No matter how good, how fast, how expensive or how efficient your vehicle, it’s you the driver who determines whether it is a safe means of transport.
As a driver it will help if, instead of looking upon driving as simply a means of getting from A to B, you take pride in your style and approach behind the wheel.
After all, there’s a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction to be gained from showing, not only your skill and ability, but also courtesy and consideration to those around you.
Apart from the reward of, for example, a nod or smile in appreciation, you will have the added satisfaction of making our roads much safer.
The right attitude and behaviour are the key factors to becoming a good driver.
What Makes a Good Driver?
A good driver isn’t necessarily a perfect driver. It’s very doubtful if such a driver exists. Nevertheless, apart from skill and experience which only comes with time, a good driver needs:
Together, these qualities go to make up what is generally known as the driver’s attitude. It is attitude which, in turn, influences driver behaviour.
Developing the right attitude and behaviour will come easier to some drivers than others. Because they are essential to safe driving, it’s important that every driver should make the effort to keep working on them.
Take a pride in your driving and remember that, whether you have been driving for years or have little experience, there’s always something to learn.
It’s a fact that nearly all (90%) road crashes are caused, to some degree by driver error and reducing that risk is the responsibility of every driver.
What is that Responsibility?
To be a responsible driver, you should always be concerned for the safety of yourself, your passengers and all other road users. Be particularly alert and watchful for the most vulnerable, such as children, the elderly and infirmed, cyclists, motorcyclists and people in charge of animals.
Be tolerant and remember that everyone is entitled to use the road. This may well mean making allowances for other road users from time to time. Look and plan your actions well ahead to avoid causing danger or inconvenience. In this way you can avoid the temptation to act hastily – perhaps with dire results. Remember, the responsibility for safe driving rests with you.
To be able to drive safely in today’s traffic conditions you must have 100% concentration. If you let your mind wander, even for a moment, the risk of making a mistake is increased enormously. Remember, mistakes frequently lead to accidents.
Feeling tired or unwell
Thinking about something else
Upset or annoyed
Suffering stress of any kind
‘Red Mist’ (Mainly emergency services)
Try to avoid driving at all, but if you have to, make sure you leave much more time to react.
Let conversation distract you
Make or answer phone calls while driving
Use headphones of any kind
Look at road maps or guides on the move
Try to tune the radio or change compact discs or cassettes on the move
What helps Concentration?
Concentration is the key to good observation and anticipation
Avoid non essential stickers on the windscreen of your vehicle. They restrict your vision. Don’t hang objects in your vehicle (e.g. dills, dice’s, air fresheners) where they will distract your attention or restrict you view?
Anticipation in driving means planning well ahead and acting promptly to deal with the changes going on around you. It should, with experience, become an almost automatic reaction. It’s the hallmark of a good driver. You need to continuously question the actions of other road users and fit in with what they are doing.
If you expect the unexpected and try to anticipate the actions of others, you’re less likely to be caught out.
Anticipation and good planning are essential in developing defensive driving techniques.
It is said that patience is a virtue and certainly never more so than when you are driving. Sadly, incompetence, bad manners and aggressive behaviour on our roads seem to be commonplace. The secret for the good driver is not to let any situation lead to any conflict.
It is all too easy to get impatient, or lose your temper when other road users do something wrong. If you do, you’re well on the way to an accident. Be prepared to make allowances for someone else’s mistakes and in everyone’s interest try to turn the other cheek.
Drive in a spirit of retaliation or competition
Use aggressive language or gestures
Try to teach someone a lesson even if another road user has caused you an inconvenience.
Use sound judgement
There’s no better lesson than a good example.
Be Patient with ‘L’ Drivers
If the vehicle ahead of you is being driven by a learner:
Don’t drive up close behind
‘Rev’ the engine
Become impatient if the other vehicle is slow to move off
Overtake, only to ‘cut in’ again sharply
Expect learners to make mistakes and allow for these. Remember, not every vehicle showing ‘L’ plates is fitted with dual controls and the person instructing might not be a professional.
This is all part of a driver’s attitude and is closely related to skill, judgement and experience. New drivers will naturally be unsure of themselves, but confidence will grow with experience. A good driver will avoid being over – confident as this only leads to carelessness. Remember, that taking risks causes accidents.
Good habits and thoughtful behaviour can help ensure that both you and your passengers arrive safely.
It helps other drivers if you don’t try to dominate on the road. So don’t:
Cut across the path of other vehicles
Rush through traffic
Change your mind at the last minute
Use aggressive language or gestures
Irritation and Anger
Irritation and anger, for whatever reason, are dangerous. They can cause mistakes, and mistakes leads to accidents. If you’re angry take time to compose yourself before a journey. Don’t jump into your vehicle when you’re in a steaming rage, wait until you have calmed down. The chance of an accident is too great to risk driving under such pressure.
Remember, your actions also affect the actions of other drivers. Lack of consideration can have dangerous consequences and obey the rules set out in the Rules of the Road book.
Be well rested before driving
Make yourself comfortable
Give yourself plenty of time for a journey
Keep your mind on your driving
The better you feel, the easier the journey will be.
If you’re upset by the bad behaviour of another driver, try not to react. If necessary, slow down to cool down, even if your feelings might demand a more aggressive response. Stop and take a short break, because while you’re upset you’re vulnerable.
Your powers of concentration, anticipation and observation are likely to be much more reduced. An accident is more likely to happen.
Finally, be prepared to make allowances for the mistakes of other road users and remember what word you get if you put �d� before anger – danger.
Tom Harrington LL B M Inst. MTD M Inst. CILT M AIRSO 10 November 1995