Thanks to modern car technology, overall road casualties and deaths have reduced over the last decade. But driving on our roads is still dangerous and risky. This is especially true for those driving more miles than the average road-user. If you're unfamiliar with the phrase defensive driving, it's defined as driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of conditions around you and actions of others. Here are 7 Tips you can learn and apply whilst driving that will help you stay safe on our roads.
Defensive Driving - Tip 1
Only A Fool Breaks The 2 Second Rule
You should make sure there's a 2 second or more delay between your vehicle and the car in front. The idea being if you stay two seconds behind the vehicle directly in front, it provides ample time to brake and stop if required.
This advise has been recommended over many years and featured in a TV advertisement in the United Kingdom back in the 80's. Besides its cool-retro appeal now, the advice still stands. In fact, it applies even more so with our congested roads and dramatically increased driving speeds compared with 30 years ago.
No School Like The Old School
Defensive Driving - Tip 2
Create Space When Stationary
We're accustomed to driving near to others, especially when coming to a stop and waiting. Ensure you leave plenty of room as a buffer between your car and the one in front. An easy way to know if you've left enough space is to ensure you can see the bottom of the car's tires in front of you from your natural driving position. If you can't, then you're too close and should leave yourself more room. This strategy will help you with the next tip.
Defensive Driving - Tip 3
Keep An Escape Route
When you are stationary at a stop light, for example, give some thought to where you could move your vehicle if required. You should be keeping a close eye on your mirrors always. So if you can see trouble heading your way, this technique allows you to follow your escape route which you've already considered, and take evasive action to potentially avoid a crash.
Defensive Driving - Tip 4
Watch The Horizon
The average driver will typically only look ahead about as far as their headlights shine in the dark. By making a conscious effort to look up and further into the distance, it allows you to anticipate potential problems. This provides time for more controlled decisions and actions. Often, multiple collisions and pile-ups occur due to drivers reacting suddenly (e.g. braking), which can trigger similar reactions from the drivers behind.
Another advanced technique is called limit-point analysis. This refers to the furthest point you can see, i.e. where the left and right hand sides of the road meet (also know as the vanishing point). You should ensure you would be able to stop before you get to it. So, as you drive along simply ask yourself: is it still moving away i.e. getting further away at my current speed? If the answer is yes, and you can see further ahead, then your speed should be okay. If the answer is no and the vanishing point remains the same or is getting closer, then you should anticipate reducing speed until the limit point begins to move away from you again. This will take some practice to master but is a reliable and practical technique.
Defensive Driving - Tip 5
More Money Spent Means More Dents
When you see more road-markings, signs and different road-surfaces at a particular section, exit or turning, this is an indication it's a riskier area or trouble-spot. Often it can mean numerous accidents or even fatalities have occured. You should take extra care and slow down in these areas. Another tip if people are walking near to you is to try and make eye contact with them. This will mean both you have seen them and they have seen you.
Defensive Driving - Tip 6
How To Deal With Tailgating
It's frustrating when someone is right on your tail but it also intimidates and can cause road rage. When this happens to you take a moment and choose to stay calm and act defensively, not aggressively. Perhaps the easiest option is to slow down and allow them to pass. Alternatively you can add an even bigger buffer between you and the car in front to compensate for the lack of space behind. Also, you can gently apply the brake much sooner and provide them with extra warning you are slowing down.
Defensive Driving - Tip 7
Always Use Signals
We've all been disgruntled when drivers fail to use signals when turning or changing lanes. But if we're honest we often skip these important signals ourselves. Practice the habit of making signals 100% of the time and you'll be giving everyone the best chance of seeing you and knowing your intentions.
You should not assume and take action based purely on a another driver's signal. Flashing and blinking lights suggesting someone is turning right, for example, are no guarantee this is what they will actually do. This is a further defensive strategy. One of my advanced instructors used to make a valid point here - it just confirms the battery, light and connection between the two is working!
...And Remember The Basics
These advanced tips should supplement basic road safety tips. Unfortunately too many accidents are still caused by failure to follow common sense principles including: driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, general speeding, in-car distractions, and driving whilst tired. Make sure this isn't you!