An Introduction to Defensive Driving
The leading cause of road accidents is driver error. This does not only apply to error in judgment, recklessness, fatigue or distraction but the lack of defensive driving as well. Being able to master defensive driving will place you in a position to take action and be ready for any possible road mishap. If everyone learned defensive driving techniques, our roads would be safer, less deadly places.
Defensive driving can be defined as: “The practice of using driving strategies to minimise risk and help avoid accidents, as by predicting hazards on the road.”
However, it also requires the driver to be prepared, aware of challenges and restraints and not simply having advanced ‘driving skills’.
Defensive Driving means driving in a way that utilises safe-driving strategies to enable motorists to address identified hazards in a predictable manner, explains Safe Motorist. These strategies go well beyond instruction on basic traffic laws and procedures.
The site continues that with defensive driving classes, drivers learn to improve their skills by reducing their driving risks, anticipating situations and by making safe, well-informed decisions. These decisions are implemented, based on road and environmental conditions present when completing a safe driving manoeuvre.
The importance of driving ability is at the top of the list of defensive driving. Learning driving skills and gaining driving experience is vital to make the road safer. It also creates a sense of independence and economic viability as defensive driving teaches you how to increase fuel economy and prevent wear and tear.
Not only should defensive drivers be aware of their capabilities, but they must make certain that their vehicles are well maintained. Regular servicing of the vehicle and ensuring tyres and windshield wipers are tended to help to ensure safety on the road.
Taking on the Road
- Maintain a safe following distance, regardless of the weather conditions;
- Reduce your speed limit at all times when you identify a potential incident;
- Refrain from moving in and out of lanes, this could cause unnecessary confrontation, which could lead to road rage;
- Always leave room for any sudden change in traffic behaviour or if you should need to come to a dead stop, change lanes or take exits if required; and
- Determine alternative driving paths all the time, which will ensure that your safety is not compromised.
Adjust to Road and Weather Conditions
Safe road conditions should never be taken for granted and even light rain can present dangerous situations. Tyres lose their grip owing to weather conditions, and the safe precautionary action to take is to keep your speed to a minimum and remember the importance of vehicle maintenance.
Awareness of Injury
Accident and injury awareness allows you to prevent severe incidents. Make sure you do not start your engine until all loose objects inside your vehicle are secured and all passengers, including you, are buckled up and ready for the road.
Let us share the road safely
Defensive driving is not only to prevent you from making mistakes, but it’s also being aware of other drivers sharing the road with you. So being aware and cautious form part of defensive driving.
How to share the road or avoid others who are not as disciplined as you are, might take extra work, but is possible. Practise the following so that it becomes a habit to ensure you are part of the solution and not the problem:
- Do not get involved in road rage incidents. Take a precautionary approach and do not confront the person as you are not aware of who the person is or what he/she is capable of doing;
- When face a driver who is constantly sitting on your bumper, avoid the confrontation and slow down, as the tailgater will overtake you;
- If you witness a car speeding, remain in your lane and maintain your speed. Do not attempt to block the speedster and rather allow more space for the fast driver to drive ahead of you. Avoiding such drivers could save your life; and
- If you are faced with an aggressive driver. Slow down or practise evasive driving by getting off the road on exits and rather join the road when you are in a safe position.
Defensive Driving Course
It is possible to practise all of the above, which will not only make you a better driver but will also prevent accidents. Continue improving your driving skills and consider attending a course in defensive driving for your benefit and that of all road users. Let us always aim to become better drivers.
Regardless of these reasons, you may end up needing hospitalisation or emergency assistance in many other situations.
iER is South Africa’s only dedicated emergency response and disaster management network backed by its own emergency-trained call centre designed to respond to any emergency situation 24 hours a day, every day!