Defensive Driving - Four Secrets Of Staying Safe

by : Charlie Moore

Okay, you've heard about the benefits of defensive driving and you know that it involves being aware of the potential hazards that other road users can create.

Great! But what exactly does that involve? What should you be doing? What should you be looking out for?

So with that in mind, here are some of the best defensive driving tips that will help to protect you from the dangers that exist on our roads.

1) One Thousand And One Ways To Create Space

One of the best ways to create space around your vehicle is to avoid travelling too close to the vehicle in front. Ideally, you should be at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.

As soon as the vehicle in front passes a fixed point, such as a signpost or a tree etc, count how long it takes for you to pass the same object. Start counting "one thousand and one, one thousand and two" etc. If you're less than two seconds behind you're too close and need to back off slightly. In bad weather such as ice, snow, fog or heavy rain, this should become the three, four or even five second rule depending upon the severity of the conditions.

Eventually, you'll be able to judge how far behind you should be according to your speed and the road conditions.

This will allow you to pull up in plenty of time if the vehicle in front has to stop suddenly. And while we're on the subject of stopping distances, the distance that it takes your vehicle to stop depends on four factors. A higher speed, heavier vehicle, weaker brakes and poor road surface will all increase the distance that it takes you to stop. So it's important to know the capabilities of your vehicle and learn to drive within them.

And one final word about stopping distances. If your car is equipped with an ABS braking system, it will prevent your brakes from locking up and allow you more control, but it won't bring your car to a stop any quicker.

2) The What If Game

This game is one of the best ways to hone your skills of observation and anticipation. The rules are simple; as you drive around, pay extra attention to everything around your vehicle. Look for potential hazards. Read the road in front and make sure you know what is behind and beside you. Then, keep asking yourself "what if?"

What if the car in front stops suddenly? What if I have to take evasive action? Where is my run off area? What if someone pulls out in front of me?

The more you pose these questions and consider your actions, the more prepared you'll be if anything unexpected happens. It will also help you to anticipate what other drivers may do and prepare you to deal with these events.

3) Go With The Flow

When out on the road, make sure that you drive according to the prevailing conditions instead of trying to force other road users to adopt your style of driving.

For example, if the general speed in one lane is 60mph and 70mph in another, don't try to cruise at 65mph. That would involve travelling too close to the cars in front and constantly overtaking or slowing down vehicles in the other lane.

Don't try to force a column of traffic to go faster than they want to, and by the same token, don't try to police the speed adopted by vehicles in a certain lane. Leave that to the proper law enforcement officers.

And when it comes to changing lanes, be decisive, don't obstruct others and signal all your intentions clearly before you start any manoeuvre. Go with the flow and your journey will be safer and much more relaxing.

4) Be Cautious

The roads are not the right place for taking risks. For example, when you approach an intersection, don't assume that everyone will follow the rules. Signal your intentions so that everyone knows where you're going, remain alert and keep your foot over the brake just in case.

Likewise, make sure that you give all vehicles especially larger vehicles such as trucks full respect. Stay well behind them and when you want to overtake, be decisive and move past with the minimum of delay.

And when passing vehicles, make sure that you stay out of their blind spots. As a general rule, if you can't see the driver in their side mirror, they won't be able to see you.

Whatever happens, don't rely upon your cruise control to drift past other vehicles 1 mph faster. That means you'll be in their blind spot and greater danger for a long time.

With better skills of observation, anticipation, some basic common courtesy and a relaxed attitude your journeys will be safer and much more enjoyable.