Defensive driving

Drive like your life depends on it

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an above-average driver. And above-average drivers know it’s those other drivers you have to worry about. Now is a good time to remind yourself about good driving habits so when you encounter bad drivers — or bad driving conditions — you might be less likely to have an accident.

  • Put the phone away. Although handheld cell phone use is declining, in 2017, more than 400,000 drivers used their cell phone during daylight hours, according to a 2019 National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) study. Put the phone out of reach, keep your hands on the wheel, and your eyes on the road.
  • Minimize other distractions. Smartphones are just one cause of distracted driving. You’ve probably seen it all — eating, singing, preening, smoking. We’ve even heard of someone knitting behind the wheel! Behaviors like that are some of the reasons why in 2018, 2,841 people were killed and 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers according to NHTSA. And if you’re a teen driver (thanks for reading!) or the parent of one, we have more tips on how to stay focused on driving.
  • Adjust for the conditions. Good drivers adapt their driving when there’s wind, rain, sleet, or snow. Give yourself more time to get to your destination and call or send a message — before you leave — letting whomever is expecting you know that you may be a little late.
  • Be aware. Slow down and leave more room between you and the other vehicles on the road. If you’re tired, consider pulling off and getting some rest or asking someone else to take a turn at the wheel.
  • Watch for deer. Deer almost never obey deer crossing signs — or any other road markings, for that matter. But there are ways to minimize your chances of hitting one.

Five keys to defensive driving: The "Smith System"

A way to remember this five-part system is to memorize the phrase All Good Kids Like Milk.

1. Aim High

Look ahead at least 11½ blocks in urban areas or ¼ mile at high speeds. Aiming high in steering keeps you on a straighter path and your focus on the road as a whole rather than just the immediate area in front of you.

2. Get the Big Picture

Pay attention to the movements of others and anticipate the worst. Drivers may not stop where expected. Assess the potential risks around you — in front, behind, and to the sides.

3. Keep your Eyes Moving

Check your mirrors every 3–5 seconds. Reduce highway hypnosis and fixed stares by looking ahead, behind, side-to-side, and at the dashboard instrument panel.

4. Leave Yourself an Out

Build in a space cushion. Anticipate potential hazards and plan your escape route in case the worst happens. Don't let yourself get boxed in.

5. Make Sure They See You

Make sure your lights are always in working order so other drivers know when you're turning (which means you need to use your turn signals) or braking and so you can use your headlights and flashers when necessary. Never assume other drivers can see you.

If you have an accident

Even the best drivers have accidents. That’s one reason why we offer small at-fault accident forgiveness to our policyholders. 

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When an accident happens, we can help you have a better tomorrow. Here’s what you need to do to report your claim.

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The information included here was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice or other advice.