Your training has given you an insight to understanding where hazards lie and what can go wrong. Most other road users are not trained to this professional level and are less capable of anticipating incidents.
Making mistakes is human
Advances in car design, technology and improved road conditions have helped to bring down the number of accidents on the road in many countries. Nevertheless, driver error is still the primary cause of road incidents, much more than the road environment or defects in the vehicle.
Whilst alcohol, drugs, mobile devices and speeding dominate the media spotlight, ‘failure to look1’ is by far the most common factor recorded for accidents.
If you assume that other drivers are likely to make errors, you will protect yourself and other road users.
Before you travel
Safe travel is not just about behaviour on the road, but also good preparation. There are a number of simple checks you can make before you set off on your journey. By following a good maintenance routine (check out our article on Vehicle Inspection) and doing a few simple checks - mirrors, reflectors, indicators, horn - you are already one step ahead of other drivers.
Prepare for your journey – make your journey plan, allowing enough time so that you will not be in a rush. Ensure all risks are assessed and a journey management plan is implemented. See our article on Journey Planning .
Important Safe Driving Rules to remember
- Stay focused – do not get distracted by other passengers. More common distractions such as social media, mobile phones, built-in TVs, mean that attention is easily diverted from the road;
- Stay alert – don’t drive when tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Anticipate – scan ahead to be able to react to situations, check mirrors are set correctly and scan them frequently and thoroughly;
- Leave plenty of space - leave at least three seconds gap – use a landmark such as a tree to gauge distance;
- Be aware of dangerous drivers and take measures to avoid them;
- Check your speed – speed limits are based on ideal road conditions, adjust accordingly for adverse conditions; and
- Be aware of blind spots.
Be aware of other road users
Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are vulnerable because of their size and relatively low mass compared to vehicles. They also usually do not have a ‘shell’ to protect them against the impact. Be especially aware of children as they cannot judge speed and distance. Assume they will make errors, for example, they often try to cross a busy road without making use of a nearby pedestrian crossing.
Did you know?
- Most children cannot judge how fast vehicles are moving
- Their perception is all vehicles move at a maximum speed of 20 mph (or around 30 kph)
- Children struggle to pinpoint the origin of sounds
Anticipate other driver behaviour
Use your advanced knowledge to respond to other road user errors in a manner that enables you to avoid accidents, whilst also giving others around you reasonable time to react.
Think about the road context – are you near a school where there are lots of young children? Also consider the profile of the drivers around you. Certain groups are less experienced and more vulnerable to making mistakes, for example, young drivers, older people or drivers with young children in the car.
The time of day and the seasons can also affect the ability of drivers. Road and environment conditions in the winter for example are different from those in the summer. And at night time and weekends there is a higher incidence of alcohol related incidents.
Recognise and Respond to Road Conditions
Adverse road conditions such as rain, snow and fog can reduce traction and visibility. The weather or diminishing light will affect everyone’s driving ability. Use your skills and judgement to adjust your driving behaviour to these conditions and to anticipate the behaviour of others.
Be aware that other road users may not have the same ability to anticipate so give them a plenty of space.
If there is an emergency situation, know how to use your emergency equipment and the correct procedures to follow. As a basic requirement, you should know how to warn traffic using reflective triangles, how to use a fire extinguisher, how to deal with a tyre blow out and when to use specialist equipment such as snow chains.
Defensive Driving Skills to put you in control
Some manoeuvres on the road require specific care and attention, particularly if you are in charge of a large vehicle:
|Using and changing lanes||Most often drivers follow too closely, or are inattentive to traffic conditions ahead. Be aware of your vehicles position relative to other vehicles at all times.|
|Crossroads/ Turning Left and Right||This manoeuvre takes longer and due to the vehicle length it is necessary to make wide turns and often drivers incur blind spots. Consider adding a ‘wide vehicle turning’ sticker to the back of your truck.|
|Safe passing/overtaking||Speed limits and few opportunities to pass can cause frustration on the road, which can lead to drivers taking higher risks than normal when overtaking a truck. Be aware that not all drivers will be skilled in estimating speed and position of oncoming traffic and make allowances for this.|
|Curves in the Road||A bend in the road at excessive speed is a hazard to both cars and trucks. However, whereas cars lose traction and slide out of the bend, trucks are more likely to rollover.|
|In case of an incident|| |
Look at the direction you want to go and not at the object you want to avoid. It is proven that when you continue to look or stare at the object you are trying to avoid, it will result in steering towards the object instead of away from it.
If you can brake to the safety lane, stop safely there rather than trying to attempt to steer back onto the road.