If you need a reason to drive safe this season, current driver safety stats are enough to do the trick.
- For over 20 years, speeding has been to blame for approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities.
- 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
- More than half of all car crashes in the United States are caused by aggressive drivers.
- Crash risk is highest during the first year that drivers are licensed.
- Driver-related factors, such as driver error, impairment, fatigue and distraction, are present in almost 90% of crashes.
As more drivers pour into the roads en route to their holiday celebrations, it’s more important than ever that drivers exercise safe driving habits.
That begins with defensive driving.
What Is Defensive Driving?
As co-founder of Simply Insurance, Sa El is a licensed insurance agent and also a member of the Forbes Finance Council. He tells us, “Defensive driving courses show you the rule of thumb when it comes to driving, as well as how to drive for others. These courses usually want you to understand the rules of how and when to make certain turns, knowing the rules of the road and what to do at a four-way stop if all the cars stop at the same time – general road knowledge.”
Melanie Musson is an auto insurance expert with 4 Auto Insurance Quote where she sees firsthand the impact of defensive driving courses. “A defensive driving course is a class that introduces and reviews critical driving techniques to implement to become a better and safer driver,” she explains.“A defensive driving class can help drivers learn to focus on aspects of driving that they may have forgotten about or not realized and the most obvious benefit of that is becoming a safer driver.”
As the only safety organization chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council has trained over 75 million drivers nationwide since the creation of its first defensive driving course in 1964. However, there are many other places to take a defensive driving course today.
Aceable is one such solution. “Online school Aceable allows busy drivers to complete state-approved curriculum on their phone, tablet, or computer in just a few hours,” says Aceable’s own analyst Laura Adams. “You can take in-car, in-classroom, and online defensive driving courses. In addition to saving time, online courses are the most affordable.”
Sa El has also gone the online route. “I took my course online and was able to find a discount code, so I only ended up paying about $50.00 to take the course and get certification,” he tells us.
“Completing a defensive driving course is a proactive way to improve your driving skills significantly. The curriculum helps you stay safe by anticipating potential driving problems and avoiding dangerous situations on the road,” explains Adams. “The cost varies depending on your state, but it could be as low as $20, making it a wise investment. One of the best ways to protect yourself, your passengers, and other people on the road is to be a safe driver.”
Benefits of Taking a Defensive Driving Course
“Taking a defensive driving course comes with many benefits that vary from state to state,” says Aceable’s Adams. “For instance, they can help you keep points from a traffic ticket off your driving record, comply with a court order, and qualify for a car insurance discount.”
First, there’s the obvious benefit of physical safety.
“Your safety is critical so the more you focus on safety while driving, the more likely you’ll make it to your destination without incident,” says Musson. “In some situations, if you’ve gotten a ticket, you may be able to receive a lesser penalty if you take a defensive driving course.”
“If you received a traffic ticket, taking a defensive driving course will help keep points from accumulating on your driving record. Reducing or eliminating points can prevent your auto insurance rate from increasing,” explains Adams.
Auto Insurance Discounts
We all know that safe driving positively impacts your car insurance rates, but defensive driving can have extra benefits, too.
“When it comes to auto insurance, you can actually save quite a lot from taking a defensive driving course,” affirms George Birrell, CPA and Founder of TaxHub. “Think of it this way – you’ve made a concerted effort to make sure you’re safer on the road and learn how to avoid accidents, meaning it’s less likely your insurance company will need to pay for accident costs. Many insurance companies recognize this effort and will offer a percentage to save on your premiums.”
“The amount you will save over the lifetime of your coverage makes taking the course well worth it,” adds Sa El.
“The financial benefits of defensive driving don’t stop there,” continues Birrell. “In some rarer but not impossible cases, you might be able to use your driving course to help dismiss a traffic ticket (and we all know how pricey those can be).”
“You’ll just need to make sure that the class you take is recognized by your insurer,” adds Musson.
Defensive Driving During the Holidays
The holidays can also be a hazardous time to traverse U.S. roads, thanks to Mother Nature.
There are an estimated 156,000 car accidents each year due to icy conditions according to a 2020 study from Carsurance.net, with the FHWA reporting that of weather-related car crashes, 24% occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15% happen during snowfall or sleet. Those numbers skyrocket when you introduce snow into the equation, which is especially alarming given that more than 70% of U.S. roads receive five inches of snow or more annually.
“There are more accidents during the holidays because winter driving conditions can be treacherous in many parts of the country,” says Adams. “Additionally, drivers may be navigating in unfamiliar areas or more distracted than usual.”
She offers some tips to help:
- Before driving during the holidays, make sure you plan your route and leave plenty of time to get to your destination.
- Stay focused on the road and put away distracting mobile devices.
- Holiday celebrations may result in dangerous drinking or drugging and driving. Always have a plan not to drive when you know that you won’t be sober. Getting a DUI can cause you to lose your driver’s license, significantly increase your insurance rates, or be deadly.
“Taking a defensive driving course can significantly improve your ability to minimize damage in an accident or prevent one from happening in the first place,” says Adams, referencing Aceable’s own curriculum. “You’ll learn skills that you can apply to various hazardous conditions, such as driving in the rain, sleet, and snow.”
Musson adds that even experienced drivers can benefit from a refresher before the snow arrives. “Even if you’ve been driving a long time, a driving course can help you drive with a renewed focus on your surroundings,” she says. “It should help you to identify potentially dangerous situations and avoid them more effectively.”
The Bottom Line
Musson encourages drivers to be proactive. “With all the distractions of the holidays and the fact that more people are on the roads, a fresh outlook on safety can help you prevent an accident.”
Plus, there’s always the added financial benefits, she adds. “Saving money on car insurance premiums or on a monetary penalty for a traffic violation can help you tuck away a little extra money this holiday season for gifts or special seasonal activities.”
It’s certainly money better spent.