Make defensive driving your ally on the roads this December and beyond

Defensive driving is the practice of maintaining an awareness of road and weather conditions, other vehicles, road users and potential hazards and then taking steps to prevent causing or becoming involved in an accident.

Competent driving demands more than just academic knowledge. It is a skill that develops over time as it requires the ability to read, predict and respond to what other drivers and pedestrians do or are about to do.

In releasing the 2021 festive season fatality statistics, the minister of transport, Fikile Mbalula, said the main causes of the road fatalities during this period were jaywalking, speeding, wet/slippery roads, overtaking across barrier lines and poor visibility.

“The biggest cause of road crashes is driver error – anything from an honest last-minute lapse of judgement to recklessness and distracted driving, and many other actions,” he said.

Eugene Herbert, the CEO of MasterDrive, elaborates on distracted driving, saying a driver must be “driving” and not doing anything else.

“When you are fully concentrating on driving, you are able to pick up on small cues drivers give when they are about to do something foolish or dangerous, like drifting toward the centre line before they suddenly change lanes,” he said.

Herbert explained the skills and techniques required to defend yourself against the recklessness of other drivers is known as defensive driving. When driving defensively, you are alert and ready for whatever happens.

“Defensive driving candidates at MasterDrive are taught ‘zone control’. This is how to manage all six areas in which there could be a hazard on the road. These include the front, front left, front right, rear, right and rear left. You need to be aware of what is happening in these zones at all times and ideally, predict what the actions of another in a zone might be,” Herbert said.

“Another way of driving defensively is to drive as though you are behind the wheel of five cars – your own, the one in front of you, behind you and the two on either side.”

Vishall Premlall.Following distance is vital. Vishall Premlall, national director of a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry, explains the “three-second rule”.

A driver travelling at 120km/h will need 227m to bring his vehicle to a standstill. That is from observing the problem and reacting and applying the brakes. If you have to add wet roads, worn tyres and brakes, this 227m grows exponentially.

“So the best way to work this out when driving is to pick a non-moving object along the road, like a road sign or a tree, and when the vehicle in front of you passes that object, start counting – one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, and note when your vehicle passes that object.

“If you pass it before finishing counting, you are following too close. The three-second rule only applies to good daylight driving conditions. If you are driving in heavy traffic, at night, or in bad weather, consider doubling the three-second rule to six seconds as a safety precaution.”

Blind spots are another leading cause of accidents and the following is advised:
• Always be alert to the fact that the driver next to you might not be aware of your presence. Rather increase or decrease your speed to avoid being in his blind spot.
• Stay out of the blind spots of large vehicles like trucks.
• Check and adjust your mirrors and find your blind spots. As a guide, when adjusting your side mirrors, there should only be a sliver of your vehicle in the mirror.
• Check your blind spots by turning your head to look over your shoulder before changing lanes.
• Signal when you want to change lanes and check again to make sure the way is clear.

In conclusion: Adhere to the rules of the road at all times, adapt your driving style according to the weather and traffic volumes, and stay calm.

Source: Cathy Findley PR

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