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What is defensive driving?
You do not have to touch or come into contact with another vehicle or individual to be classified as endangering another road user. Making other vehicles slow down unnecessarily, causing a pedestrian to take evasive action or blocking the road without good reason are all classified as jeopardizing other road users and even full-fledged license holders are guilty of some of the above. One way of reducing such occurrences is to practice something known as defensive driving.
Defensive driving is a style of driving aimed at reducing the chances of a driver causing an accident or endangering the safety of other road users. Defensive driving encourages drivers to adopt principles that priorities the safety of the driver and everyone in their immediate vicinity above anything else. The foundation of all defensive drivers is hazard perception. The early anticipation of hazards is crucial to driving safely and all defensive drivers are able to spot hazards further ahead on the road, allowing them to prepare a plan on how to deal with the potential threat before reaching it.
Defensive driving techniques
Getting to your destination safely should be the objective of all road users and to facilitate this, there are several defensive driving techniques that you can employ to reduce the chances of having a serious incident while driving. These include;
Drive slower in adverse weather
Statistically speaking, accidents are more likely to happen in bad weather. During heavy rain, fog or snow the road does not behave as it usually would and in such times, it’s imperative to slow down and manage your speed to reduce the chances of causing an incident. In adverse weather conditions, it takes longer to stop the car and potential hazards are harder to see, therefore reducing your speed in such situations is an important way of mitigating risk.
Match your speed to the road
You’re able to control the vehicle better at lower speeds, however, you can also be endangering other road users if you’re travelling at a speed far below the limit for the road you are on. Matching the speed of other road users on the road you are on is an important aspect of defensive driving, as forcing other vehicles to slow down unnecessarily can lead to accidents.
Use the two-second rule
Giving yourself and other road users enough space to react and anticipate changes is very important. One defensive driving technique aimed at encouraging this is the two-second rule. While driving, picture a fixed object in front of you such as a signboard or lamppost and as the vehicle in front passes the object, count 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi and if you pass the object before you’ve finished counting, you’re too close to the car in front. Employing this technique ensures that there’s always enough space between you and the vehicle in front.
Use your mirrors effectively
There are no two ways about it, using your mirrors reduces the chances of accidents, however many drivers do not use their mirrors often enough. It’s easy to fall into the habit of only checking your mirrors when switching lanes, however, this increases the chances of being involved in a serious incident. A key defensive driving technique is to regularly check your mirrors as the road situation around you changes, as this allows prepare a plan for the new road as early as possible.
What happens on a defensive driving course?
For individuals interested in defensive driving, there are courses available that can help you refine and put into practice the defensive driving techniques mentioned above. On a defensive driving course, you’ll be taught how to manage your stress levels, how to deal with potentially heated road situations, how to remain as visible as possible and how to improve your ability to identify possible road hazards.
Defensive driving tips
Although a defensive driving course is the best way to improve your standard of driving, there are also a few defensive driving tips that you can put into practice on your next drive, that will help you drive safer than you previously were.
Scan and look ahead
One of the pillars of defensive driving is to continuously scan and look ahead while you drive. It’s very easy to just concentrate on what’s directly in front and to the side of you, however, defensive drivers are always looking further afield. Adjusting your vision in this way allows you to anticipate and decide what actions to take, prior to arriving at a particular point in the road. While scanning ahead, aim to look between 15 and 20 car spaces in front, as this will give you ample time to plan and execute your next move with minimal changes in direction and speed.
Give yourself an adequate amount of space
Accidents and drastic changes in direction and speed occur more often when there’s reduced space between vehicles. A key aspect of defensive driving is to give yourself and the vehicles around you enough space as this gives you more time to anticipate and react to changing road situations in the safest possible manner. Managing your speed and driving distance reduces the chances of accidents and ensuring you adhere to this principle whenever you’re behind the wheel, reduces your chances of endangering another road user.
Reduce your speed in poor visibility
You do not have to be driving above the speed limit to be endangering other road users with your speed. Driving too fast for a given road situation – irrespective of the fact you’re under the speed limit – can also be classified as putting other road users at risk and another defensive driving tip is to reduce your speed when your visibility is impaired. When navigating bends, entering closed junctions and turning into new roads, it’s essential to slow down to give yourself more chance of dealing with an unexpected situation such as an oncoming vehicle or emerging pedestrian.
Defensive driving saves lives and reduces the number of serious incidents on the road. Whether you’re learning to drive, or you’ve had your license for a number of years, employing the defensive driving tips and techniques contained in this guide will improve your standard of driving, while reducing the chances of you endangering other road users.
If you are interested in defensive driving and would like to find out more about a defensive driving course in your area, fill in the form below and one of our friendly team will get back to you shortly.