How to drive defensively

Posted by: Cal on 6/01/2014

Category: General

Australian road safety has improved significantly over the past few decades, with road fatalities halving between 2000 and 2008, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

There have been extensive efforts to reduce death and injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents in Australia, including compulsory seat belts, speed cameras, improved road designs, safer vehicles, strengthened road use laws, better tyre safety and increased public awareness of the importance of road safety.

Despite these best efforts, there's always more drivers can be doing to ensure their own safety and that of others on the road. Follow these defensive driving tips to keep your loved ones out of harm's way on the roads.

Minimise distractions

Driver distraction can be deadly, so before you set off on your journey, switch your cell phone to silent mode and keep it out of reach so you're not tempted to check it while you drive. Remember that if you use your phone while you drive you're not only risking your safety, but you may also be breaking the law.

Different states have different rules on what you can and can't do on a phone when you drive, so check these out before you phone a friend.

Cell phones aren't the only distractions, however. Fiddling with your car stereo, eating, drinking and interacting with other passengers can all divert the driver's attention in a dangerous way.

Have an escape route

No matter where you're traveling or how fast your car is moving, it's a good idea to keep an alternate path of travel in mind at all times. This means if the worst case scenario happens, you are better prepared to move your vehicle out of the line of danger.

Firstly, ensure your car is positioned in a place where you can see and be seen by other drivers. Take the position of other vehicles on the road into consideration, and make sure you have plenty of room to move if your immediate path of travel is suddenly blocked. This means it's best to avoid being sandwiched tightly between two cars when driving in heavy traffic, so increase your travelling distance or switch lanes if required.

Scan the road

Another important element of driving defensively is constantly scanning your path of travel to check for hazards and predict potential safety issues. This includes upcoming traffic, animals close to the road, pedestrians, and surrounding vehicles. Check your side mirrors and rear vision mirror frequently, especially before making a turn or changing lanes. Remember your blind spot - if you've made a note of which cars are around you, look for these before you make any sudden movements as they may have crept into it.

Adjust your car's speed and driving position to anticipate these hazards, giving yourself plenty of room and time to react if potential problems turn into reality.

Take your time

When you're driving in traffic travelling at high speeds, it can be tempting to try and keep up with the pack. However, driving closely in clusters of traffic can increase your risk of accidents, as there's less room for you to move if a car in front of you stops suddenly.

Speed is also another major factor when it comes to road accidents, and even a few kilometres over the limit can increase your risk of serious injury should you crash.

Reduce your speed when travelling in rain, fog, or on tricky terrain. If the weather suddenly gets particularly bad, pull over and wait for it to pass.