Web Traffic School
SECTION 4.4 Review: Safety on the Open Road
Defensive Driving: Momentary Distractions

If you are distracted by events inside your car:

  • Check the situation ahead.
  • Pick a safe time to look away.
  • Cover your brake pedal with your right foot.
  • Take short looks inside the vehicle and im
    mediately check the road ahead of you.
  • Don’t look at a map while driving. Have a passenger help you with navigation.
  • Stop and read the map if you don’t have a passenger in the car.

Defensive Driving: Looking Ahead for Trouble

Watch the brake lights of cars both ahead of you and in other lanes for signs of trouble ahead. Start braking early if you see traffic ahead of you slowing down.

 Defensive Driving: Avoid Being Rear Ended

In order to minimize the likelihood of your being rear-ended by another vehicle:

  • Increase your following distance from vehicles ahead of you, particularly in adverse conditions or if you can see other drivers braking or driving erratically.
  • Signal early whenever you turn, stop, or change lanes.
  • Slow and stop using smooth braking techniques and avoid braking at the last minute.
  • Keep pace with the flow of traffic whenever possible.
  • Check your mirrors to check the following distance of vehicles behind you.
  • Before you change lanes, double-check their direction.
  • Whenever you are stopped in traffic, keep your brake pedal depressed.
  • Make sure your brake lights are kept clean and work properly.

Defensive Driving: Compromise to Reduce the Risk of Hazards

You should not view driving as a competitive activity. It is important that you always compromise to reduce the risk of hazards to you and drivers and pedestrians who are relying on you for their safety:

If you are on a two-way street and facing a line of oncoming traffic, you should be prepared to brake and move to the right if an oncoming vehicle moves into your lane. If this happens, you should:

  • Slow down.
  • Pull to the right as far as you safely can.
  • Sound your horn and flash your lights.

As you approach a curve, you should slow down, downshift if you are driving a manual transmission, and smoothly steer around the curve. Once you have returned to safe road, accelerate again to the appropriate speed.

If there are no speed limit signs posted for the curve, the decision of what speed is appropriate is up to you. Many factors should affect your decision: the condition of the road, the sharpness of the curve, visibility, and the condition of the car you are driving.

You should recognize the curve and adjust your position and speed ahead of time, rather than trying to deal with it in the curve. Braking in a curve can be dangerous and result in a tire blowout or loss of control of your car.

If you are on a two-way road, be very wary of oncoming traffic. Oncoming drivers could cross the center line and cause a head-on collision. In order to be prepared to avoid this, start by staying to the right of your lane.

Defensive Driving: When a Collision Can’t be Avoided

Preparing for a Collision

There may come a time in your driving career when you can see a collision coming, but cannot safely do anything to avoid it. If this should happen, all you can do is to prepare yourself to emerge from it as safely as possible.

If you are about to be hit from the rear:

  • Be prepared to brake so that you won’t be pushed into another car or into oncoming traffic.
  • Head restraints, or head rests, prevent neck injury. Keep your head restraint adjusted so that it reaches the back of your head, not the base of your skull.

If you are about to be hit from the front:

  • Use your arms and hands to protect yourself if you are wearing a seat belt with a shoulder strap.
  • If your seat belt does not have a shoulder strap, throw yourself across the seat beside you so that you won’t be thrown into the steering column or the windshield.
Defensive Driving: Some Hazardous situations.

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Construction Zones

Drive especially carefully in construction areas and repair work zones:

  • Highway workers try hard to warn you of their presence by using orange signs, equipment, flags, and jackets.
  • Construction vehicles frequently move quite slowly. Be prepared to slow down or stop to allow for them.
  • One or more lanes of traffic may be closed. Signs and a line of orange cones will indicate which lanes are closed. Never cross a line of cones.
  • A flashing arrow may also be used to tell you to move left or right.
  • Make lane changes in construction zones as early and as safely as possible.
  • Never stop or slow down to watch road work.
  • Obey any special signs or instructions.

Fines are doubled for certain violations committed in highway construction or maintenance zones when workers are present or the traffic flow is regulated or restricted.

By law, when an assault is committed against a highway worker engaged in the performance of his other duties and the person committing the offense knows or reasonably should know that the victim is a highway worker engaged in the performance of his or her duties, the offense is punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000, imprisonment in a county jail up to one year, or both fine and imprisonment. 

A "highway worker" means an employee of the Department of Transportation, contractor or employee of a contractor while working under contract with the Department of Transportation, an employee of a city, county, or city and county, a contractor or employee of a contractor while working under contract with a city, county, or city and county, or a volunteer as defined in Section 1720.4 of the Labor Code.


If you are near a school zone or a children’s play area, slow down to no more than 25mph and look carefully for children at play or walking down the street who may suddenly dart into the road.

Animals in the Roadway

Animals can wander onto the roadway, often seeming to appear suddenly from nowhere, particularly at night. If an animal is in the road in front of you, try to drive around the animal or stop the vehicle, but do not risk the lives of people to avoid hitting a small animal. You should do everything possible to avoid a collision with a big animal such as a horse, deer, or cow. Hundreds of people are killed and many more thousands are injured in collisions with animals every year.

Motorists frequently try and dodge small animals like cats or dogs and end up running off the roadway, or hit other cars.

  • Under the law, you should not sacrifice a human life to save an animal.
  • Large animals, such as deer, horses, and cows often freeze at night when the headlights of an approaching car shine in their eyes. If you were to hit a large animal at high speed, it would likely demolish your vehicle and cause serious injury or death to its occupants.


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