Defensive driving means safe driving. It’s the art of driving your vehicle in such a manner that you avoid preventable accidents and avoid contributing to others being involved in accidents
A preventable accident is an accident, which you, the professional driver, can prevent from happening by doing everything that you reasonably can. This means always being alert to what other road users are doing and taking the appropriate action, when necessary, to prevent an accident from occurring. This applies to the driving of any type of vehicle on the public highway but is particularly important to the driving of larger vehicles where the driver is often protected from the consequences of his/her own mistakes. With lighter vehicles – especially motor cycles – the driver (or rider) is much more vulnerable and therefore will instinctively tend to drive defensively for his/her own self-protection.
The most important aspects of defensive driving are as follows:
This must be maintained constantly in order to observe any driving errors or illegal behaviour on the part of other drivers, so that you are able to react in good time to any incident that may occur. The most important element of concentration is ‘Seeing’. As with any ball game, you must keep your eye on the ball, you must constantly search the traffic scene around you, and most importantly, what is happening as far ahead of your vehicle as you are able to see. It is only in this way that you allow yourself as much time as possible to assess potential hazards and react accordingly.
Although most serious accidents are at least partly caused by excessive speed, many minor accidents are due to the driver not being aware of the presence of the other vehicle and what it was doing at the time. Common examples are when a lorry runs into the back of another vehicle at a set of traffic lights or when a lorry collides with a smaller vehicle when leaving a fast lane or turning left at a road junction. So, when you are aware of another vehicle, do not ‘trust’ the other driver not to make a mistake. The defensive driver will try to control the situation himself to minimise the chances of an accident occurring.
Personal Driving Skills
You must be able to adjust your driving, to the special hazards presented by abnormal, unusual, or changing conditions in the weather, visibility, traffic conditions, the mechanical operation of your vehicle, the road surface, and both your physical fitness and state of mind.
Having seen a hazardous situation developing, it will be your personal driving skills that will help you to decide on the best course of action to take, and the manner in which you undertake it. Such decisions frequently have to be taken quickly and the level of your driving skills will dictate your effectiveness in accident-avoidance.
To become skilled in defensive driving you do not necessarily need to be trained to Police Class 1 Approved Driver standards but to drive competently you must know and observe all of the relevant traffic rules and regulations.
You must stop when required to:
- By an uniformed police officer.
- By a police officer or traffic warden regulating the traffic.
- By a school crossing patrol.
- By a mandatory traffic sign or traffic light.
- When involved in an accident.
Speed Limits – You should never exceed the speed limit!
The defensive driver should always adjust his/her speed to the prevailing road conditions. Fixed speed limits are often criticised on the grounds that they are not relevant to certain circumstances. However, advisory speed limits should immediately appropriate to the situation (e.g. fog on the motorway or a tight bend ahead) and you should always comply with them.
No one benefits from speeding!
- You don’t. Why risk being caught by the police or your boss (who can read your tachograph chart)? On the road it only increases stress and you have enough to worry about.
- Your vehicle doesn’t. Increased wear & tear leads to a shorter life and the increased risk of a breakdown or accident.
- Your employer doesn’t. He/she suffers the burden of increased fuel and repair bills plus more frequent renewal costs. Delivery times have to be calculated using legal speed limits.
- Your industry doesn’t. We all have to work very hard as a team to improve the image of our industry. Our opponents thrive on evidence of lorry drivers breaking the law.