This is shaping up as being the summer of the American road trip. With COVID-19 concerns prompting many to travel by car instead of plane, we could all use a refresher course in the most fundamental theme of driving education: defensive driving. Defensive driving very simply is driving in a way that takes the safety of yourself and others into equal consideration. This mindset also demands that a driver never assume others around them are doing the same. If all drivers took on this cautious and proactive yoke, the roads would be far safer. WSB Triple Team Traffic’s Ashley Frasca approached me with the idea of doing this column and polling some of our team to get different perspectives. Frasca’s point of view is worth hearing, as she has a 40-minute, early-morning commute from Holly Springs to WSB’s studios in Midtown. “I think one of the biggest things that keeps me safe on the roads in those early hours is driving away from the pack,” Frasca said. “I slightly increase or back off my speed, if necessary, to ensure that I’m not driving right around other cars. I think keeping a large ‘bubble’ around your car gives you ample time to react to anything that may happen.” So Frasca helps create room for error for both others and herself. And her morning drive colleague Smilin’ Mark McKay echoes that sentiment. “(Maintaining distance) saved me at least a couple of times,” McKay said, “including on I-85/northbound north of 17th Street in Midtown Atlanta when a crash occurred three to four vehicles in front of me in lane three. I was quickly able to change lanes and avoid the mishap.” McKay steered clear of the problem in front of him because he was not tailgating that wrecking gaggle. He was also very attentive, with his eyes ahead. But McKay said drivers can maneuver more defensively by keeping their heads on swivels. “Use your side and interior mirrors in a constant sweep with your eyes,” McKay explained. “Be aware of who is around and behind you, so as not to be surprised. Don’t rely solely on the automatic side warning lights now found on newer vehicles. It’s easy to forget the basics of being behind the wheel and to let technology take over.” The new driving aids on vehicles have made driving more effortless. The blindspot indicator lights that McKay mentioned can help train drivers not to check that blindspot or mirror themselves. Turn-by-turn navigation dumbs down the need for the driver to know when they need to get over and turn or exit, because the app can just say when. Relinquishing control of the functions of driving is inverse to the notion of driving defensively. This summertime weather pattern makes for plenty of mishaps on the road. Pop-up storms can be intense, sudden, and a perfect recipe for disaster. Afternoon drive reporter Mike Shields sees these storms and wrecks often on his watch. “Slow down when the water comes down. Hydroplaning is not only dangerous for one driver but surrounding drivers in other vehicles,” Shields, a former police officer explained. “Never hit the brakes or gas if you begin to hydroplane.” Then Shields really dug in on the defensive part of his advice: “Hydroplaning can mostly be prevented if you slow down on wet roads. We see this occurring over and over, in many instances, in the same spots.” Those routine hydroplaning hot zones to which Shields is referring are places where water tends to accumulate in heavy rain. I-20/westbound near Candler Road in DeKalb County, for example, is always a place we watch when rain falls. Knowing ahead of time where some of these spots are on one’s commute is another great way to be proactive and cautiously approach those zones. That would be a very defensive method. Frasca sums up her view behind the wheel — an example we all should follow: “The older I’ve become, and in large part due to the things I see in this job, I’ve become a much more defensive driver! Especially being on the interstates so often, I drive as if any car, any driver, at any time, will lose control, lose a tire, glance down at their phone, swerve, or change lanes and not see me. I believe that driving attentively, courteously, and alert is the safest thing you can do.” Following every letter of the law and the driver’s manual does not make someone a good driver. A layer of consciousness above the rules is required to really drive safely and smoothly. Applying the above defensive driving tips will make that summer road trip much safer for everyone. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.