Posted: October 27, 2016
There’s been a lot in the press recently about the progression of driverless cars and how they will virtually eliminate the possibility of accidents on the road in the future. We’re a few years away from that scenario, but even without it – the relentless progression of technology means that the cars we drive are now safer than ever.
It’s not just the airbags, the seatbelt tensioners or the crumple zones that help to make our cars safer in the event of an accident – it’s the preventative technology such as stability control, collision warning systems and lane departure monitoring which minimise the risk of us having an accident in the first place.
But even with all of this technology available, we shouldn’t be reliant on our cars to get us out of trouble. Understanding how to drive safely, regardless of the technology - will give you the best possible chance of a trouble free journey. With that in mind, here’s our top 5 tips for safer driving.
There is a tendency when driving, to look from the bonnet forward, in fact in stressful situations – many people might not look any further than a metre or two in front of their bonnet. In terms of being able to access hazards, it’s best to look to the furthest point on the horizon and scan back to your vehicle. This allows you to take early, safe decisions about the hazards ahead. Of course, always be prepared to scan back to the foreground to access what might be there – for example, a pedestrian about to walk off the pavement. That might momentarily take 100% of your attention – however, once you have taken appropriate action and dealt with the hazard, take your eyes back to the horizon rather than back to the bonnet.
A safe driver will constantly access the hazards as he or she negotiates the road ahead. You can do a better job of this however, if you take into consideration the potential hazards for the specific circumstances you’re in. For example, let’s say you’re driving on a fairly rural A-road – be aware that there are fields to the left and right of you. That could mean farm trucks, tractors, slow moving vehicles or even wild animals running out on to the road without a moment’s notice. The earlier you see them, the earlier you can make a safe decision. Remember the phrase – “early vision, early decision”.
It might sound a bit of an odd thing to say, but no-one has ever had an accident driving into an empty space. A good safety tip is to always to leave enough space in front of you, to the side of you and behind you if possible, in order to have somewhere to go in the event of a sudden incident. If you’re coming towards a junction where there are queuing cars ahead of you – stop sufficiently behind the car in front so as to have vision of (i) their rear tyres and (ii) the tarmac in between your car and theirs. If a vehicle behind me was approaching at pace and wasn’t going to stop, by leaving this amount of space between you and the car in front – you can move to the left, to the right or you could move forward to reduce the possibility of someone driving into the back of you.
This follows nicely on from tip no.3 and is particularly important when driving on a busy motorway. Our lead instructor Colin likes to play a little game when he’s driving (he’s a bit odd like that). He wants to make sure he maintains sufficient space all around him at all times on the motorway, so he imagines his car is sitting in a blown up balloon and if he gets too close to the car in front, behind or to the sides, his balloon starts to squeeze together. The idea is to keep that imaginary balloon a nice circular shape. This becomes particularly challenging in overtaking scenarios, which of course make up a large part of being on a motorway. You’ll want to make sure as you overtake the vehicle, that you’re alongside it for as little time as possible. To do so, if you’re overtaking an articulated lorry for example, wait until the vehicle in front has completely cleared the truck before you begin your overtake. Don’t be tempted to tailgate the car in front and risk squeezing that imaginary balloon.
It’s easy in modern life to be distracted by things outside of the car. Maybe you’re thinking about what you’re going to do when you get home, an argument you had before you left the house or the content of a presentation for your next meeting. In fact, it’s surprisingly difficult to focus on the job of driving your car without letting your mind wander or get distracted. And that’s why it’s so important to work consciously to raise your “focus game” so you don’t get caught out. There’s lots of information and statistics that you can pick up from company driver training schemes and they can bog you down and be a bit boring. One of the most astounding ones though is that for every hour we spend behind the wheel, we only spend about 8 minutes concentrating on our driving. That’s a pretty frightening statistic.
If you’ve enjoyed this short piece and would like to find out more about driver safety for you, your family or for people within your business – why not drop us a call on 01234 757 633.
Thanks for reading,
CAT Driver Training