What is Defensive Driving? Watching out for “the other guy”. 7 extremely actionable tips from the driving instructor team at Steering Clear
You may have heard about “defensive driving”. Indeed, it’s highly likely that your driving instructor is teaching you to drive defensively. But what exactly does it mean and why is it so important? Read on for some useful advice from our team.
We’ve seen everything there is to see and experience when it comes to human beings in charge of sturdy two-ton metal boxes with wheels attached – and believe us, not all of it is good.
Some drivers are aggressive, wander into another lane or make sudden turns without signalling. The thing is, not everyone drives well, but paradoxically, most people think that they’re great drivers. It’s those other people behind the wheel that are the problem.
Well, let’s get real here. Those “other people” are all of us, or rather, they have the potential to be. Don’t let that person be you. Learn defensive driving and you’ll be less menace and more maestro on the roads. And who wouldn’t want that?
What is defensive driving?
A set of defensive driving skills will empower you to be aware and ready for whatever happens when you’re driving. It’s about anticipating potential hazards or other drivers’ likely mistakes before they happen. Without assuming that they will happen, you’ll be alerted to the fact that they might.
Defensive driving enables you to judge ahead of time the best course of action to avoid a collision or an accident. A sort of real-life, real-time driving insurance policy, you could say. Without all the paperwork.
As a defensive driver, you’ll be able to go beyond mastering the rules of the road and the basics of driving. You’ll help to lower your risks behind the wheel.
(As an aside, some drivers compare defensive driving to the assumption that everyone else on the road is drunk. We couldn’t possibly comment on that, but it’s an interesting, if horrifying picture)
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What are the general principles of defensive driving?
In brief, it’s about being alert, looking ahead and, as much as possible, predicting the unpredictable. You have to be ready for all sorts of actions, as well as the reactions of other road users, whilst NOT expecting them do what you would do.
How to develop defensive driving skills
1. Stay alert
This isn’t just about not falling asleep at the wheel or not being engaged in what you’re doing. You must have good judgement and reaction times. Make sure that you get plenty of rest before you drive, and that you don’t drink alcohol the night before.
2. Don’t get distracted
We shudder when we see people on their mobile phones (which is of course illegal), but there are other distractions, too: eating, drinking, fiddling with the car radio, reaching for something – all these things happen when the vehicle is moving and will stop you from staying focused.
This isn’t an occasion to multi-task. Concentrate on your driving when you’re driving! At all times.
3. Stay aware of your surroundings
Check what’s in front of you; use your mirror frequently to assess cars behind you and along side you, too. Keep your eyes moving all the time. Look at what’s happening with the car in front of the car in front of you. So always look into the middle and far distance.
When you drive look for potential hazards. These include activity at crossroads and junctions with vehicles emerging into the road. Look to see if parked cars are in the process of moving out by turning their wheels into the road. Check and respond early to road signs and road markings particularly pedestrian crossings.
Also, look out for pedestrians stepping out between parked cars or from behind high sided vehicles, give cyclists a clear berth and be aware of people’s pets and children. All of these, dare we say it, can sometimes be unreliable in their behaviour. If you allow for this, you’ll be better able to deal with anything unexpected.
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4. Think safety. All the time.
You’re grown up enough to have your licence, so prove it. You have a responsibility to yourself and to others.
Avoiding inattentive or aggressive driving is essential. Imaging yourself setting a good example to other drivers, as this automatically elevates your confidence and knowledge.
Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front, too. (Remember the two second rule to maintain a gap between you and the vehicle ahead of you. If you are driving in town or in a built up area for every mile an hour you are travelling translate that into metres distance between you and the vehicle in front of you).
5. Don’t make assumptions about other drivers
Do not assume that another driver will move out of the way or that he or she will allow you into the traffic. That parked car? It may just be stationery, with the driver just about to pull out without signalling.
Whilst respecting fellow drivers, plan for them to make mistakes, or at least for the possibility that they will do so.
Other drivers may forget to signal or may have left their signal on, so wait until it’s safe to make your move. Many collisions occur due to blind faith in what someone looks like they’re going to do – but doesn’t.
6. Be aware of the weather…
…And slow down if it’s raining. In wet weather, double your 2 second gap following distance to the car in front of you. This will give you a greater chance of breaking in time should an accident occur.
7. Control your speed
There is a good reason for the speed limit, so stick to it (or slow down in poor weather conditions).
The higher your speed, the less likely you are to be able to control your vehicle.
So…is defensive driving a good idea? Without a doubt, yes. You could save your life and the lives of those around you just be learning to drive defensively and maintaining these skills for the rest of your life. You’ll be aware and ready for whatever happens. You can be careful, yet ready to take action without putting your fate in the hands of other drivers.
Don’t be a driver error statistic. Contact us to learn more. And happy (safe) driving!