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Reduce risk on the road

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Reduce risk on the road

Tim HillerbyMorgan
September 14, 2009

Tim HillerbyMorgan

Advanced drivers are taught to be hazard aware. They are taught to keep looking for problems and react to them as soon as they see them. This lets them tackle the hazard in a controlled manner. You should develop this skill as well.

Try this little test. Pick a route that you are familiar with and drive regularly. Next time you drive that route tell yourself what you see up-ahead. How much more did you see compared to the day before? Scary isn't it!

Some people ask me why should I bother looking any further than two cars ahead. There are three reasons. Good hazard awareness makes driving less stressful - 70% or road problems vanish if you spot the problems early enough and react straight away. Secondly it is cheaper - If you respond early you can respond gently and this could save you up to a months gas a year. Lastly it is safer - you will find that you are making the right choices for the road ahead.

What is a hazard?

A hazard is anything that could make you change the way that you are driving. Put more simply -its something that you have to deal with. They come in three forms. Fixed Hazards never move -Junctions are an example of a fixed hazard. Potential Hazards might change - Parked cars might pull out. Dynamic Hazards are also known as moving or actual hazards. A car emerging from a junction is a dynamic hazard. You must react to dynamic hazards

You may have more than one hazard. Prioritize them. Flesh over car. Near over far. Dynamic over propable over stationary.

Observation skills are the core of hazard awareness. The name for this skill has changed. Most instructors call it scanning of hazards. It has been called reading the road. They bothe mean spotting the problems. Personally I call it seeing.

New Sctoland yard has been teaching these skills to police drivers for over 50 years. London traffic police have one of the most difficult training courses in the world. The UK government's department of transport has asked its driving standards agency to make sure that all learner drivers are taught these skills. This means that every British driving instructor is teaching these skills in every driving lesson.

There are five habits to good hazard awareness. They are:

1.Look well ahead
2.Keep your eyes moving
3.Look from building to building
4.Spot the problems
5.React now

Lets take the first two habits. Look as far down the road as you can see. Then mid-distance. Then close to the car. Then check whats happening in the mirrors. Do this every time you drive your car, or are in a car.

The third habit is the hardest to develop. You must become aware of the entire road - even the sidewalks and alleys.

If you position your car correctly this skill will be easier to develop.

Position your car so that you have the best view of the road ahead of you. You need to see what is happening as far ahead as possible. You can use cars and windows as mirrors. As you approach junctions you should look for chances to see into the new road. Keep an eye out for gaps in the buildings and fences. You can look over, under and through parked cars and the cars ahead of you.

The fourth habit is the easiest to develop. Here are some exercises to try in the car:

1.Say what you can see. For example, 'Traffic lights in the distance. Pedestrian near a crossing, junction right, cyclist to my rear'

2.Shout it out. Every time the scene changes shout it out. For example, 'Car junction . Cyclist on crossing'

3.What is he trying to do? Try to predict what another road user is going to do. For example, - Pedestrian left looking across the road - likely to cross quickly. Boy leaving nursery alone - run out in front of you'

The easiest habit to develop is reacting now. You will find that as soon as you identify a hazard your foot will start to lift of that gas pedal.

Does it work? Yes. I am a Driving Instructor and former police driver. I can cross my home town (Hull) and only touch my brakes three to eight times. Hull, the UK's fifteenth largest town is three miles across the centre.

The Drivers Ed Company are working to end road accident deaths in America and the UK.

Tim, our senior instructor, wrote The Student Driver Manual. You can get this at http://www.driversedcompany.com/studentdriver

Tim is a UK government approved driving instructor. He teaches learner drivers and advanced motorists.

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