Defensive driving can help Ontario drivers pilot their motor vehicles more confidently and safely by increasing awareness of the road conditions, other drivers, and possible perils. This awareness can be used to identify potential hazards and mentally prepare the driver to respond effectively to each situation if required. In this post, we will discuss defensive driving and explore whether a defensive driving course reduces insurance in Canada.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a defensive driving course?
The term “defensive driving” might bring to mind an action movie, in which the hero performs driving stunts to evade bad guys. However, the reality is quite different. Defensive driving focuses on strategies, awareness and skills that help you avoid the need for extreme maneuvers.
Defensive driving focuses on two main areas: Awareness and Reaction.
Awareness focuses on removing distractions while you are behind the wheel as well as being aware of your surroundings. Distractions, whether they be visual, such as looking at your phone or selecting a radio station; or cognitive, such as being upset over something, are both extremely common. All distractions can be dangerous, as they prevent you from being fully aware of what’s on the road ahead.
Reaction is all about understanding how to respond to an unexpected situation and giving yourself enough time and space to do so effectively.
Awareness includes staying alert about weather conditions and seeing teenagers biking ahead of you. Reaction trains you to be prepared should your car slip on ice or a cyclist crosses into your lane. This might include being prepared to swerve into an empty lane or simply deciding to slow down to give yourself more time to react and stop safely.
Most defensive driving courses focus on both awareness and reaction in classroom settings and on-road training.
What are the advantages of taking a defensive driving course?
Taking a defensive driving course in Ontario can be beneficial in a number of ways.
Defensive driving courses are ideal for any driver who lacks confidence behind the wheel. Successfully completing a course and knowing you have the skills to recognize potentially dangerous situations and how to respond can greatly improve confidence while driving. In addition, the on-road portions of the course will provide them with additional time driving on roads and highways, supervised by a professional defensive driving instructor.
Perhaps the single biggest advantage to taking a defensive driving course is that you will become a better driver. You need to prepare to identify possible issues in advance and react effectively and safely while driving. This extra level of preparedness will help you understand the finer points of driving techniques that aren’t always obvious. The result will reduce the possibility of experiencing an avoidable accident in the future.
Are defensive driving courses mandatory in Canada?
For the vast majority of Ontarians, defensive driving courses are not mandatory. Young and new drivers strongly benefit from taking a driver’s education course, which includes many components of defensive driving as part of the curriculum. But while these courses are strongly recommended and will result in a credit on future insurance premiums, they are similarly not mandatory for Ontario drivers.
Defensive driving courses are only mandatory in Ontario when a driver has experienced an unusual number of traffic accidents or received multiple traffic tickets in a short period. In these cases, the Ministry of Transportation or a traffic judge may insist on the driver taking an accredited defensive driving course to retain their license.
In these cases, the driver will receive a notice from the Ministry advising them to take an approved course within a certain timeframe. The licensed course provider will then forward to the Ministry an acknowledgement that the driver successfully completed the course. Failure to comply with these requests will result in the suspension or cancellation of the driver’s licence.
The Ministry of Transportation does not require everyone to take a defensive driving class. However, many private companies will ask drivers of their vehicles to complete such a course. Depending on the company and the employee’s role, this might be as simple as a defensive driving online virtual class covering basic principles. More complex courses will combine classroom and practical experience.
If I crashed, should I take a defensive driving course?
For many people, their driver’s education and training courses are years in their rearview mirror. While practical experience is incredibly valuable, it can also take bad habits and over time turn them into permanent driving flaws.
Suppose a driver experiences an avoidable accident or is charged with a driving infraction earning demerit points against their licence. In that case, it might be an excellent time to examine their driving skills and habits to make improvements. If this is the case, taking a defensive driving course is always a good course of action.
A defensive driving course can help a driver evaluate how they act behind the wheel and reinforce good driving behaviours. If the accident has left the driver feeling a bit shaky behind the wheel, the course will also help restore confidence in their driving abilities.
How much does a defensive driving course cost?
There are many different types of defensive driving courses. Some courses are virtual and involve watching a series of videos and taking an online test. Other courses offer in-class instruction and several hours of practical, on-road experience.
High-end courses designed for professional drivers take the practical elements to a completely higher level. They can involve maneuvers designed to avoid potential kidnapping attempts and terrorist acts. Each of these comes at a different price point.
Online courses that provide you with a certificate of completion that might help you improve your driving skills start at about $100. Defensive driving schools that are licensed in Ontario can provide proof of completion. These schools can cost between $150 and $1,000, with the price usually reflecting the number of practical driving experience hours included in the course. Professional high-end courses start at about $2,500.
Defensive driving courses in and of themselves don’t usually reduce your insurance premium in Ontario. While new drivers can benefit from insurance discounts for their first few years of driving, the same is not true for defensive driving courses. The benefits of being a better driver may, however, make taking such a course worthwhile.
A defensive driving course could save higher premiums in the future by having the ability to avoid/reduce the chance of accidents. That’s a win-win for you and your insurer not to mention everyone on the road with you!