Defensive driving is a fundamental skill all Ontario drivers should have. With our variable weather, high traffic congestion and never-ending road repairs, even the best driver can become overwhelmed and practice poor judgement. Taking defensive driving courses can teach you safe driving techniques for controlling your vehicle in emergency situations, as well as procedures for handling fatigue, emotional stress, and road rage. Let’s learn more about these courses and find out how they can also help you reduce your premiums.

What is defensive driving?

Defensive driving is a style that uses safe driving techniques and strategies to avoid accidents and other problems on the road. Benefits to driving defensively include getting better gas mileage and putting less stress on your car. But being a good driver is not easy. Even if you’ve been driving for a long time, you might not be sure if you’re actually a good driver. It is even harder to be a defensive driver! With the prevalence of distracted driving on our roads and highways, these techniques can help you stay in control of any situation you may encounter while driving.

What will you learn in defensive driving courses?

Defensive driving techniques help you to anticipate the actions of other drivers sharing the road with you. Driver’s training gives you the opportunity to get comfortable behind the wheel if you’re a new motorist, and teaches drivers of all levels defensive driving principles and how to safely handle situations that arise on the road.

In driver’s training, you will learn how to maneuver your vehicle so that you can minimize the chances of getting into an accident if another driver does the unexpected.

Some of what you can expect to learn about in a driver training course includes:

  • The rules of the road and the right-of-way
  • Collision, head-on, and rear-crash avoidance
  • Merging into traffic, switching lanes, and turning
  • Driving on highways and city streets
  • Driving in poor weather conditions 
  • Using U-turns and roundabouts 
  • How to park properly, whether on a street or in a parking lot
  • How to avoid distracted driving
  • Steering and skidding control

Defensive driving elements

The most important parts of defensive driving in any city are:


Leave enough room between your car and the car in front of you. This will give you time to react and lower your chances of getting hurt if a car hits you from the front, back or the side.


Keep an eye on your mirrors when you change lanes to ensure no one is in your blind spot. You should also avoid driving in the blind spots of other cars so they don’t hit you. As we approach the snowy, winter months, take the time to properly clear your car of all accumulated snow and ice. This is a simple and effective way to ensure you can see, and be seen, by other drivers.


Always use your turn signals to let other drivers know when you want to merge or switch lanes. Also, be sure to make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and drivers at intersections.


Anticipating potential hazards, and proactively determining safe manoeuvres to mitigate those hazards, is essential to defensive driving. Ensure you’re not distracted while driving by passengers or activities inside your car.

Always have an out

This is something we’ve championed before – knowing how to react to a potential incident and safely positioning your vehicle to exit a dangerous situation. Through some of the defensive tactics discussed above, you might be able to anticipate a collision and remove yourself from potential danger. “Having an escape plan can be as simple as making sure that you always have space around your vehicle” to allow yourself time to safely react.

Which driver’s training course should you pick?

There are government-approved driving schools in Ontario, but be advised not all driving schools offer government-approved training courses. In general, a government-recognized course will include up to 40 hours of instruction, both in-class and in-vehicle training. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) recognizes “MTO-approved beginner driver education courses” from a broad range of driving schools in the province. It’s worthwhile to check the MTO’s list of ministry-approved courses before choosing a driving school.

Young Drivers of Canada (YD) is Canada’s largest driver training organization and has been offering driving courses since 1970. With 140+ classrooms across Canada, YD offers several driving courses throughout the GTA. To find a location near you, please click here.

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. 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.

Can a driver’s training course help save you money on insurance?

Many insurers offer discounts to newly-licensed drivers at any age, who graduate from a recognized driver’s training course. The amount of the discount may vary by insurer, but it can be as much as 30%. However, defensive driving courses in and of themselves don’t usually reduce your insurance premiums in Ontario. Taking defensive driving courses can help save you money in the long run by educating yourself on how best to steer clear of potentially dangerous situations. Knowing how to become more aware while driving can help prevent a collision being charged to you, which can lead to higher premiums. It’s worthwhile to contact your isure broker in advance to find out which driving schools they recognize, and what type of discount you can get on your premium.

Final thoughts on defensive driving courses

Defensive driving courses give drivers a new perspective on viewing the road. They help drivers identify dangerous situations before they unfold. Defensive drivers can determine and lessen the potential risks from another driver’s behaviour.

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