009 4:04 AM
    Another AOL Headliner New Event left hanging out there without any supporting commentary - hmmm someone must have left for the day and forgot to finish what they started (again) ?
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    vi00000000023178 Nov 21, 2009 2:47 AM
    I agree with the first comment about the article...WHERE are the "expert" tips on how to avoid hitting deer late at night????...I encounter a lot of deer on my country roads when driving to my job at 2 a.m...usually I know just about where they are (near woods, fields of corn and front yards) and can slow down but a couple of them surprised me on roads (open fields) where I don't normally see them.
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    garyasilv Nov 20, 2009 9:46 PM
    SOOOOOOO where is the driving tips to avoid accidents with the deer population??? ANOTHER ******** AOL ARTICLE THAT PROBABLY HAS BEEN USED ABOUT A HUNDRED TIMES TO FILL WEB SPACE
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    ginaminell Sep 20, 2009 6:19 PM
    I was harrassed by an aggressive driver at a traffic light. In Pa. we can make right hand turns if there is no traffic even if the light is red. Apparently I didn't move fast enough and he started honking. I made the turn and then made the mistake of turning my bright lights on for a minute when he got in front of me.I know this was totally wrong on my part. The driver at one point, after I thought everything was over, pulled beside my car and when he saw I was a woman the harrassment started in earnest. He chased me off the main road into a hotel parking lot and chased me all around the lot. I finally pulled in front of the hotel and ran into the lobby. The security person accompanied me to my car and made sure that no one was following me. All of this took place during rush hour! There were no crude jestures, screaming or eye contact that set this off. Now I never respond to any type of aggressive action. If a person is going crazy behind the wheel they can take the journey alone.
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