How to become a safer driver
Becoming a truly awesome driver is ultimately about safety. Having practical driving ability and knowing the rules of the road is what’s required to pass your test… But defensive driving will elevate you to the next level.
Plus driving well is how you keep your Driverly car insurance cost down. So it’s well worth knowing the principles of defensive driving, so you can be a safer driver, and save money to boot.
So what is defensive driving, exactly?
At its core, defensive driving aims to reduce the likelihood of being involved in a collision, and increase net road safety. By increasing a driver’s awareness, the techniques involved should help them anticipate potential hazards, and take the appropriate defensive action.
There’s also a secondary benefit, which is that it’s a greener way to drive. Defensive driving means your car will be more fuel efficient, and minimises wear and tear. So a money-saver all round!
What are the principles of defensive driving?
These are the principles which underpin defensive driving, and they’re all related.
Principle #1: Control your speed
First of all, you should watch your speed. This might sound obvious, and there are speed limits to help with this. But the speed limit may not always be appropriate.
Let’s say you’re driving on a country road. It’s a single-carriageway road with national speed limit signs, so the limit’s 60mph. If there are a lot of bends, going at 60 may actually be way too much, and lead to your car feeling out of control. And you’re unlikely to have anything between you and oncoming traffic.
In fact, according to road-safety charity Brake, more than half of fatal crashes in Britain happen on rural roads.
In this example, the best thing to do is adjust your speed before going into a bend, so you don’t need to apply the brakes while cornering. This way, you can concentrate fully on the task at hand.
Which brings us back to the first principle: controlling your speed is vital.
Another example is when you’re driving on wet or icy roads. Your tyres won’t grip as well in these conditions, so speed awareness is crucial. Stopping distances and cornering will be affected, so you should stay safe by adjusting your speed. This will help to keep you and other road users out of danger.
Ace your driving score: Control your speed
While using the Driverly app, part of your driving score is calculated using your speed. By using the app, you can keep tabs on your speeding behaviour, and earn rewards for keeping your speed on a leash.
Principle #2: Stay alert and free of distractions
ou need to be on top of your game, and your full attention should be on the road. This means you’ll be able to read the road and anticipate situations better.
It’s a good idea to avoid distractions. Certainly don’t use your mobile, unless it’s for sat nav, and secured to the dash without obscuring your view.
You can brush up on the rules regarding mobiles and other devices on GOV.UK.
Playing loud music should be done with caution. While it’s legal, it can be distracting, and you might miss important sounds or alarms.
And in order to stay focused, it’s best not to drive while tired. If your reactions are sluggish, you may not be as quick to respond when you need to be. A 15-minute break for every two hours’ driving is recommended by rule 91 of The Highway Code.
Principle #3: Be mindful of your surroundings
Another principle is to be fully aware of your environment at all times while driving. While learning to drive, this is why good all-round observation is drummed into you. You should check your mirrors and blind spots frequently, especially if you’re planning to manoeuvre or change course.
But defensive driving is about more than your immediate surroundings. It’s about being aware of what’s happening with the road up ahead. For example, knowing the knock-on effect if a driver three cars in front suddenly brakes. Or if there’s a pedestrian 50 metres ahead who looks like they’re about to step out into the road.
Being able to read the road ahead means you can slow down progressively, rather than having to brake suddenly, which can be dangerous for other road users.
It’s all about being prepared for situations arising on the road, and being ready to act accordingly.
Principle #4: Keep your distance
In the same vein, it’s best to maintain a safe distance from other road users. This is especially the case with vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians.
You might find it helpful to think of a safety bubble around your car. So when you’re overtaking a cyclist, for instance, you should give them plenty of space – don’t let them into your bubble.
It’s important to keep your distance from traffic in front too. It’s a good idea to keep the 2-second rule in mind when working out how much space to leave. You’re probably familiar with this from your driving lessons, but if not, it’s the following rule of thumb:
When the road user in front passes a certain marker, it should take at least two seconds for you to pass the same marker. To help time this, it takes two seconds to say: “Only a fool breaks to two-second rule”.
Principle #5: Expect the unexpected
You’ve probably encountered plenty of situations where road users don’t act in the way you expect them to. They might indicate but not follow through – or not indicate at all – for example.
Because road users are often unpredictable, one of the principles is to be prepared for any situation on the road. Don’t make assumptions about how other road users or pedestrians are about to act.
This is probably best illustrated with some examples:
Even if you have the right of way, other road users may pull out in front, or cut you up. If you grow to expect this, it’s easier to take the danger out of the situation.
Don’t assume pedestrians will stop and look before stepping out into a junction. This is especially common if they’re facing in the same direction as you, and you’re approaching behind them.
If a motorist flashes their lights to let you go – for example, if you’re pulling out at a junction – don’t assume it’s safe to do so. Make sure you do your own safety checks before you commit.
Principle #6: Respect other road users
Expecting the unexpected isn’t really about thinking negatively of other road users. We all make mistakes sometimes, and this is true of other people you share the road with.
In other words, it’s about being ready for anything – not about being at odds with other road users. And driving safely involves keeping everybody safe. By treating other road users with respect, you’ll be contributing to the overall safety of the roads we use each day. Feels nice, doesn’t it?
Ace your driving score: Master control of your vehicle
Rocking the principles of defensive driving should make you a safer driver overall. And while we can’t score you on expecting the unexpected, for example, this should have a positive effect on your handling of the vehicle.
By becoming a smoother driver, you’ll improve your Driverly acceleration, braking and manoeuvring scores. These are important steps towards becoming a driving master (and saving money on your car insurance into the bargain). The force is strong in you!