The next blog in our Roadcraft series follows on from our advanced driver training experience and details what we learned about ‘defensive driving’.
Defensive driving is a style of driving to adopt in order to avoid problems on the road through better anticipation, observation and concentration. Our driving instructor, Chris, from Drivers Domain UK took us out on the road to practice the skill and learn tips and tricks for better and safer driving.
What can driving smoothly achieve? Learning to adopt a defensive driving technique will not only improve your Roadcraft skills, but can help you to become more fuel efficient and to ease wear and tear on components such as brake pads.
Firstly make sure you and your vehicle are setting out smart. That is, run a few safety checks before getting into your car or van. Are the tyres pumped up? Do your brake lights work? What about the indicators? Is the windscreen clean? Did you know that you can be fined and get points on your licence if found with an empty screen washer bottle? (If you have any doubts book in for a 20 minute visual health check at one of our service centres.)
It sounds obvious, but don’t drive tired, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Make sure you are safe to drive.
Second of all, don’t assume your driving skills can’t be outwitted by someone else’s mistake. Observe what is happening around you. Good drivers think about themselves and others. Be prepared and drive safely.
One of the key things we learned on our advanced driving course was to change the distance you anticipate ahead. Looking at the car in front is not anticipating far enough ahead. Sure, you need to keep them in sight, but you need to be anticipating much further ahead for potential hazards - say 100 - 200 yards. What’s on the road ahead? What’s on the pavement? How is the visibility? Is there a bend in the road ahead? For example, if there is good visibility and no-one coming in from the right you can carry on to a roundabout without the need to brake if you have anticipated correctly and used your gears well.
One of the most difficult situations on a motorway is anticipating the blind spot of another motorist. UK and foreign lorries are probably the most difficult to judge. With continental left-hand drive lorries, the blind spot for the driver is double the number of seconds than that of a UK right-hand drive lorry. Our instructor’s advice was get past the blind spot quickly and carefully. Speed up to get past then ease back to avoid danger.
Another tip for busy motorway driving is, if you can’t see beyond the lorry ahead, notice the shadows on the road beside and you will likely see the spacing of other lorries in front of it.
Lorries often have speed limiters set to 56 mph. The speed limiter will bring on the brake lights when it is slowing the lorry down to 56 mph. Be wary of this and always keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Remember to keep an ‘escape route’ available to you.
If you can anticipate overtaking and changing lanes well in advance, you will have a smoother ride. Try to signal and change lanes well ahead instead of getting stuck behind a vehicle with very little space to manoeuvre and poor visibility. It will improve your fuel efficiency too. Remember lanes 2 and 3 are for overtaking only. Your default should be the ‘slow’ lane. HGVs and trailers should not be using the 3rd lane at all.
When coming off a motorway onto a local ‘A’ road, remember to adjust your speed and driving style. You will likely need to adjust from 70 mph to 30 or even 20 mph within a short distance. Use engine braking where you can, that is, shifting down the gears gently. This helps wear and tear on the brake discs and pads too. All this requires your anticipation and concentration.
Conversely, on joining the motorway down a slip road, remember to move to the far right of the slip road, build up speed and indicate in good time. This way round remember you are needing to go from a low speed to join a carriageway with vehicles cruising at 70 mph, it’s the old ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ prompt. Concentrate on the job in hand and you’ll be fine!
Remember to read the road signs and road markings! They are there to help you negotiate the road in safety. Streetlights also hint at junctions, roundabouts, bends and roads narrowing ahead. Another of our #Roadcraft blogs deals with road signs and road markings.
Remember to stay calm and in control of your journey. Set out with plenty of time to spare. Be aware of the speed limits and keep your distance from the vehicle in front. Don’t follow their speed, set your own pace within the speed limit. Leave a ‘bubble’ of safety space around you to allow for an escape route. Don’t pull up right behind the car in front, you should be able to see the ‘tyres on the tarmac’ of the car in front, above your dashboard. If not, you’re too close!
If your car doesn’t have park assist, a handy hint is to position yourself at a 45 degree angle to the space and put your hazard warning lights on (especially in strong sunlight). You will then find it easier to reverse into the available space with minimal steering. Never ‘dry steer’, ie, turn the wheel when you’re not moving.
For 'A' road driving with multiple bends, our advanced driving instructor recommended taking the most efficient road positioning line on the road to have optimum visibility and fuel efficiency. So, coming to a slight bend to the right, hug the left side of the road coming into the bend and move nearer the central line on taking the corner, if safe to do so, then ease back to the middle of the road on the straight. Don't cut the corner though! With sensible use of gears, your ride should be smoother.
So there you have it! A summary of the main points we learned when taking part in our advanced driver defensive driving course.
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We hope you’ll take on board these tips for happier and safer driving. #lovedriving. Enjoy your journey and the freedom of the road!
We say #hellofreedom.
Watch the video of our Advanced Driving Experience here...
*One lucky winner will be chosen at random from our social media followers who correctly identify a road sign from the Highway Code which we will publish at the end of our roadcraft blog series, this now moved to mid-January 2022, linked via social media. Our social media links can be found at the top border of our website pages.