Driving gives us the freedom to go anywhere we please, but that freedom comes at a price: risk. An accident can happen in the blink of an eye, and that accident may be fatal.

Practicing defensive driving can help you prevent an accident on the road. Use these five tips to stay safe the next time you head out on the open road.

1. Avoid Distractions

Distractions are a leading cause of accidents today, and the problem is only getting worse with so many people using their smartphones 24/7.

In Texas alone, there were 3,531 people killed in car accidents in 2015, and 481 of those fatalities were the result of distracted driving. Texting, talking and eating can all wait until you are somewhere safe.

Put down the phone. Keep your eyes on the road. Don’t let trivial things distract you. It may cost you your life.

2. Don’t Trust Other Drivers

As a general rule of thumb, you should never trust other drivers on the road. The only driver you should trust is yourself because you only have control of your own actions.

Expect other drivers to make mistakes, and be ready to them. Never make a move unless you’re sure that it’s absolutely safe.

Here’s a good example of why you should never trust other drivers:

  • You pull up to a stop sign, and prepare to make a right turn.
  • An oncoming vehicle has his right blinker on.
  • You assume he’s turning onto the next street.
  • You pull out, he doesn’t make a turn, and you collide with the vehicle.

In this case, the accident would likely be your fault because you were turning into oncoming traffic. The fact that he had his blinker on is irrelevant.

The point here is that you should never make a turn – or take any action – unless you are absolutely sure you can do so safely. In the above example, the driver should have waited until the vehicle turned to make a turn.

3. Keep an Appropriate Distance Between Yourself and Other Vehicles

Tailgating is never a good idea. It may be tempting to tailgate if the vehicle in front of you is traveling at a slow speed, but doing so only puts you at risk of an accident. Rarely do vehicles speed up when someone is riding closely. In fact, this action usually has the opposite effect.

If you don’t keep adequate space between you and the vehicle in front you, there’s a good chance you will rear-end the vehicle if he is forced to stop short.

There should be at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front of you; more if the weather is bad.

4. Adjust Your Driving to the Weather

Your driving habits and speeds should change with the weather. You should not drive in the rain or the snow in the same way you’d drive on a clear day.

If it’s raining, extend the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Turn off cruise control, and slow down. You should also learn how to anticipate and react to hydroplaning.

If you absolutely must travel in the snow, use snow chains or invest in snow tires. Do not use chains on ice, and slow down when driving.