Defensive Driving Rule #52: Slow Down When Approaching

Defensive Driving Rule #52: Slow Down When Approaching

Did you know that the AVERAGE speed of a vehicle passing through a controlled intersection is about 52 mph? How many times have you approached and entered an intersection without having any idea if someone is about to run the red light?

Statistically, one of the collisions that is most likely to be fatal or cause serious injury is the one that happens when two vehicles collide at 90-degree angles. This type of collision is often referred to as a “T-bone.” Imagine another vehicle hitting you at 52 mph — right into your driver’s side door. It’s easy to see how people get hurt or killed in these collisions. In many cases, your airbags won’t protect you in a T-bone collision. Even your seat belt may be of limited value if you are hit directly from the side. From a 90-degree side angle, you are in a most vulnerable position.

Defensive Driving at Intersections

The cure is a good amount of healthy skepticism around intersections and some specific defensive driving practices. Here are some key strategies to help you navigate intersections more safely:

  1. Adopt a Defensive Mindset

Don’t Trust Anyone:  Always assume that other drivers may run the red light or make unpredictable moves. This mindset helps you stay vigilant and prepared for sudden stops or evasive maneuvers.

Stay Alert:  Be aware of drivers who are visibly distracted. Many people are not paying attention to their driving, and it’s crucial to recognize this to anticipate their actions.

  1. Slow Down Approaching Intersections

Reduce Speed:  As you approach an intersection, start slowing down. This gives you more time to react if someone runs a red light or if there is unexpected activity in the intersection.

Cover the Brake:  Some driving instructors advise taking your foot off the accelerator and hovering it over the brake pedal as you approach an intersection. This reduces your reaction time if you need to stop suddenly.

  1. Look Before You Cross

Check for Traffic:  Always look “left-right-left” before you enter an intersection. This ensures that you check for oncoming traffic from all directions.

Identify Hidden Approaches:  If the side streets approaching the intersection are hidden from view, slow down even more. It is essential to ensure that no vehicles are approaching unexpectedly before you proceed.

  1. Create Your Own Safety

Take Responsibility:  While you cannot control the actions of other drivers, you can take measures to protect yourself. By being attentive and cautious, you can prevent most collisions, even when others make mistakes.

Avoid Blind Commitments:  Never drive into an intersection or any path where you cannot see clearly. Only proceed when you have a clear view and are confident it is safe.


Intersections are high-risk areas for collisions, particularly T-bone collisions, which can be extremely dangerous. By slowing down, adopting a defensive driving mindset, covering your brake, and vigilantly checking for traffic, you can significantly reduce the risk of collisions at intersections. Remember, creating your own safety is about staying aware and anticipating the actions of other drivers. Drive friendly, stay alert, and keep the greasy side down!