The LLLC Defensive Driving Principles™
Many people talk about defensive driving, but not many know exactly what it is. So, let’s talk specifics. True defensive driving boils down to behaviors, and we’ve created an easy-to-remember mnemonic to define four principles and behaviors that are essential defensive driving habits. It’s called The LLLC Defensive Driving Principles™, but we just call it “Triple-L-C.” Using the Four Driving Principles of Safety, Look Ahead, Look Around, Leave Room, and Communicate, gives you the time and information you need to avoid an accident and be an all-around better driver.
The first principle is Look Ahead. It’s not enough to just know what is happening in your immediate environment. Defensive Driving is about knowing what will happen, and you can do so by keeping an eye-lead time of 15 seconds. Scan the road ahead to see any action or potential issues before you reach them in order to have as much time as possible to react.
In city traffic, with cars parked on the side of the road, Look Ahead lets you see cars getting ready to pull out, traffic lights turning red, or jaywalkers running into traffic. Out in the country, Look Ahead helps you spot deer and other animals before they run right out in front of you. Making the Look Ahead principle a habit will make you a safer and more effective driver.
The Look Around principle, similar to the Look Ahead principle, has to do with the environmental demands that you perceive. You need to Look Around your vehicle, not just in front. Everything around you is constantly changing: the roadway, the traffic, pedestrians. Change your point of focus every two seconds and check your mirrors every five to eight seconds to see around you and navigate your blind spots. This way, you avoid driving with a fixed stare and stay more alert.
In some ways, the third principle—Leave Room—is the most important to defensive driving. It’s the most basic insofar as preventing collisions; keep adequate space in between you and other vehicles or fixed objects. It’s essential to Leave Room on all six sides of the vehicle: in front, behind, left, right, above, and below. The easiest space to control is the space in front of you. You need to maintain a three to five second following distance in clear conditions to account for other drivers’ mistakes.
It’s simple enough to leave safe following distance, but you’re not in direct control of the other five sides. For example, you can’t control if someone wants to tailgate you. You can, however, encourage them to change lanes by gently slowing down (but don’t brake check anyone). You also want to leave room on both sides, especially when you’re on the highway. If you’re bottled up between cars or trucks on both sides of you, you have nowhere to go if something happens up ahead. Instead, when a vehicle is next to you on either side, traveling at the same speed, just drop back and let them get ahead of you. Lastly, you have to Leave Room above and below your vehicle. Be on the lookout for low overhead clearances and low-hanging wires or branches. And, Look Ahead and Look Around for potholes, dips in the road, uneven railroad tracks, and debris.
While the first three LLLC Defensive Driving principles are about what information you perceive, Communicate is about what information you give other drivers. You have to let other drivers on the road know what you intend to do so they can act accordingly. The most basic is your turn signal. Use your turn signal for three to five flashes before turning or changing lanes.
You also need to use your horn, lights, four-way flashers, and eye-contact to Communicate your intentions. A quick, friendly tap of your horn is a good way to let another driver know you’re there or get their attention. Use your lights and four-way flashers to warn other drivers of dangers ahead. Lastly, it’s important to give a quick glance with eye contact. This way, you can make sure other drivers know you’re there and that they’re paying attention.