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Defensive driving 101

Many drivers, who have a false sense of comfort behind the wheel, become too relaxed – or too aggressive – on the roads. Advanced driver training can contribute to greater road safety awareness.

As first responders, ER24 paramedics are sadly far too familiar with carnage on the roads. According to Arrive Alive South Africa, 95% of accidents are the result of human error, mainly unsafe driving practices.

“Drivers who choose to do a defensive driving programme learn to be aware of road and weather conditions, other vehicles, road users and potentially hazardous situations,” says Sidney Venter, ER24 regional manager of Central region. “They also know what steps to take to prevent causing – or becoming involved in – a road crash. Of course, it’s critical that you don’t think you’re Michael Schumacher once you’ve completed the course.”

Learning how to reduce the risk of collision by anticipating dangerous situations, adverse conditions or the mistakes of others is key, he adds. “It’s also critical to implementing driving techniques that enable drivers to address hazards in a predictable manner.”

In short, a defensive driving course will teach you how to control the position and speed of your car safely, systematically and smoothly This skill requires a positive but courteous attitude and a high standard of driving competence based on concentration, effective all round observation, anticipation and planning. According to Arrive Alive SA, advanced drivers are also less prone to the frustrations that lead to road rage.

As a defensive driver, you will learn how to:

  1. Continuously look in your mirrors and scan the road ahead, checking for hazards and slowing traffic so you can anticipate problems before they develop.
  2. Always be aware of what is on your right, your left and behind you.
  3. Drive at speeds that most other vehicles are going [within the speed limit, of course.].
  4. Watch out for the other guy. Part of staying in control is being aware of other drivers and road users around you (and what they may suddenly do) so you’re less likely to be caught off guard.
  5. Not assume that all other drivers are sober, alert, courteous and cautious. 
  6. Anticipate what another driver might do wrong and make the appropriate adjustment to reduce your risk.
  7. Anticipate light changes, lane changes and vehicles and pedestrians entering from either side, as well as drivers moving off before the light has changed to green.
  8. Make eye contact with drivers and pedestrians. That way you know they see you. Be prepared for the unexpected.
  9. Keep an eye on pedestrians, bicyclists, and pets along the road.
  10. Develop a pattern of observation. This includes: looking ahead, to the rear-view mirror, ahead, to a side mirror, ahead, to the other side mirror, ahead, to the dashboard instruments, ahead.
  11. Check your blind spot before changing direction, making lane changes or merging.
  12. Avoid driving in the blind spot of another driver.