Test Study Guide

Table of Contents

  • Letter Of The Law vs. Spirit Of The Law
  • Careless Driving and Its Consequences
  • Equipment Failure
  • The N.O.T.S. System
  • "What are some alternatives to driving under the influence?"
  • Consequences of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Other Drugs (DUI)
  • Contributing Factors Can Cause Collisions
    • Driver Behavior
  • Anti-lock Brakes (ABS)
  • ESC (Electronic Stability Control)
  • Preventing Rollovers and Other SUV Related Collisions
  • Driving Documentation Is In Order
  • Communication
  • Courtesy
  • Poor Decisions as a Result of Disregarding Law
  • Leaving Children Unattended In Cars
  • Rights and Responsibilities of a Pedestrian
    • As A Driver
  • Poor Vision
    • Night Blindness
    • Depth Perception
  • Knowing When Not To Drive
    • Sleep - Tiredness While Driving
    • Impairment - Medicated / Alcohol Level
  • Identifying and Responding to Hazards
  • Conditions are Beyond Driving Ability (Self-Regulation)
  • Backing
  • S.M.O.G. Technique
  • Passing
  • Left Turn Center Lane
  • Traffic Signal Blackout
  • Hydroplaning and How to Recover
    • Tire Tread Depth
  • Recovering from Fishtailing
  • Dips
  • Maintaining a Safe Following Distance
  • Stopping Distances
  • Three-Second Rule
  • Three-Second PLUS Rule
  • Managing Visibility
    • Make Yourself Visible
    • Use your signals
  • Visual Lead Time (Looking Ahead)
  • Planning An Evasive Action (Leaving Yourself An Out)
  • Tips To Help You Share The Road With Large Trucks
  • Motorcycles
  • Continuously Scan the Road
  • Keys to Defensive Driving: Anticipate Others Actions
    • Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute
  • Enhancing Driving With Aids
  • Planning Trips and Preparing for the Road
  • Knowing The Speed Laws
    • The Basic Speed Law
    • The Maximum Speed Law
    • The Prima Facie Speed Law
    • The Minimum Speed Law
  • Turns
    • Left Turns
    • Right Turns
    • U-Turns
  • Right-of-Way Rules
  • Dealing With Wrong-Way Drivers
  • Driver Distractions
  • What to Do in a Collision
  • Hitting a Parked Car
  • What is the difference between road rage and aggressive driving?
  • Strategies To Help Control Anger & Frustration
  • What should you do when confronted with an aggressive driver?
  • Driving Distractions
    • Eating and Drinking
    • Hygiene and Grooming
    • Distracted by your Surroundings
  • Cell Phone Usage Laws
  • Wireless Communication Device Usage Laws
  • Radio/Music/Headphones
  • Headphones or Ear Buds
  • Stoplamps
  • Windshields
  • Tires
  • Child Passenger Restraints
  • Safety Belts
  • Parking Brake
  • Maintenance and Construction Areas
  • Freeway Driving and Congestion
  • Different Weather Conditions
    • Rain
    • Fog

TrafficSchool.com Study Guide


Letter Of The Law vs. Spirit Of The Law

When discussing the law, there is one dilemma people often have. This predicament is: knowing the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

The Letter of the Law is the literal meaning of the law (the actual wording of the law in the original text). The Spirit of the Law is the intent or purpose of the law (what the law-maker intended the law to do).

Careless Driving and Its Consequences

The consequences of a collision, moving violations and/or an arrest due to careless driving are numerous. Below are a few examples:

  • Damage to or loss of vehicle - AAA reported that collisions cost $164.2 billion each year, or $1,051 annually per person.
  • Injury or death to you, passengers, and/or others - The NHTSA reports that 37,133 people died in fatal traffic crashes across the US in 2017. California had the 2nd highest number of fatalities with 3,602 (though California ranked only 32nd in fatality rate when considering the amount of miles driven annually).
  • Possible auto insurance increase - The nationwide average insurance premium increase from getting just one traffic ticket is 18% annually.
  • Impact on quality of life - Consider just a few of the impacts to your quality of life when losing your vehicle, such as losing the freedom to get up and drive somewhere when you want to and instead spending your time arranging rides, calling taxis, or organizing your life around a bus schedule.
  • Other financial impacts (legal costs and/or DMV actions against license) - The cost of a major collision goes far beyond the mere cost of replacing/fixing your car and increased car insurance rates. Most collisions also involve heavy traffic violation fines, traffic school fees, court admin fees, license suspension reissue fees, lawyer fees, and doctor bills.

Equipment Failure

Automobiles, though increasingly safer and easier to operate, are still complex technological machines with hundreds of moving parts and intricate computerized systems. On average, equipment malfunction accounts for less than 5% of all annual motor vehicle collisions, with the majority of breakdowns coming from flawed brakes, bad tires, and steering or suspension failures. Brake failure is more and more unlikely as most brakes have backup systems in place. To prevent tire failures such as blowouts, correct air pressure and tread depth need to be carefully maintained. Steering and suspension should be checked every 10,000 miles or so, as such malfunctions can lead to the inability to control your vehicle, which could be extremely disastrous, especially at high speeds.

The N.O.T.S. System (Negligent Operator Treatment System)

The N.O.T.S. system is kind of like a game of golf--the fewer points you have, the better you are doing. CVC 12810 dictates that all safety-related violations will count as either one or two points against you on your driving record. One-point violations stay on your record for 36 months. Most two-point violations will stay on your record for seven years, except any drunk driving violation will remain on your driving record for 10 years.

Some examples of a one-point violation include:

  • Normal moving violations, i.e.: unsafe lane change, failure to stop at a stop sign, simple speeding, etc.
  • Any collision which the Department of Motor Vehicles has determined that you are at fault.
  • Failure to properly restrain a child (under 8 years of age, or shorter than 4 foot and 9 inches in height) in a child passenger restraint system or children under 16 years of age in an approved seat belt system.

Some examples of a two-point violation include:

  • Failure to stop in the event of a collision
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Conviction of reckless driving
  • Evading a police officer while recklessly driving
  • Driving on the wrong side of a roadway with a concrete divider
  • Driving in excess of 100 mph
  • Speed contest
  • Transporting explosives without the proper license
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Exhibition of speed

NOTE: If the holder of a commercial driver license receives a moving violation in a non-commercial vehicle and attends traffic violator school, the point will not count towards the negligent operator treatment system.

Furthermore, besides receiving 2 points on your driving record, these traffic offenses can carry heavy fines and possible jail time. In fact, the state of California passes new legislation almost every year enhancing the penalties for many of these major traffic offenses.

The next obvious question is: How many points does it take to lose your license?

Just remember it this way:


"What are some alternatives to driving under the influence?"

The two most obvious alternatives are not drinking or doing drugs at all or not driving. If you can't manage to abstain from drinking or doing drugs, or you have to drive, then you must decide on an intelligent alternative.

Designated Driver Program

Many groups can organize a designated driver program. A designated driver is one individual who volunteers (or is elected and agrees to) not to drink any alcohol or do drugs, and to drive the group home safely. Many restaurants, bars and other drinking establishments participate in the Designated Driver Program by offering incentives to the designated driver, such as complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. If you decide to become your group's designated driver, you must be prepared to not consume any alcoholic beverages throughout the duration of your outing. If you drink regularly with the same group of people, the designated driver duties can rotate. Remember, designated drivers are responsible for their entire group.

Consequences of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Other Drugs (DUI)

The impact on your driver's license is severe. For a DUI conviction (not causing injury or death), the California Vehicle Code lists the following as suspension periods depending on how many prior DUI offenses were committed (within 10 years):

  • First-offense: up to six month's suspension of your driver's license
  • Second-offense: a two year suspension of your driver's license; after half of the suspension is completed, the DMV shall advise the offender of the possibility of applying to the DMV for an ignition interlock restricted license
  • Third-offense: you must also participate in an alcohol treatment program and the court-imposed revocation period will be 10 years, with possible reinstatement after 5 years if specified conditions are met

Contributing Factors Can Cause Collisions

The majority of collisions can largely be credited to one or more of four factors: equipment failure, design of the roadway, road conditions, and driver conduct. While most drivers tend to blame the first three aforementioned factors for causing motor vehicle collisions, the truth is that improper driving behavior is the main fender-bender culprit. In fact, over 90% of motor vehicle crashes can be attributed chiefly to driver error.

Driver Behavior

When talking collision factors, 95% of the conversation should be devoted to driver behavior, because 95% of collisions are at least partially due to driver error. When talking driver error, speeding is usually the first word off of everyone's tongue. Even though speeding is widely regarded as a dangerous driving behavior, 75% of drivers readily admit to speeding regularly. Unfortunately, speeding motorists put themselves at great risk because they have less reaction time to respond to other collision factors, like other motorist's driving errors, equipment failure, and poor roads.

Aggressive driving is another poor driving habit that also leads to frequent collisions. Practices like tailgating, making frequent lane changes, disregarding traffic controls, and failure to use turn signals are all examples of destructive driving behavior.

Ignorance and inexperience can also play a part in drivers getting themselves into sticky situations. Motorists who do not know the rules of the road, are uncomfortable driving in traffic, or lack confidence in decision making are also problematic when behind the wheel.

In almost every case of a traffic collision, some sort of preventative measure could have saved the day, like having your tires checked regularly to help avoid blowouts, checking your mirrors and blind spots regularly, or maintaining safe speeds and space cushions with other vehicles to avoid crashes.

Anti-lock Brakes (ABS)

ABS systems sense the rotation of your car's wheels and send that information to a computer. If one wheel is turning more slowly than the others, the computer interrupts the brake pressure to that wheel, and only to that wheel, up to 18 times per second as needed. This is much faster than you could pump the brake pedal yourself. This action allows the wheel to keep turning. Many drivers never experience ABS action until an emergency occurs, and they usually interpret the normal ABS sounds and feelings as indications that the wheels are locked. The driver experiencing this strange feeling then pumps the brake pedal from lack of education. This inexperience negates all of the sophisticated logic designed into the ABS computer.

ABS is intended for emergencies as a last resort. Here are some pointers when driving an automobile with ABS:

  • Whenever you feel the brake pedal pulsing, press even harder. ABS may only be working on one wheel, so pressing harder ensures that ABS engages all four wheels.
  • Allow plenty of room between you and the car in front of you, anticipate, and brake early, just as you normally would.
  • Don't drive more aggressively just because you have ABS.
  • Don't deliberately try to activate your anti-lock braking system for ordinary stops under normal driving conditions.
  • Don't turn every stop into an emergency.

ESC (Electronic Stability Control)

ESC systems help drivers stay on the road in emergency situations by automatically adjusting steering and braking systems to keep your vehicle on course. It does this by comparing the direction the driver is actually turning by reading the steering wheel position, the amount of sideways force in play, and vehicle speed. ESC systems then automatically reduce the engine torque and apply precise amounts of pressure to the brakes, to enhance control of the vehicle's direction, helping it stay on course.

Preventing Rollovers and Other SUV Related Collisions

Load your SUV properly. The amount of cargo and the number of passengers your SUV can carry safely is determined by the weight and distribution of the SUV. It is not determined by the number of items or people you can pack into it, even if the space is available. Check your owner's manual to find out the exact amount of passengers and cargo weight your SUV can carry safely.

Tire pressure and more. Overloading your SUV can lead to under performance of your tires and increase your chances of loss of control or rollover. Remember to check your tire pressure monthly and tread depth regularly, and keep them properly maintained by having them rotated and inspected in accordance with your owner's manual. Also, only use tires that are recommended by your manufacturer. Installing oversized tires will further increase your chances of a collision.


Driving Documentation Is In Order

Here are some more quick tips and things to remember about your license, registration and insurance:

  • The DMV issues a regular driver license for a five-year term. Additionally, a driver license renewal period is also for a five-year term. Each license expires on the date shown on the license. It is against the law to drive after the license has expired.
  • You must have your driver license with you when you drive. Show it to any police officer who asks to see it. You must also show it to the other driver(s) involved if you are in a collision.
  • When you sell or transfer a vehicle, report it to DMV within 5 days.
  • The minimum amount of liability insurance coverage of 15/30/5, which is: $15,000 for a single death or injury, $30,000 for death or injury to more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage caused by one collision
  • If you are involved in a collision without the minimum amount of acceptable financial responsibility, you may lose your driver's license for up to four years!


Communication with other drivers on the road is imperative, and no, using a cell phone is not what we are getting at. Rather, we define communication on the road as "telegraphing" your intentions to other drivers and pedestrians, while at the same time reading other people's indicators so that you are all on the same page. Doing this helps provide cohesion and camaraderie on the road, minimizes confusion, and can help everyone avoid costly collisions.


The most important thing is to be patient, and keep your cool in traffic. Being patient and courteous to other drivers can actually reduce some of the frustration you might feel behind the wheel, as well as that of other drivers.

Here are other basic tips to help you maintain that level of courtesy necessary to drive safely and not infuriate other drivers:

1. Stay off your cell phone unless it is an emergency. Nothing can cause instant anger to those around you like driving 40 MPH in the fast lane of the freeway because you are unaware of your speed, or lack there of, due to your cell phone conversation.

2. If you like to drive at a slow pace, move into the right lane or pull into a turn-out if available. There are laws governing slow moving vehicles, but you should also think of the frustration this causes other drivers. The maximum speed on a highway you're traveling on may be 55 mph, but if there is more than one lane, just move to one of the right-most lanes.

3. Try an alternate route. Driving the same mundane route to your place of work day-in and day-out can be mentally taxing and other drivers will notice your frustration because it will be displayed by your driving habits. Try something different. A little variety can't hurt.

4. Keep the kids happy. If you transport your kids to school or carpool with other kids, make sure you have plenty of items or toys to keep them occupied.

5. It's better to be late than unsafe. The consequences at work will definitely not outweigh the consequences of a collision due to your speeding and weaving through lanes or running a red light to get to work on time.

6. Avoid following other drivers too closely, or tailgating.

7. Don't weave in and out of traffic lanes.

8. Always use your turn signal when changing lanes or making turns.

Courtesy isn't just for when you're driving-it can also apply when you are parking your car. You should never:

  • Park in a space reserved for disabled drivers.
  • Take up two parking spaces.
  • Park in a fire lane.
  • Block a crosswalk, driveway, or emergency entrance.

A little courtesy goes a long way!

Poor Decisions as a Result of Disregarding Law

As a driver, you have to regularly judge speed, distance and potential actions of other drivers. You also need to make decisions regarding traffic laws, and know what to do even at uncontrolled intersections. Traffic laws help to prevent collisions by regulating the speed, direction, and flow of traffic and pedestrians. If you deliberately disregard these laws, you endanger the safety of yourself and others, and are guilty of breaking the law.

Examples of deliberately disregarding traffic laws include:

  • Speeding and racing.
  • Tailgating.
  • Reckless driving/weaving in and out of lanes.
  • Failure to yield to emergency vehicles or other vehicles.
  • Running red lights and STOP signs.
  • Failure to stop at controlled railroad crossing with flashing lights.
  • Failure to stop for a school bus.

Leaving Children Unattended In Cars

In August of 2000, 6-month-old Kaitlyn Russell died of hyperthermia after being left in a van by her babysitter. The temperature in the van reached 130 degrees. This event, as well as the many other unnecessary deaths of young children who were left in unattended motor vehicles, has spurred our legislature to pass Kaitlyn's Law. This law states that you may not leave a child that is 6 years of age or under; unattended in a motor vehicle if there are conditions that present a risk, if the engine is running, or if the keys are left in the ignition. A child under the age of 6 years old may be left in a vehicle if a person 12 years of age or older is supervising that child. A fine of $100 will be levied for a violation of this law as well as other fines and penalties authorized by existing laws related to child endangerment.

Parents, caregivers, and drivers can help minimize potential in-car tragedies by taking the following precautions:

  • NEVER leave the keys in the ignition when you are not in the car, even for a few seconds.
  • At home, keep your car keys in a safe place where children cannot reach them.
  • Always set the parking/emergency brake when parking.
  • Unattended car doors should always be locked.
  • If you drive a vehicle with manual transmission, never leave it in neutral.
  • Warn your kids that they should never get into the trunk of a car
  • ALWAYS make sure that your child is restrained in a DOT approved child seat until they are at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches in height
  • Make sure you do not place heavy items you may be transporting anywhere near your child as they may tip over
  • Educate your family, babysitters and friends about the dangers involved with leaving a young child alone in a car.

Rights and Responsibilities of a Pedestrian

As a pedestrian, you have responsibilities when you are on the road just as motorists do. Sometimes, a pedestrian must yield the right of way to a driver. You must always be aware of vehicles sharing the roadway with you, stay alert at all times, and cross only in designated crosswalks or preferably, at a controlled intersection.

Since pedestrians have the right of way at intersections and in marked crosswalks, drivers must yield the right of way to them. When crossing at an intersection, obey all traffic signals and only cross when the signal permits you to cross.

As A Driver

At all times when driving you need to be aware of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycles on the road-Being on the alert for pedestrians on the roadway can help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities each year.

CVC 21950 states: "(a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection... (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. (c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian. (d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection."

Poor Vision

Night blindness

If you identify a potential hazard in your headlights, you can avoid it by stopping in time. Compensate for poor night vision by slowing down, giving yourself time to identify and react to potential hazards on the road. Under ideal conditions, the average total stopping distance is four to five seconds at faster highway speeds.

Also, never look directly into the headlights of an approaching vehicle. If another driver does not dim their lights, look towards the right edge of your lane.

Note: Always make sure your windshield and mirrors are clean and free of debris.

Depth perception

This is your ability to judge distance, not only ahead of you, but all around your vehicle. Keep your distance from other vehicles, and watch the speed of approaching vehicles. The best strategy is to avoid left hand turns whenever possible if you have poor depth perception.

Knowing When Not to Drive

The attitudes that drivers have on the road have a lot to do with the attitudes they bring into the car with them. Your emotional state will dictate your actions in the car. The fewer problems you bring in, the fewer problems you will experience on the road. In this section we will discuss some of the aspects of stress and emotions and how they affect your ability to drive safely. A person's mental and emotional state cannot be separated from the physical one. A healthy person will react better to stress and other emotional problems that may arise than an unhealthy person.

Sleep - Tiredness While Driving (Getting Rest)

How dangerous is a sleepy driver? A sleepy driver is about as bad a driver as someone who's driving while intoxicated. Sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol. And just like drugs or alcohol, sleepiness can contribute to a collision. Many people believe that playing loud music, rolling down the window or having conversations with a passenger are reliable ways to stay awake. The fact is, the best way not to fall asleep at the wheel is to pull over in a well-lit, populated, safe area and get some rest. The amount of sleep one should get varies from person to person, but it can be said that you should feel well rested after a good nap. While traveling with another driver it would be wise to switch off driving and not allow the other passengers to doze while you drive. Sleepiness can become contagious.


It should be obvious that when you take drugs (whether prescription or otherwise) or alcohol, it greatly influences how you feel and how you behave. Hunger, thirst, or even having to "go to the bathroom" will affect your driving ability. Being "clean" when we drive is essential for the safe operation of a car, as being under the influence of even a small amount of drugs or alcohol can affect depth perception, speed perception, coordination, reaction time and vision, all of which are critical to driving.

Identifying and Responding to Hazards

Identify Hazards Early

By looking ahead 10-15 seconds, you can detect any hazards that might affect your driving. For example, if you see vehicle brake lights or stalled vehicles ahead, then you can prepare to stop. In addition, if you see emergency vehicles or emergency hazards, then it’s probably a good sign that something is happening up ahead. In this case, you can prepare by slowing down or changing lanes as necessary. Also, you should be aware of possible escape routes, such as cross streets and exits.

Conditions are Beyond Driving Ability (Self-Regulation)

More and more, today's driving schools and defensive driving institutions are teaching self-regulation to drivers of all ages. The theory is simple: the more self-regulating drivers on the road, the safer the roads will be. For young, inexperienced drivers, self-regulation can indeed be a life saver. Here are some common self-regulation practices:

  • Limiting your night driving (this is the most widespread form of self-regulation)
  • Limiting your driving during bad weather
  • Choosing routes that avoid congestion, construction, and difficult traffic scenarios
  • Driving in the lane you are most comfortable with (i.e. driving in the slower lanes or not driving in the lane directly adjacent to parked cars)
  • Not making optional right turns at red traffic lights
  • Limiting the volume on your radio so you can better hear traffic and emergency vehicles
  • Parking towards the back of parking lots where it is less congested



In general when backing, it is best to back up as little as necessary to get the job done. When you are backing up, your visibility is limited. You can't see as well when you are backing as you can when you are driving forward. It stands to reason that you are more likely to hit something when you are backing up.

Check Behind the Vehicle Before Getting In

Watch out for children and pets, and small objects that may be behind your vehicle. Children should never be left unattended around parked cars. Prior to entering your car, look for children behind your vehicle. Inform them that you are going to back up, and to move away from the area. Before you back up, check your mirrors and look over your shoulder as you back up. Keep your rate of speed as slow and safe as possible by using the brake pedal.

S.M.O.G. Technique

Many people have a problem with safe lane-changing. The SMOG technique is designed to assist you in lane changing. SMOG simply means:

  • Signal ---- Indicate your intentions. The law (CVC 22108) states that you must indicate a change of direction at least 100 feet before you actually change directions.
  • Mirror ---- Check your mirrors to make sure that there is no traffic approaching from the rear.
  • Over-the-shoulder ---- Glance over your shoulder to make sure your blind spot is clear.
  • Go ---- When you've determined the lane is clear, gradually change lanes remembering to maintain your speed so that you don't interfere with the traffic already in the intended lane.


If passing is necessary, then you should make sure to take the following steps. First, determine if there is the potential for a dangerous passing situation, such as a long line of cars ahead. Scan for hazards--such as oncoming cars, vehicles approaching from the rear, and merging vehicles. Decide if the car ahead is at or near the speed limit, or if your vision is restricted ahead. Next, determine if it is completely safe to pass by looking for a safe distance ahead, identify an end-of-pass gap to pull back into, establish a safe response time for hazards, and make sure the road conditions are good. Finally, scan for hazards again, check blind spots, signal intent, increase speed, scan for hazards one more time, create a return space, signal, and enter the lane safely. The California Driver Handbook recommends that before returning into the driving lane while performing a passing maneuver, be sure you aren't dangerously close to the car you have passed. One way to do this is to look for the car you are passing in the rear view mirror. When you can see the front of the car (or both headlights), you have enough room to return to the driving lane safely.

Left Turn Center Lane

Here you may turn left or make a U-turn so long as you enter it first (you may not travel more than 200 feet in this lane, and the district must be OK), but you may not pass in it.  You may not park your vehicle in this lane.

Traffic Signal Blackout

If a power failure occurs and all signals are not working properly, treat the intersection the same as you would if a stop sign were controlling the intersection.

Hydroplaning And How To Recover

Hydroplaning is the condition where your car is literally floating on a layer of water. If you start to hydroplane, you need to slow down. Do this by simply taking your foot off the accelerator. Don't use the brakes! Slowing down will allow the tires to regain contact with the road and restore control to the driver. Sudden movements, such as braking or jerking the steering wheel, can compound the problem, and usually will put the vehicle into a spin. Again, this is why it is imperative to leave extra space in front of you when driving on a wet road.

Tire Tread Depth

CVC 27465b states that the minimum allowable tread depth of your tires is 1/32 of an inch.  This is the absolute minimum.  You should consider replacing your tires before you reach the minimum allowable tread depth.  Tire tread is important because the grooves in between the tread act as a canal for the water on the road to pass through, therefore allowing the actual tread to come in contact with more of the road surface.

Recovering From Fishtailing

A fishtailing skid occurs when the rear end of your vehicle begins to slide back and forth due to your back wheels losing traction with the ground. Fishtailing can happen in any type of vehicle, but is more common in rear wheel drive vehicles.

If you do fishtail, the first thing to remember is NOT to slam on the brakes. Instead, take your foot off the gas and stop accelerating. In addition, keep a steady firm grip on the steering wheel and never yank the wheel or swerve in a panic. To recover from the fishtail skid, the traditional rule is to "turn into the skid" or to turn your wheel the direction that you feel your rear wheels sliding. However, this can often be confusing to drivers, especially when reacting in the heat of the moment of a skid.


Dips are basically "upside down bumps". Before encountering a dip, slow down enough to avoid "bottoming-out" (scraping the bottom of your car on the pavement). Driving too quickly over a dip is not only tough on your car's suspension, it can cause you to lose control of your car.


Maintaining a safe following distance

An important key in avoiding collisions is leaving the proper amount of following distance behind the vehicle in front of you. It is critical for you to be able to stop in time to avoid a collision. As stated earlier, one of the leading causes of collisions on the freeway is following too closely (tailgating).  

When determining the amount of space you should leave, you must take into consideration the following elements:

The road conditions:

  • A wet road has a friction coefficient that is half that of a dry road (it actually takes twice as long to stop a car on a wet road than on a dry one).
  • Loose gravel or sand on the road will also increase the distance it takes for the car to stop.

The condition of the brakes and/or type of brakes you have:

  • Maintenance of your brakes is critical to reducing your stopping distance.
  • Anti-lock brakes, used properly, can help the average driver reduce stopping distance.

The incline of the road you are on:

  • A downhill grade will make the braking distance increase.
  • An uphill grade will make gravity work with you and help your car stop sooner.

Stopping Distances

When considering the proper amount of following distance you should leave, you must  realize the amount of distance your car will travel when you make the decision that you need to come to a complete stop.  The equation for figuring out this distance is as follows:  

Thinking Distance + Braking Distance = Total Stopping Distance.

Three-Second Rule

A commonly used method for allowing yourself proper following distance is the "Three-Second Rule." Since it is difficult to visually estimate the distance in between your car and the car ahead of you, the idea is to use time instead to leave a "cushion" or space. It takes about 2-3 seconds to completely stop when traveling at speeds between 35 mph to 65 mph, so if you have a three-second space cushion, you're leaving yourself enough time to react and brake when something happens up ahead. This is how to apply the "Three-Second Rule": when the car or truck in front of you crosses a certain fixed object on the side of the road, (like a sign or tree) you should not cross that same point for three seconds. Just count "one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three." If you reach that fixed spot before you get to three, you are not leaving enough of a "cushion."

Three-Second PLUS Rule

Under many driving conditions, the "Three-Second Rule" works great and should give you plenty of time and space to avoid a collision, but sometimes you may need to add additional space to the following distance equation, and this is called the "Three-Second PLUS Rule". Here are some instances when you need to leave extra space and increase your following distance to four or more seconds:

  • When Adverse Roadway Or Weather Conditions Exist: Remember, braking distance doubles on a wet road. Therefore, to compensate for the loss of traction, the California DMV Handbook recommends that you drive a minimum of 5-10 mph slower and increase your following distance.
  • When Being Tailgated: If a driver is following too closely you should slow down and increase your following distance so that you will have more time to react if the car in front of you is forced to suddenly stop. As a result, you give the driver behind you more time to react since they will be traveling at a slower speed.
  • When Towing a Trailer: The added weight of the trailer being towed will increase the vehicle's stopping distance. Therefore, in order to compensate, you should increase your following distance.
  • When Following a Motorcycle: Since a motorcycle can stop quicker than a car, it is imperative to keep extra space in front of your vehicle.
  • When Vision Is Blocked Or Visibility Poor: When your view ahead is blocked, such as when you drive behind an 18-wheeler or large van, you need to leave more space for better reaction time. You could also change lanes to open up your field of vision.
  • When You See a Bus, School Bus, Or a Placarded Vehicle At Railroad Crossings: These vehicles must stop at railroad crossings, so slow down early and allow plenty of room.
  • The Driver Behind You Wants To Pass. When the driver behind is signaling with an intention to pass, allow room in front of your vehicle so the driver will have space to move in front of you.

You may find that slower speed situations, such as driving 25 mph in a residential district, may call for lowering your following distance to two seconds; but it is obvious that the more space you keep, the less chance you have of getting into a collision.

Managing Visibility

Make Yourself Visible

Keep your vehicle where it can be seen at all times. Drive through another driver's blind spot as quickly as you can or drop back.

Use your signals

It is necessary to indicate your intentions to other drivers well in advance. Let other drivers know that you plan to turn or change lanes by signaling early. The flashing signal light will warn those around you that you plan to make a maneuver. Use your signals at least 100 feet prior to making a turn to allow other drivers to adjust their actions accordingly. When you are turning right or left at an intersection, be very careful not to signal too early if there are other places to turn before the intersection. A driver in another roadway who believes you intend to turn somewhere else could pull out in front of you.

Visual Lead Time (Looking Ahead)

The path you choose will depend on what you see ahead. This method of looking farther down the road is called visual lead time. To establish proper visual lead time on a city street, you should be looking at least 15 seconds ahead, which will work out to be at least a block ahead (about 600 feet). On the highway, you should also be looking at least fifteen seconds ahead as well, which works out to be at least one-quarter of a mile ahead. Remember, the problems that happen on the road ahead will eventually affect you, so you should try to see them in plenty of time so you will have enough time to react to them.

Driving can often be monotonous, especially when traveling long distances, causing drivers to form the bad habit of staring at one particular thing up ahead, like the road or the bumper of the car immediately in front of them. Try not to develop a fixed stare; instead, look beyond the car or cars ahead of you. If something happens up ahead, you want to see the event happen. The brake lights of the car immediately ahead of you alone do not make a good enough early warning system.

Another benefit of visual lead time is that you will stay in the center of your lane. Have you ever tried to gauge where you are in your lane by looking side-to-side? It's hard. By aiming for the "optical vanishing point" of the road ahead, it is easier to guide your vehicle in the center of the lane.

Planning An Evasive Action (Leaving Yourself An Out)

Sometimes you do everything right, and something still happens right in front of you. This is why it is so important for you to be constantly looking for an "escape route" or somewhere to go if there is a problem. When you are driving and there is someone in front, behind, and to both sides of you, if something were to happen in front of you, where would you go? You are literally "boxed in!"

Leaving yourself an escape route means precisely that. When you are driving, you should be mindful of all of the "space cushions" around you to make collision avoidance possible. Another aspect of this leaving yourself an out is in vehicle positioning. If you are driving in a lane on the freeway with the center divider on one side (the number one lane--some call it the "fast lane"), then you have cut your "chances for escape" to the side by one-half! Always position your vehicle in a way which is advantageous to "escape."

In Front Of Your Vehicle

Leaving the proper amount of following distance behind the vehicle in front of you is critical for you to be able to stop in time to avoid a collision. One of the leading causes of collisions on the freeway is following too closely (tailgating).

To the Left and Right Sides of Your Vehicle

Remember to leave yourself an ‘escape route’ in the lanes beside yours. Continue to adjust your speed so that you do not drive directly beside another vehicle (side-by-side driving). This blocks the roadway for drivers behind you, and leaves no outlet for you or drivers next to you in the event of an emergency.

To the Rear of Your Vehicle

You also need to be aware of distance of vehicles behind yours. If the driver behind you is following too closely, slightly tapping your brakes may alert the other driver to increase their following distance. Also, change lanes if possible.

If someone starts to tailgate you (takes up your "space cushion" to the rear), allow more space in front of you so that you will have more time to slow down if there is a problem in front of you.

Keeping "space cushions" around your vehicle at all times is a difficult process. When there is space on the freeway, it usually gets filled. Therefore, you may not have the necessary space you need at all times. You must be mindful of this. "Space cushion" driving is a constant accelerating and decelerating technique, attempting to maintain the proper gaps around your car. Don't get discouraged when your space gets filled; just find yourself more space. Before you know it, this process will eventually become a habit in your daily task of driving.

Tips to help you share the road with large trucks:

  • Don't cut them off. Fully loaded trucks can weigh up to 27 times more than the average automobile. That means a much longer stopping distance- up to twice the time and room compared to a car. Forcing them to stop quickly may cause a serious collision.
  • Beware of blind spots. Often called "no-zones", they're around the front, back and sides of trucks. Move out of these areas because truck drivers may lose sight of you. As a general rule-if you can't see the truck driver in the truck's mirror, he/she can't see you.
  • Leave a "cushion". When following a truck, stay about 20-25 car lengths behind. This will better allow you to see the road ahead. This also leaves more room for braking. A safe driving distance in front of a truck is at least four car lengths. Make sure you can see the truck's headlights in your inside rear-view mirror.
  • Pass quickly and on the left. Avoid passing on the right, where the truck driver's blind spot encompasses the entire trailer and expands to multiple lanes. Proceed in the left lane. Do so quickly, moving through the blind spot and avoid being "trapped" next to the truck. Merge to the right once you see the front of the truck in your rear-view mirror.
  • Watch for wide turns. Don't get stuck between the truck and the curb-which may result in a serious collision. In order to safely make a right turn, the truck driver is likely to swing wide left first. This is especially true in the city. With left turns, trucks need plenty of room to clear your vehicle. Help them out by stopping before the white line.
  • Signals are key. Pay close attention to a truck's signals-allowing adequate room for it to maneuver. And make sure to use your signals. Truck drivers need to know your intended actions.

(Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)


Because of their small size and low profile, motorcycles can be easily hidden from view, especially in your vehicle's blind spot. Remember to check your blind spot frequently to make sure you can see a motorcycle that may be in the adjacent lane, especially if you are planning to maneuver into that lane.

Continuously Scan the Road

It is very important to continuously be moving your eyes to scan the road for potential hazards. Your attention span and concentration level is almost directly proportional to the amount that your eyes are moving. Constant eye movement will keep your attention level high.

Keys to Defensive Driving: Anticipate Others Actions

The things around you on the roadway, sidewalk, driveways, parks, and the like will definitely affect the safe path of your vehicle. Staying alert and focused in your driving environment will allow you to properly anticipate the actions of others. This last key is critical for determining what conflicts are in your driving environment, how they may affect you, and what you can do to avoid the potential problems they may create.

An important defensive driving method that helps in anticipating the actions of others has been termed the "IPDE" technique.

This means:


  • Identify the potential problem.
  • Predict how the potential problem will affect you.
  • Decide what things you can do to avoid the potential problem.
  • Execute the maneuver that best avoids the potential problem.

Enhancing Driving With Aids

The use of defensive driving aids can also serve to greatly enhance safe driving practices. The following driving aids can play an important part in your quest to be a collision-free driver:

  • Use of sunglasses: All drivers should keep a pair of good quality sunglasses in their car at all times. Seeing that driving is a highly visual activity, it is vital to be able to see when the sunlight is blinding. This is especially true during sunrise and sunset hours when the sun shines directly into your field of vision or glares off of your rearview mirror. Of course, don't forget to take off your sunglasses after dusk has passed.
  • Use of auto designed water repellent on windshield: Rain, snow, and other precipitation pose a variety of problems for motorists, one of those issues being decreased visibility. Using a water repellent designed for automobiles on your windshield can improve the clarity of vision by resisting water drops when it rains. Water repellent solvents adhere to a glass windshield, leaving a layer of repellent that not only fends off water, but also helps more easily remove other windshield pests like ice, bugs, and road salt.
  • Using convex and/or panoramic mirrors: Using additional car mirrors is another great defensive driving tool. By using convex or panoramic mirrors, drivers can improve driving safety by helping to reduce blind spots and increasing overall vision of the traffic behind them. These mirrors usually are installed easily over existing mirrors and are great assets for those who find it difficult to turn their head and look over their shoulder. Convex "fisheye mirrors" or "bubble mirrors" usually adhere to the side-view mirror and can bring blind spots into view. It should be noted that a convex mirrors optical properties can cause distortion that makes it more difficult to judge distances. Panoramic rear-view mirrors broaden the rear view range and also provide coverage of rear-quarter blind spots.
  • Using an audible back-up warning device: According to the child safety advocacy group Kids and Cars, at least two children are killed and another 50 are hurt in back-over collisions each week. An audible back-up warning system could help eliminate such tragedies by alerting a reversing driver if a concealed object is in their path. Audible warning devices either beep or provide voice warnings when an object, moving or stationary, is within a certain distance of the vehicle's rear bumper. When used in conjunction with back-up cameras, audible warning systems can be even more effective.

Planning Trips And Preparing For The Road


Hopefully you won't run into any driving snafus on your trip (knock on wood), but if you do, who knows when and where your car will choose to break down. Don't get caught ill-equipped for this unfortunate occasion; instead be prepared by having an auto safety travel kit packed and ready to go:

  • Navigation system and/or maps
  • Cell phone and car charger to call for help
  • First-aid kit
  • Extra clothes and blankets
  • A flashlight
  • Emergency flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra washer fluid
  • Jug of water
  • Basic tools (screw driver, wrench, pocket knife, etc.)

Also, loading your car wisely can provide both safety and economic benefits. When you load your vehicle, don't pack things so high that you block your windows and lose important visibility. Make sure everything is packed securely and won't go flying into the back of your head if you have to brake abruptly. For maximum handling, try to distribute the weight of your load evenly. And to save a few bucks on gas, get all that junk out of the trunk - that is, only bring what is necessary: the heavier your vehicle, the more it costs to drive it.

Check Road Conditions

Before you hit the road, don't forget to hit your favorite source for checking road conditions. There are a variety of web sites, both local and national, that can provide invaluable traffic resources designed to aid you on your excursion. You can easily look up information like:

  • Weather reports
  • Traffic congestion reports
  • Road construction zones
  • Accident reports
  • Road closures
  • Safety warnings

Besides the internet, tuning into your favorite television news outlet or news radio station can provide beneficial road condition information.

Vehicle Inspection

Before you leave town, especially on longer trips, make sure you give your vehicle a thorough safety assessment. If you're not comfortable maintaining your car yourself, hit the local garage or your dealership to get your ride ready for the long haul. Many dealers will actually give you a basic safety inspection free of charge! Make sure your tires are in tip-top shape and don't forget to check your tire pressure: properly inflated tires go a long way in improving fuel economy and preventing dangerous tire blow outs. Also, have your fluids checked and topped-off, including your radiator fluid, wiper fluid, and oil - which may need to be adjusted depending on your season of travel. Then have the rest of your car given a nice once over, making sure all the belts are in good working order, the wipers are ready to clean bugs off your windshield, and that your battery won't die on you while you're in Timbuktu.

Allowing Extra Time

When you travel, don't cause yourself extra stress or sacrifice safety by being in a rush. When taking a trip, particularly a lengthy one, you will inevitably encounter some challenges that you did not expect. Allowing yourself extra time to reach your destination is a great way to reduce road anxiety, and allows you to actually enjoy the hundreds or thousands of miles you are driving. Not to mention that you won't feel compelled to speed, drive recklessly, and make several unneeded lane changes to pass slower moving vehicles. Other benefits of not being in a rush include having time to stop for rest, sit down for a nice meal, take a bathroom break, or maybe do some unexpected sightseeing along the way.

Finally, for safety's sake, let a friend or other family member know where you're going, where you plan to stay, and when you'll be back home. Keep these helpful travel tips in mind, and you'll be well on your way to a safe and rewarding journey of driving enlightenment.


Knowing The Speed Laws

There are four major speed laws that you should be aware of: the Basic Speed Law, the Maximum Speed Law, the Prima Facie Speed Law, and the Minimum Speed Law.

The Basic Speed Law

California law (CVC 22350) states:

"No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property."

What this law means is: at no time should you drive faster than the conditions of the weather and road permit, regardless of what the posted speed limit or maximum speed sign may say. You have to decide, then, what the safest speed would be under the prevailing conditions.

The Maximum Speed Law

According to CVC 22349: ".... no person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 65 miles per hour."

It should be noted that even if it is posted as 65 mph or higher, the following must never drive in excess of 55 mph:

  • A motor truck or truck tractor with three or more axles
  • Any vehicle towing a trailer or another vehicle
  • A school bus carrying any student(s)

The Prima Facie Speed Law

California law (CVC 22352)

The words "prima facie" are in Latin - the direct translation is "first face." In practical use it has been translated as (among other things) "on the face of it." The Prima Facie Speed Law says in essence, that unless posted otherwise, all places have a "speed limit" even when one is not posted. Even though an area does not have a sign posted, it does not mean that you can drive "as fast as you want to."

Some examples of Prima Facie speeds include:

15 Miles per Hour

  • Through an uncontrolled blind railroad crossing. A blind railroad crossing is where a driver's view is obstructed for 400 feet in either direction during the last 100 feet approaching a railroad crossing which is not controlled by a crossing gate, a warning signal, or a flag person.
  • Through an uncontrolled blind intersection. A blind intersection is where a driver's view is obstructed for 100 feet in either direction during the last 100 feet approaching an intersection which is not controlled by stop signs, traffic control signals, or a yield sign.
  • In any alley. An alley is defined as a street which is no more than 25 feet in width which is used primarily for rear or side access by the owners of the property aligning the alley.

25 Miles per Hour

  • In any business or residential district (unless it is posted otherwise).
  • When passing a school building or grounds next to a highway, where it is posted "SCHOOL" when children are present (coming or going) either before, after or during the recess hour. This also applies if the school is not separated from the street by a fence, gate or other similar barrier while in use by children. The 25 MPH speed limit with respect to school grounds is also applicable when approaching or passing within 500 feet of the school grounds.
  • When passing a senior center or facility next to a highway when it is posted "SENIOR."

The Minimum Speed Law

CVC 22400 states: "(a) No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of grade, or in compliance with law. No person shall bring to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law."

This can be interpreted as meaning that you should travel at a rate of speed that is consistent with the normal flow of traffic. It also means that you should not stop your car in a lane of traffic. If you were on the freeway, under normal traffic and weather conditions, and the flow of traffic was at 55 mph, and you were traveling at 45 mph, you could be cited for violating the minimum speed law. If you were traveling down a street and you stopped your car in the traffic lane to look for an address, pick up a passenger, or to drop a letter in the mail box, you could also be ticketed.


Left Turns

Make sure to begin the left turn in the left-most lane, as close as possible to the center divider line or the left turn lane if available. Begin signaling 100 feet prior to your turn, alerting others of your planned maneuver. Never turn your steering wheel to the left in advance of turning. If you turn your wheel to the left and are rear-ended, your car may enter the oncoming traffic lanes. Also, do not turn too soon, cutting the corner of the lane belonging to cars coming toward you. When completing your left turn, you may turn into any available lane of the cross street if it is safe to do so. If vehicles are turning right from opposing traffic, those turning right have the right-of-way into their corresponding lanes. Before completing your turn, make sure that your lane is free of traffic.

When View Is Blocked: Never make a left turn if your view is blocked or restricted. Wait until you have as clear a view as possible, then proceed slowly, only after you have determined that the roadway is clear of pedestrians, vehicles, bicyclists or animals. Also, quite often the car behind you will sound its horn or flash its headlights to rush you into making a left hand turn. The best advice is to ignore the car behind you. Never begin turning until you are 100% confident that a left-hand turn can be performed safely.

Right Turns

Make sure to begin the turn in the right-most lane, as close as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of the road. Do not turn out too wide. Remain as close as practical to the right, and stay in the right lane until you have finished your turn. If vehicles are turning left from opposing traffic, those turning right have the right-of-way; but remember never to insist on it. Watch out for wide-turning trucks in front of you; never try to make the cut in between.


CVC 22103 states, "No person in a residence district shall make a U-turn when any other vehicle is approaching from either direction within 200 feet, except at an intersection when the approaching vehicle is controlled by an official traffic control device."

Where U-turns are Illegal

You may not make a U-turn in front of a fire station. Also, you may not make a U-turn in a business district unless through an opening at a divided highway or at any intersection. If you are in doubt about whether the U-turn is legal, just proceed to an intersection. The law says that you can make a U-turn at any intersection as long as it is not posted otherwise.

Right-of-Way Rules

CVC 525 states: "'Right-of-way' is the privilege of the immediate use of the highway."

You must always yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles, pedestrians, people with white canes, and anywhere a yield sign is posted to direct you.

Dealing With Wrong-Way Drivers

If you encounter a wrong-way driver, pull to the side of the road if safe and give the other driver the accessibility to correct his/her mistake.

Driver Distractions

Distracted driving is a major problem on today's roads. This course will go into more detail about this issue in the next section, but according to the California Highway Patrol, the following is a list of the top five types of distractions that result in collisions on California's highways:

  • Cell Phones
  • Using the radio or CD player
  • Children
  • Eating
  • Reading

What to Do in a Collision

If you leave the scene of a collision where you were involved without stopping to identify yourself, then you are breaking the law (hit and run).  If you can still drive your car and if no one is seriously injured or killed, move your car off the roadway and out of traffic. Here's what to do:

  1. Stop and Clear Roadway
  2. Warn Others
  3. Help the Injured
  4. Contact the Police
  5. Exchange Information
  6. Gather Witness Information
  7. Report the Collision to the DMV
  8. See Your Doctor

Every collision situation is different, so you must take the proper steps to deal with each particular scenario. The key to doing this is remaining calm. Don't let your emotions take over and start yelling at the driver who hit you, attempting to determine who was at fault. That's the last thing you want to do if you are involved in a collision.

Reporting the collision to the DMV

If there is more than $1000 in property damage or injury (no matter the severity) or death resulting from the collision, you must report the collision to the DMV within 10 days. This is done by filling out the SR-1 Traffic Accident Report form. This form can be obtained from any DMV, police station or from most insurance companies. Failure to report a collision to the DMV could result in a monetary fine and/or the loss of your driving privilege.

See your doctor

Some injuries are not noticeable right away, so even if you've been treated at the scene of the collision, it's still a good idea to get yourself checked out thoroughly.

Hitting a parked car

If you can't find the owner of the car, you are required to leave a note either in the damaged vehicle or securely attached to it. On this note write your name, phone number, and address.


What is the difference between road rage and aggressive driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that aggressive driving occurs when "an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property". Examples include speeding or driving too fast for conditions, improper lane changing, tailgating and improper passing. Road rage, on the other hand, is defined by NHTSA as "an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway". It is important to distinguish the difference when discussing aggressive driving and road rage. In basic terms, aggressive driving is the breaking of traffic laws WITHOUT the intent to cause harm to another, while road rage is a criminal offense WITH the intent of causing injury or death. Keep in mind that aggressive driving can easily escalate into an incident of road rage.

Basically, road rage happens when one driver lets another driver know that he or she is upset and angry because of some action the other driver committed. When people express this anger through means of tailgating, weaving through lanes, honking, screaming, or exchanging insults this is not road rage, but examples of aggressive driving. As soon as the driver or passengers of a motor vehicle start making these traffic maneuvers with the intent of causing harm or even begin brandishing or using a weapon is when this behavior rises to the level of road rage. Those people that succumb to road rage usually do so because of a feeling of anonymity and power.  Driving behind the wheel of a 3,000-pound vehicle often makes people feel invincible. Experts suggest that aggressive driving and road rage is on the rise for several simple reasons: more people, more cars, more traffic and more delays result in more frustration. 

Strategies To Help Control Anger & Frustration

A low tolerance for frustration can cause people to become easily angered. Some people simply feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, annoyance, or inconvenience. They can't take things in stride, and they're especially infuriated if the situation seems somehow unfair. The following are some basic tips to help curb anger and frustration:

  • Relax-Simple tools, such as meditation, deep breathing or listening to a calming CD, can help calm down angry feelings. There are many publications and courses (such as yoga) that can help you learn relaxation techniques, and once you learn the techniques, you can call upon them in any situation.
  • Dealing with problems-Anger can often be caused by very serious issues in our lives, either at home, on the job or both. The key here is to not necessarily focus on finding a solution to the specific issue, but rather on how you deal with and face the problem. Get a strategy together (writing it down may help) and solve the issue to the best of your ability. If you give it your best shot, that's half the battle and you'll probably not be as frustrated if it happens again.
  • Make an environment change-Since our immediate surroundings can often be the cause for irritation, try and give yourself a break. Make sure you have some scheduled time to yourself for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful. Here's an example: when you come home from work, for the first 15 minutes, institute a "nobody talks to you unless the house is on fire" rule. After this brief quiet time, you'll feel better and you'll be able to handle demands from your kids without blowing up at them.
  • Communicate better-Frustrated people often tend to jump to conclusions during tense conversations or circumstances without thinking through the impact of their words or actions. Slow down. Think through what you are doing or saying and don't let a negative situation or conversation get the best of you.
  • Here are some additional tips to help you handle those daily frustrations that may cause you to drive aggressively and may even lead to road rage:

    • Concentrate. Don't allow yourself to become distracted by talking on your cellular phone, eating, drinking or putting on makeup.
    • Relax. Tune the radio to your favorite relaxing music. Music can calm your nerves and help you to enjoy your time in the car.
    • Drive the Posted Speed Limit. Fewer crashes occur when vehicles are traveling at or about the same speed.
    • Identify Alternate Routes. Try mapping out an alternate route. Even if it looks longer on paper, you may find it is less congested.
    • Use Public Transportation. Public transportation can give you some much-needed relief from life behind the wheel.
    • Just be Late. If all else fails, just be late.

What should you do when confronted with an aggressive driver?

  • Give plenty of space to anyone who appears to be driving aggressively. First and foremost make every attempt to get out of their way. Secondly, never cut anyone off. Undoubtedly, this type of action will further infuriate someone who may already be angry or initiate an aggressive act in retaliation. If you make an error while driving, even if you didn't mean to, it is possible the other driver may try and pick a fight with you thus escalating the situation to one of road rage, so be especially attentive when driving near someone who may be in an angry state of mind. If you suspect that someone may be driving while angered, just back-off and put as much distance between your vehicle and the aggressive driver's as possible.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a driver who appears to be agitated. Many people associate eye contact with a challenge or threat. Even a friendly smile can be misinterpreted as a sarcastic threat.
  • Put Your Pride Aside. Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold-your-own in your travel lane.
  • Gestures. Ignore gestures and refuse to return them.
  • Report Serious Aggressive Driving. You or a passenger may call the police. But, if you use a cell phone, pull over to a safe location.

(Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

According to the Citizens for Roadside Safety, a highway safety lobbying group, 90 percent of motorists have witnessed an act of aggressive driving in the past year.

Driving Distractions

When you are behind the wheel of your car, the most important responsibility is safe driving. Distractions such as using a cell phone, reading a map, drinking coffee or combing your hair will increase the time it takes you to react, which will in turn increase your chances of getting into a collision.

Driving is a skill that requires your complete attention to not only control your vehicle but also respond in case something happens up ahead or around your vehicle. It involves continuous and complex coordination between your body and mind. Anything that prevents you from operating your car safely is considered a distraction.

There are three categories of distractions and they are anything that takes your:

  • Eyes off the road (visual).
  • Mind off the road (cognitive).
  • Hands off the steering wheel (manual).

Think about something as simple as changing the radio stations and you realize that this basic task encompasses many types of distractions. For example, you think about what you want to listen to (cognitive), you take your hand off the steering wheel to press a button (manual), and you take your eyes off the road when you look at the button you need to press (visual).


The concerns of eating while driving are obvious. Unless you are very talented, you will need to use at least one of your hands to hold your burger or soda. That leaves only one hand available for steering your car. If you are driving a manual transmission, the situation gets even trickier because you also need to control the stick shift, in addition to your food and the steering wheel. With one hand occupied with food or drink, you will have a tough time handling your car should an unforeseen obstacle arise, like a dog running across the road or if you need to make a sudden lane change. Messy and hard-to-eat foods can be even more problematic because they may drip or spill, distracting you further by causing you to look down at your lap and away from the road. And when you're eating, you are also dealing with non-food distractions like opening wrappers and wiping your hands and face with napkins. Spilt drinks can also be disastrous, especially when the drinks are burning hot. There's nothing like a fresh cup of coffee in your lap to sidetrack your attention and driving ability.


It's amazing the amount of people that seem to think that driving time is a great time to catch up on some personal chores. Besides the fact that activities like shaving or applying makeup require both the driver's attention and hands, usually these tasks are performed using a mirror. There's nothing more disconcerting than seeing a driver positioning their rearview mirror so that it can be used as a cosmetic mirror, rather than to see surrounding traffic.

Distracted by your Surroundings

All drivers should save their sightseeing adventures for when in the passenger seat. Trying to look out your window in order to get a good view of what you are passing can be a distraction of disastrous proportions. Common roadside distractions to avoid staring at include:

  • Collision scenes.
  • Construction zones.
  • Billboards.
  • Scenic Views.
  • Street names and addresses.

Cell Phone Usage Laws

California has placed restrictions or prohibitions on hand-held wireless telephone usage while driving a motor vehicle.

These prohibitions/restrictions vary slightly for adults versus minors. Specifically, CVC 23123 states: "A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving."

While adults may use hands-free devices, all drivers who are under the age of 18 years of age cannot use a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle, even if it is equipped with a hands-free device.

Exceptions to this law for both adults & minors are they may use a hand-held cell phone while driving under the following circumstances:

  • If making an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, the fire department, a health care provider or other emergency service agency.
  • While driving an emergency service vehicle and the use of the cell phone is in the course and scope of your duties.

If you absolutely must use a cell phone, here are some helpful safety tips:

  • Always assess traffic conditions before calling.
  • Know your phone's keypad - use speed dial when possible.
  • Place calls when stopped if possible.
  • Have a passenger place the call for you.
  • Ensure that the phone is within easy reach.
  • Avoid intense, emotional, lengthy or complex conversations.
  • Avoid talking on a cell phone in congested traffic or during bad weather.
  • Keep your mind on driving. After all, talking on a cell phone while driving never helped anyone reach their destination any faster.

Wireless Communication Device Usage Laws

CVC 23123.5 states: "A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving."

This law prohibits drivers from "holding and operating" their devices for any reason, including texting, making calls, browsing the internet, using navigation, playing music, etc. The only way drivers can use an electronic device legally while driving is if:

  1. The handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is mounted on a vehicle's windshield in a seven-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver or in a five-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver and outside of an airbag deployment zone, or is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle's dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver's view of the road.
  2. The driver only uses a single swipe or finger tap when activating or deactivating a feature on the mounted device.

The reasoning behind why texting and driving can be so distracting, even more distracting than talking on a cell phone, is two-fold. First and foremost, drivers need to look away from the road and use their hands when typing a message. Secondly, drivers often get so wrapped up in the text message conversation they are having that their ability to fully concentrate on driving dwindles.


Playing loud music while driving is a common driving distraction among drivers. Not only can it distract your attention from the road, loud stereos can impair your ability to hear approaching emergency vehicles, and may encourage you to speed without realizing it. Adjusting the volume, changing stations or CDs should only be done when your vehicle is parked.

Headphones or Ear Buds

On many occasions an emergency vehicle may not be entirely visible to the traffic on the highway, thus it is imperative that drivers have the ability to hear them as well.

CVC 27400 states: "A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears."

Some exceptions to the above prohibition include any person operating an authorized emergency vehicle, a person operating special construction equipment for use in the maintenance of a highway, or any person using a device which aids the hard of hearing.

The message derived from this vehicle code is the fact that your hearing, in general, is a key component to safe driving. Along with emergency vehicle recognition, your ability to hear another car's horn and/or pedestrians' voices will have an effect on collision avoidance.



CVC 24603 states that any motor vehicle, whether by itself or in combination with another vehicle, shall be equipped with stoplamps mounted on the rear, and the stoplamps must be plainly visible and understandable from a distance of 300 feet to the rear both during normal sunlight and at nighttime.


(CVC 26710) says, "It is unlawful to operate any motor vehicle upon a highway when the windshield or rear window is in such defective condition as to impair the driver's vision either to the front or rear..."

Before you start to drive, make sure that all of your windows and mirrors are clean, both inside and out.  Bright sunlight or headlights hitting a dirty window can make it very difficult to see out.  While driving in rain or snow, be prepared to stop if necessary to wipe off snow or mud from your windshield. Keeping clean windows help increase your range of visibility around the entire vehicle.


Underinflated tires will wear more on the outside edges of the tire. Overinflated tires will wear more on the inside center of the tire. Therefore, no matter whether your tires are over- or underinflated they will lose their maximum traction capabilities.

Properly maintained tires not only keep you safe, they help your car perform better. You can also save money by keeping your tires properly inflated. The average car will get three to four miles more per gallon when the tires are properly inflated than when they are under-inflated. By checking the pressure of your tires regularly, you are not only reducing the chances of a blowout, but you are also saving money at the gas pump.

Child Passenger Restraints

CVC 27360 requires that every child who is transported in a motor vehicle must be in a DOT-approved child restraint system and properly secured in the rear seat until they are at least eight (8) years old. If the child is under 8 years of age but is four feet nine inches in height or taller, they may be restrained by a normal safety belt. Further, any child who is under two (2) years of age must be secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system unless the child is 40 pounds or more, or is 40 or more inches tall.

CVC 27363 lists various exceptions to the use of a child restraint system, such as in the case of a life-threatening emergency, physical unfitness, medical condition or size of the child. Also, a child under 8 years old and who is less than 4 feet 9 inches tall may ride in the front seat of a vehicle, properly restrained in a child safety seat, under the following circumstances:

  • There is no rear seat in the vehicle
  • The rear seats are side-facing or rear-facing
  • The child passenger restraint system cannot be properly installed in the rear seat
  • All rear seats are occupied by children seven years of age or under
  • Medical necessity

In general, the safest way to transport young children is always in the rear seat of your car.

Safety Belts

The Mandatory Seat Belt Law (CVC 27315) states that everyone in an automobile must be restrained by a seatbelt or child safety seat. If the driver is not wearing a seatbelt, the driver will be cited. If a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt (and they are 16 or older), both the driver and the passenger will be cited. If the passenger is under 16, only the driver will receive the citation.

A seatbelt is not an option.  It is the single most important safety equipment feature of your vehicle.  In order for safety belts to be effective, they must be worn properly and at all times while driving.  Most crashes occur within 25 miles of home usually at speeds less than 40 mph.  Some deaths have resulted from collisions at speeds as low as 12 mph.

Parking Brake

When parking on a steep incline or hill, you must take the necessary steps to ensure that your car doesn't roll into the flow of traffic. First of all, for safety and legal reasons, you are always required to set your parking brake. Separate from your regular braking system, your parking brake works on a different mechanism; so both systems don't fail at the same time. Also, leave your car in gear if you have a standard transmission (stick-shift), or in parking position if your car is an automatic.

If you are parking next to a curb heading downhill, turn your front tires into the curb. When parking headed uphill, position your tires away from the curb, then gently let your car roll back so your front tire is touching the curb. Again, the key when parking on a steep hill is to make sure your car doesn't roll into other traffic, potentially causing a collision.

Maintenance and Construction Areas

Usually orange colored signs will be posted and bright orange cones will be placed before and at a construction zone. Warning and guidance signs may say "ROAD CONSTRUCTION 500 FEET" or "LEFT LANE CLOSED 1 MILE", or anything pertaining to the condition or activity in a construction or road maintenance zone. Given the dangers involved with people working right next to traffic (sometimes traveling at high speeds), it is imperative to obey the posted construction zone speed limit signs, and, if none are posted, to slow down to a safe speed. If you receive a moving violation in a construction zone, be prepared to pay double the fines.

Freeway Driving and Congestion

The following steps should help when entering a freeway:

  • Be aware of warning signs and onramp speed limits
  • Carefully check the speed of the flow of traffic
  • Watch vehicle ahead for sudden stops
  • Position your car near a gap in the traffic
  • Constantly adjust speed to meet that of the flow
  • Signal during the duration of the merging process
  • Finally, ease into the gap of traffic safely

Always be aware of cars suddenly slowing or stopping when entering the freeway and make sure that your speed is consistent with the flow of traffic. Merging too fast or slow can cause a collision. The lane where most collisions occur on the freeway is the merging lane.

Most freeways also provide a deceleration lane for easier access off the freeway. A common mistake that people make when exiting the freeway is improper planning for the deceleration maneuver. Know your offramp in advance and be on the lookout for signs indicating your desired exit. Last-minute freeway exiting can be dangerous, so utilize the deceleration lane to reduce your speed without endangering the traffic to the rear. If you miss your desired offramp, proceed to the next available exit. Do not swerve over, back up or make any other illegal maneuvers to reach the missed offramp. Always make sure to carefully adjust your speed in accordance with traffic near you and yield to other drivers that are trying to exit the freeway at the same time. Some freeways combine the deceleration and acceleration lanes into one lane. This situation can pose a particularly risky scenario, since you have to yield and merge into the gaps of traffic both exiting and entering the freeway. Upon entering the offramp, be aware of posted exit lane speed limits and/or curved ramps, and adjust your speed accordingly.

Different Weather Conditions

In adverse weather conditions (such as rain, fog or snow) you should always use your low beams, since your high beams can blind other drivers ahead of you. More importantly, the intense light emitted from your high beams will reflect off the precipitation in the air, and can blind both you and the other driver as well.


The first general rule for driving in the rain (or on a wet road) is to slow down. You should also use the low-beams, so that other cars can see you. It would be a good idea for you to check the condition of your wipers at the beginning of the rainy season in your area. Again, clean your windshield often, so the wipers will work at the most efficient level possible.

Here are some more tips for driving in wet weather:

  • Drive in the tracks left by the vehicle ahead of you. This area of the road should have better traction than the surrounding areas because of the displacement of water caused by the car ahead of you.
  • Be as smooth as possible. Don't make quick stops or abrupt turns. These types of maneuvers could cause your tires to lose traction, causing skids.
  • Leave extra space to brake. Remember that it takes twice as long to stop on a wet road as opposed to a dry one. Start to brake earlier before attempting to turn or stop, and increase your following distance between the vehicles ahead. Even driving through shallow puddles can lead to reduced braking ability.
  • Slow down through deep water. As tempting as it may be, purposely driving fast through deep water to experience roof-high splashes, or "rooster tails" is extremely dangerous. The chances of hydroplaning and losing total control of your vehicle are increased substantially. Do not overload your car to the rear, as this may reduce traction and your car's handling capabilities through deep water. Shifting to a lower gear is also recommended. In other words, it is best to have a balance of weight such as passengers and/or cargo in the front and rear of your vehicle.


Fog poses an especially dangerous driving condition. Without warning, patches of fog may suddenly roll in, hampering your normal field of vision. Drive with your low beams on because your high beams can easily reflect in foggy conditions and impair your visibility further. Make sure to slow down and watch your speedometer since fog can create a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be going much faster. Also, use the right edge of the road or painted road markings as a guide. Do not gamble your life and the lives of others by trying to drive in very dense fog.

Each year approximately 600 people die in crashes associated with foggy conditions.

(Source: Federal Highway Administration)

Again, remember to use your car's low-beam lights. It is also a good idea to drive with the driver-side window rolled down a little. Have you ever gone to the beach in the thick fog? You may not have seen the lighthouse, but you could hear the foghorn. If there is going to be a problem, such as a car crash up the road, you might be able to hear it long before you can see it. Keeping your window rolled down a little will aid you in hearing the outside noise better.