Defensive driving, also known as ‘advanced driving’ is a system of vehicle control developed by Sir Malcolm Campbell and the UK Metropolitan Police in the 1950s. Emergency services around the world use it as a standard technique today.
Ian Littlefield, Training and ENQHSE Manager, Dubai Driving Centre says, “Defensive driving is basically driving in a systematic way, taking, using and giving information to reduce risk, plan effectively, and actively manage the behavior of other road users by your actions.”
He added, “Controlling your speed to give you enough time to act safely and smoothly on the information you are taking in will help you create a bubble of space around the vehicle. When someone squeezes your bubble from the back, you extend it in front and you try to do the same with your side space. It might sound complicated, but in reality, with a little bit of practice, it becomes second nature.”
Defensive driving techniques involve promoting careful observation, early anticipation, and a planned and methodical use of your vehicles controls. The goal is to maximize stability and leave nothing to chance.
96% of road accidents are caused by human errors and can be avoided with the use of defensive driving techniques and having a positive frame of mind stated Khalid Javed, Training and Technical Consultant, Emirates Driving Institute (EDI) while referring to a research study.
He added, “The physiology of defensive driving method encourages the road users to control their anger and show courtesy towards the road users.”
It sounds complicated and seems like a lot of work, but it’s something anyone can learn to do with some practice.
EDI, DDC and other driving schools in Dubai now run specialized courses in defensive driving with the aim of improving safety.
Now that we have some understanding of what it is, let’s see what it involves. Defensive driving involves implementing the following steps:
While Driving, you can gather information by systematically scanning the road and your mirrors, listening for sounds that might indicate a possible hazard, such as emergency vehicle sirens or high revving engines. Remain on alert for feedback from your car through your steering wheel and also for smells such as leaking fuel or burning,
Just planning your actions isn’t enough. You need to communicate your intentions with the surrounding traffic, so that they can, in turn, adopt that information into their plans. You can communicate through the use of signals, flashing headlights and brake lights, and through the position of your vehicle. Remember forewarned is forearmed.
When you are driving, you will probably come across various situations. Here are some techniques on how to respond to some of them:
Responding to a Hazard
- If you sense a possible hazard, check to see if your vehicle is in the correct position to handle the hazard. Keep in mind that the position of your vehicle also alerts the traffic to a possible changing situation.
- Verify that your current speed is appropriate for the situation and react accordingly by either maintaining your speed, decelerating or braking.
- If you are driving a stick shift, make sure you are in the appropriate gear for your speed. Krrp in mind that the right gear will allow you to accelerate or decelerate with equal ease.
- If appropriate, accelerate to maintain stability; for example, in a bend.
Responding to other drivers
- If you’re approaching another vehicle waiting to turn, it is difficult to determine whether they are going to wait or pull out. The prudent thing to do is to give them enough space to pull out. This puts you in control of the situation.
- If a faster vehicle with flashing lights is approaching you from the rear, and you can’t give way immediately due to traffic, look for a gap and signal your intention to give way. This will inform the other driver of you intention to give way and possibly dissuade them from making a potentially hazardous undertaking move.
Responding to a changing situation
- When you notice a bus ahead, expect that it will pullover to embark and disembark passengers. Reduce your speed, move slightly closer to the centre line, and be ready to pass it.
- When you spot an ambulance responding to an emergency, be on the look our for other first responders, such as police and firefighters.
- When you notice a pedestrian wearing headphones near the edge of the sidewalk, reduce your speed and move closer to the centre of the road. They are likely to step out onto the road without being aware of your vehicles approach.