Defensive Driving

Reduce preventable commercial motor vehicle accidents by implementing and communicating Sentry Insurance’s recommended strategies for defensive driving. A good defensive driver searches the road ahead trying to identify hazardous conditions or driving situations as they develop. With adequate lead time, a CMV driver can react as necessary to avoid an unsafe situation. A defensive driver prepares for mistakes by other drivers or pedestrians. They scan far enough ahead to be able to react in time. They check their sides and rear area for passing or approaching vehicles.

Avoid distractions inside and outside the vehicle, including:

• Cell phones and other communication devices
• In-cab telematics

• Eating and drinking

• Smoking

• Adjusting radios, climate controls, etc.

Putting the Vehicle in Motion

Moving forward, backward, and steering left or right from a stopped position can create unexpected hazards. Before putting the vehicle in motion, drivers should:

• Check for proper mirror adjustment

• Check for broken mirrors and loose mountings

• Check horn, back-up warning signal, tail light, brake light and turn signal for proper functioning

• Walk around and look underneath vehicle to ensure safe clearances

• Ensure that cargo loads are secured

• Move vehicle immediately after safety checks

• Check blind spots


Safe passing maneuvers require well-developed skills and judgment. To pass safely, drivers should:

• Make certain no one is passing before attempting to pass

• Signal their intention to pass

• Assume approaching vehicles will not see them


Recognize the hazards created by turning and follow proper procedures to minimize them. For right turns, drivers should:

• Move to the right lane well in advance of the intersection

• Wait for other vehicles to clear and then turn slowly

• Avoid improper tracking to ensure the vehicle or trailer will not ride up onto the curb or strike stationary objects


For left turns, drivers should:

• Watch for drivers who may misinterpret intended turning

• Avoid turning until there is enough time for the rear of vehicle to clear the intersection

• Be aware that opposing drivers may not see them

• Assume approaching vehicles will not see them


Trucks take more time to cross and clear intersecting roads than do automobiles. To prevent intersection accidents, drivers should:

• Install reflectors and reflective tape

• Keep sides of vehicle clean and keep side marker lights operational

• Avoid turning until there is enough time for the rear of vehicle to clear the intersection

Lane Use and Lane Changing

Lane use and lane changing accidents primarily involve sideswipes and rear-end collisions. To avoid accidents, drivers should:

• Maintain safe following distances

• Scan ahead to see what is approaching

• Flash brake lights to alert drivers of trouble ahead

• Check blind spots before attempting to change lanes


Brake failure is the main reason for loss of control on downgrades.

To avoid loss of control, drivers should:

• Inspect, adjust and replace brake components

• Use a descending gear that requires only light brake pressure (10 psi) to retard speed

• Never use the hand lever to apply trailer brakes

Adverse Driving Conditions

Failure to adjust to adverse conditions, reduced traction and poor visibility is a major cause of accidents. During adverse driving conditions, drivers should:

• Keep tire chains available

• Increase following distances

• Get off road and wait for conditions to improve

Emergency Equipment and Procedures

Emergency situations require proper equipment and training on proper usage. If an emergency occurs, drivers should:

• Turn on emergency flashers immediately if stalled and stopped on roadway

• Turn on emergency flashers immediately and try to coast onto shoulder if stalled while driving

• Cautiously set up reflective triangles

Accidents Involving Pedestrians

Most pedestrian accidents occur when the pedestrian walks onto a roadway and into the path of an approaching vehicle. To avoid accidents involving pedestrians, drivers should:

• Watch for and anticipate pedestrians, especially at night

• Assume pedestrians will not give the right-of-way

The content of this material has been taken in large part from information published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. For more information, go to

Sentry Insurance is committed to helping you protect your business by providing resources to manage loss-producing situations and prevent accidents. For additional information visit, or call 1-877-832-1835.

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