Health & Safety

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Tips for Defensive Driving

13 February 2011

motorway traffic

Defensive driving is a way of driving which can help you to keep away from problems on the road through detailed journey planning before travelling, and applying concentration, observation and anticipation whilst on the road. A defensive driver does not just concentrate on his or her own actions, but also on the likely actions of other road users.

According to Dr Will Murray, Research Director of Interactive Driving Systems, the main purpose of defensive driving is to reduce the chance of collisions or incidents, despite the actions of other road users, or the conditions in which you are driving. One of the main aspects of defensive driving is looking out for hazards.

Anything that requires you to alter your speed or change the position of your vehicle on the road is classed as a hazard.

The starting point for defensive driving is to plan your journey and ensure you have a realistic amount of time to travel.

Once on the road defensive drivers apply the following rules:

  1. Look 15 seconds ahead, not just at the vehicle in front of you. Aiming further down the road allows you to anticipate risks, make fewer and smaller steering corrections and to better predict events to which you may need to react.
  2. Scanning or keep your eyes moving to combine what you see ahead and around you and more effectively identify hazards.
  3. Monitor and maintain the ‘safety space’ around you to give yourself time and options.
  4. Ensure other road users see you - giving early, clear and effective signals.

Other key elements to defensive driving include making sure you:

  • Only drive when you really have to – other forms of communication and transport are much safer, more efficient and better for the environment.
  • Stay up to date with the traffic laws and the basics about how your vehicle works.
  • Keep your vehicle in good condition.
  • Are always prepared, and allow enough time for journeys.
  • Are well rested and never take any drugs or alcohol that could affect their concentration.
  • Are always fit to drive and alert to what is going on around you.
  • Anticipate potential hazards from other motorists, pedestrians, weather and equipment and take steps to minimize the risk.
  • Avoid risky manoeuvres like trying to beat red lights.
  • Never let yourself be distracted.
  • Drive at a safe speed and distance from the vehicles around you.

All of the various elements link into the main purpose of defensive driving – to do EVERYTHING you can to reduce crashes on the road. Not only does defensive driving help to save lives, but it also has many other benefits. Defensive drivers are less stressed, which is turn is likely to lead to fewer incidents of road rage or aggressive driving. Defensive drivers are also likely to save money - driving smoothly and steadily using concentration anticipation and observation is highly fuel efficient and gets you there just ask quickly.