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Experience alone does not make the perfect driver. Thousands of hours at the wheel prove only that one's driving practices have become habitual. What if this long experience has only reinforced bad driving habits?

The good driver attains such status only through training plus experience. Faulty driving practices are identified and eliminated during training. Constant attention to good driving as you pile up the mileage, tends to fortify good driving habits, until proper reaction to a situation is almost instinctive.

If you are having mishaps or near misses on the road, it's a warning that you should bear down on defensive driving.

Every person who professes to practice defensive driving must set the goal of perfect driving as the standard. When you reach that goal, you will complete every trip not only without accidents, but also without traffic violations, vehicle abuse, or excessive delays-and without any act of discourtesy to others who share the road.

That's some goal, isn't it? It is never accomplished by the driver who follows a "me first" attitude. It can be done by the driver who is constantly alert for every hazard, and who is always willing to yield the right of way.

The defensive driving concept presumes that one can drive so as to prevent accidents-regardless of adverse conditions, or in spite of the faulty actions of other drivers.

It would not be correct to charge that a defensive driver is overcautious, or timid, or lacking in courage. The term really means that the defensive driver is determined to take every reasonable precaution to prevent traffic mishaps-even over and above what the law requires them to do.

Almost without exception, the making of a defensive driver requires formal training or extensive self education. Many poor drivers have been able to improve their performance by continuing conscious effort to drive defensively.

Some of us who hold driver licenses have never had formal driver training. We watched Mom and Dad and other relatives and friends and decided we could do the same thing. If our models were excellent drivers, and we learned the meaning of every driving move, perhaps we learned well.

But how much did we learn if we were not told the meaning of every step? How many bad driving practices did we pick up and make our own? Did anyone ever tell and show us the many dangerous situations we must learn to recognize and evade?