Complete Defensive Driving Checklist

The phrase “defensive driving” surfaced in the mid-60s when Chris Imhoff, the head of the National Safety Council, released a list of practices and strategies to keep drivers safe and decrease crashes.

Now, we have further research on defensive driving and new laws about accident prevention. Defensive driving principles are still the best way to stay safe. But what is defensive driving?

Read on to learn more about it and how to drive defensively with our safe driving tips.

What Is Defensive Driving?

A busy Las Vegas road at night with lights and traffic

Defensive driving is a way for drivers and others on the road to remain safe and avoid potential hazards. It’s when motorists take responsibility for forward-thinking and anticipate potentially dangerous situations before they actually happen.

Drivers who employ defensive driving practices are proactive instead of reactive in how they operate their vehicles. While accidents are not entirely avoidable, defensive driving can reduce the risk.

Why Teach Defensive Driving?

You can’t trust every driver on the road to make the best decisions. Drive defensively to use time and space to your advantage.

Defensive Driving Statistics

Unfortunately, car accidents remain a top cause of death for most age groups across the country. The DMV found that human error directly causes 94% of all accidents. So, it’s not the equipment to blame but the people operating it.

Over 32,000 people die on U.S. roadways annually, and over 6,000 are injured in car accidents every day. 90 of those are labeled fatalities.

Recognition errors are the most common mistakes drivers make that lead to accidents. These include failing to pay attention, distracted driving, and poor surveillance habits. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these dangerous behaviors account for 41% of all human errors causing accidents.

Defensive driving can help keep motorists from becoming unfortunate statistics.

Road Rage Statistics

The behavioral patterns of other drivers on the road can evoke strong emotions in some drivers. Sometimes, drivers are reckless and fail to follow speed limits.

Drivers often respond poorly to feelings of road rage. Half of all motorists respond aggressively when dealing with road rage emotions. Some drivers honk, shout, use offensive gestures, drive recklessly, short brake, or attempt to “bump” the offending driver.

Road rage can have significant consequences. The Insurance Information Institute found that 56% of all fatal car accidents involved road rage. When motorists feel angry while operating a vehicle, the chances of driving aggressively increase drastically. Aggressive driving behaviors include speeding, failing to signal before lane changes, tailgating, and other illegal practices.

Reasons to Drive Defensively in Vegas

The Office of Traffic Safety compiled the most recent data for Nevada accidents in 2019. So far, they’ve only released fatality information for 2019. The report shows that 284 deaths have occurred on Nevada roadways. Of those 284 deaths, Clark County was responsible for 185 fatalities. Clark County led the state in fatalities and has done so for several years. Las Vegas is the main contributor within the county.

Motorists operating within Las Vegas city limits have the highest risk for injury and death, which is why Vegas drivers must drive defensively to drastically improve accident prevention.

Complete Defensive Driving Checklist

Motorists can help keep themselves and others safe by utilizing the following defensive driving practices and safe driving tips.

Before Starting the Car

  • Inspect the car to ensure proper functionality of all key safety components
  • Adjust the mirrors to maximize vision and view of road conditions and other vehicles
  • Safely and properly secure your seat belt and ensure that all passengers are buckled
  • Locate all controls, including your flashers, emergency and parking brakes, headlight switches, heater or defroster, and windshield wipers

Follow the Law

  • Comply with all posted speed limits and adjust if poor weather conditions impact your ability to drive safely
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals
  • Yield to drivers, pedestrians, and other vehicles that have the right of way
  • Signal before changing lanes and only pass on the left
  • Look over your shoulder before pulling into traffic
  • Place both hands on opposite sides of the steering wheel
  • Begin and end turns in the correct lane
  • See and be seen


  • Constantly scan activity in front of your vehicle
  • Scan the front, left, and right of the vehicle every 12-15 seconds
  • Eliminate all distractions from the task at hand
  • Periodically check activity taking place behind your vehicle

Manage Space

  • Keep a safe cushion of at least 10 feet on both sides of your vehicle
  • Stay a minimum of three car distances behind the driver ahead of you
  • Allow tailgaters to pass and never tailgate

Driving in Poor Weather

  • When appropriate, use windshield wipers, a defroster, and headlights
  • Wear sunglasses to counter the glare of the sun (or snow)

Expect the Unexpected

  • Be on the lookout for reckless behavior from drivers around you and position your vehicle accordingly
  • Be alert for people, animals, and motorcycles darting into the road
  • Be on the lookout for debris, potholes, or other unsafe conditions

Other Safety Techniques

  • Check rearview mirrors before braking
  • Scan all cross streets before entering any intersections
  • Watch and follow all signal lights and signs
  • Constantly keep your eyes moving to anticipate any changes or potential dangers

When motorists implement defensive driving techniques, they do their part in accident prevention. You can find a complete defensive driving checklist on the DMV website.

Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident?

Man driving car in an orange sweater

Reckless, distracted, or aggressive driving practices often lead to car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found vehicle crashes cause 840,000 injuries annually. Thousands of injuries occur every day on highways around the country, so you should know what to do if you are in a car accident.

As previously mentioned, defensive driving reduces the risk of injury or death, but it cannot eliminate it. That is where an experienced law firm can help. SJW Injury Attorneys is there for Las Vegas motorists who have suffered injuries from a car accident.

At SJW Injury Attorneys, we provide free consultations and will cover specifics following the accident. Our expert legal advice will help you know what to do at the scene of a car accident, what to do immediately after, and how to proceed until the car accident case or claim is resolved.

Get Your Free Consultation