List of Five Principles of Defensive Driving


The Smith System for defensive driving employs five basic principles. Each principle is designed to reduce the risks involved in driving by teaching drivers to anticipate dangerous situations. By driving defensively, traffic-related injuries are reduced, even in adverse weather conditions. An important rule in defensive driving is anticipating other drivers' errors, mistakes in judgment and/or carelessness.

Aim High

  • "Aiming high in steering" is the first principle of the Smith System. A driver who "aims high" looks far ahead and further than the drivers around him. Knowing traffic conditions up ahead keeps a driver alert to possible slowdowns. A driver who is aware of slowdowns or accidents can avoid rear-end collisions and warn drivers behind him of slowdowns by tapping his brakes.

Get the Big Picture

  • A driver who "gets the big picture" is aware of her surroundings at all times. This principle teaches drivers to be aware of how closely they are being followed and whether any driver nearby is driving erratically. Awareness of these things allows a defensive driver to anticipate the mistakes of other drivers and to position herself accordingly.

Keep Your Eyes Moving

  • This principle of the Smith System asks defensive drivers to be more aware of driving conditions and surroundings than other drivers on the road. Drivers who keep their eyes moving constantly take account of traffic conditions, driver behavior and road conditions.

Leave Yourself an Out

  • The fourth principle of the Smith System is the "leave yourself an out" principle. Drivers who leave themselves an out make sure they are not following too closely in anticipation of slowdowns. Drivers who leave themselves an out also avoid being surrounded by other drivers by choosing outside lanes.

Make Sure They See You

  • The "make sure they see you" principle prevents possible accidents by making others aware of their surroundings. Ways to make sure other drivers see you include avoiding driving in another driver's blind spot and making use of headlights, signal lights and horns.

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