Defensive driving means always being alert to what other road users are doing and taking the appropriate action, when necessary, to prevent an accident from occurring.
Of course this applies whenever you’re driving, but it is particularly important when you’re driving a large vehicle where the driver is often protected from the consequences of his/her own mistakes. With lighter vehicles – especially motorcycles – the driver (or rider) is much more vulnerable and therefore will instinctively tend to drive defensively for his/her own self-protection.
You must be able to adjust your driving to the special hazards presented by:
- Abnormal, unusual or changing conditions in the weather
- Traffic conditions
- Mechanical operation of your vehicle
- Road surface
- Your own physical fitness and state of mind
Remember, it’s your personal driving skills that will that will protect you in a hazardous situation and help you avoid an accident.
This must be maintained constantly in order to observe any errors or illegal behaviour by other drivers. It will mean that you are able to react in good time to any incident that may occur. You must constantly search the traffic scene around you. Look at what is happening as far ahead of your vehicle as you are able to see. This will give you as much time as possible to assess potential hazards and react accordingly.
Most serious accidents are, at least partly, caused by excessive speed. However, many minor accidents may be 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, minimising the chances of an accident occurring.
You must stop when required to by:
- A uniformed police officer
- A DVSA roadside check
- A police officer or traffic warden regulating the traffic
- A school crossing patrol
- A mandatory traffic sign or traffic light
- Being involved in a road traffic collision
You should never exceed the speed limit. Remember, delivery times have to be calculated using legal speed limits. Increased speeding fines and penalties were introduced in April 2017.
For more information on speeding fines, please visit: www.gov.uk/speed-limits
No one benefits from speeding!
1. 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
2. Your vehicle doesn’t. Increased wear and tear leads to a shorter life and the increased risk of a breakdown or accident
3. The operator doesn’t. He/she suffers the burden of increased fuel and repair bills plus more frequent renewal costs. Your actions may also contribute towards your employer’s ‘Operator’s Compliance Risk Score’ (OCRS), meaning the company’s vehicles may get stopped more often by DVSA, for example
4. Your industry doesn’t. We all have to work very hard as a team to improve the image of our industry. Those with a negative view thrive on evidence of professional drivers breaking the law
Use the right gear for the speed of your vehicle and use a full range of gears for a smooth start and smooth acceleration. The defensive driver will use his/her gears to anticipate hazards and to reduce speed steadily.
The defensive driver avoids high engine revs and ‘racing’ starts, as this is one of the most important factors in conserving fuel and reducing engine wear.
Don’t drive when you are feeling too tired to do so. Always ensure you have had adequate rest during your statutory break periods. Here are a few tips to help you stay awake at the wheel:
- Always get a good night’s sleep before a long drive
- Ensure you follow the EU Drivers’ Hours rules (if you want to check them, ask your office for details) and take rest and breaks as prescribed by the rules
- If you feel drowsy, look for somewhere safe to park up and have a snooze for ten minutes
- Drink a cup or two of strong coffee
Regular vehicle checks are an important part of Road Safety. See page 7 for more information on this topic.
If any defects occur to your vehicle whilst on the road, you must take the appropriate action – especially with regard to the reporting of such defects. It is a condition of your employer’s Operator’s Licence that there is a proper system for the driver to report such problems.