Can anyone claim to be an expert in driving? If so, what qualities does an expert driver has? In Nigeria, few drivers have mastered the rules of defensive driving while others take to much for granted and putting both their lives and that of others at risk.
The road is inherently a dangerous place to be and with technological distractions in our cars, exposed to various metal and glass – trucks, tankers loaded with highly explosive and flammable substances – it has become extremely important to master good defensive driving.
Hence motorists must follow these rules to be vigilant against threats and become excellent defensive drivers.
7 Rules To Become Excellent Defensive Drivers
1. KNOW YOUR VEHICLE
Vehicle owners must know the stuff their vehicle is made of, the engine, transmissions, brakes and tires combine to form a whole package of every vehicle. All cars are made of different capacities – Toyota, Honda Accord, Porsche, Ferrari, trucks etc.
Some Nigerians still use manual vehicles and that’s a far cry from the automatic cars with more sophisticated gadgets. Both are handled differently, so, you should not be speeding around like you have a track-worthy sports car if your car is not engineered to go hard.
Also be aware of the safety features in your car and use them effectively.
2. USE YOUR EYES
Driving is one of the most visual demanding activities a person can engage in, thus a driver must use them obsessively to monitor the road, objects and people in front, by the side and behind.
You should constantly scan the three mirrors in your car, while your central focus should be on the road ahead. Try to retain a short-term mental picture of the activity around you; remember that truck, the pickup, the guy on the motorcycle, the dude who’s on over the speed limit, that pedestrian etc. By doing this, you can predict your next move and better manage your own on-road decision making.
3. DON’T TAILGATE
Sadly, this is one major safety measure many Nigerian drivers fail to adhere every day, especially in a traffic-clogged road. While driving on a highway, you should create a lot of distance between you and the car in front of you, so as to execute evasive manoeuvres to avoid an accident or engage the antilock brakes in your cars to prevent rear-ending the vehicle ahead of you.
How much space? An expert recommends at least a semi truck length, which is about three cars length. In a stop-and-go traffic, where rear-ending is common, you can keep at least a couple of car lengths between yourself and the other person.
Such measures create big margin for error and prevent a lot of horrific road accidents where one vehicle can crash into another. Remember, tailgating a truck can turn any car into a convertible.
4. BE SMOOTH
According to the legendary race car driver, Jackie Stewart, to monitor how smooth your driving skill is, put a bowl of water on your dashboard. This suggests that you should be able to drive around without spilling a drop of the water.
You can drive smoothly by finessing and caressing your ride – don’t punch it, don’t slam the brakes. You accelerate and decelerate in a smoothly linear fashion, and you keep your eyes on the road ahead to plan your decisions and remain ever aware of how hard your engine is running and what the road beneath your tires feels like. You minimize steering inputs – and keep both hands on the wheel as often as possible. Just float the car.
In a nutshell, you appreciate that you’re engaged in a demanding cognitive and sensory experience, and you allow your body and mind to blend with the machine. You do this with a $100,000 sports car and $20,000 compact.
5. RESPECT THE SPEED LIMIT
Exceeding a speed limit of 60mph is an offence which so many modern car owners are guilty of. With horsepower vehicles around, Drivers weave in and out of traffic, running 20 or 30 miles over the limit and passing in all lanes
The simple plea is, “don’t do this!” It’s better to get to your destination safe than sorry. Not driving too slowly because that is also as dangerous especially on a highway where every driver should strive tp achieve a steady cruising speed.
By obeying the speed limit rules, your fuel economy will be better, you’ll inflict less wear on your brakes and tires, and you’ll be far less likely to be responsible for a crash.
6. FORGET ABOUT YOUR PHONE
Life is more important than objects, materials, therefore whatever is happening on that ‘tiny screen’ of yours can wait until you’re safely away from the road. Distracted drivers are not defensive drivers thus any driver can die a horrible death if he/she so much as fiddle with the AM/FM radio knob or phone. The activities on the road, while you’re driving is more realistic than what is happening with your phone.
Not just phone, texting, eating, drinking, playing loud music, socialising, engaging in argument and getting upset behind the wheel are all distractive driving and should be avoided at all costs.
7. DON’T BE SEDUCED BY NEW SAFETY TECHNOLOGY
With Drivers-assist features are a hallmark of modern cars. From adaptive cruise control, making use of radars and sensors, to lane-keep assist, collision alerts, and blind-spot warnings, these technologies have extended a legacy of safety, which started with seat belts and moved through airbags and into anti-lock brakes.
As useful as they are, you should not substitute them for remaining attentive behind your wheel. Driving carefully is the best step toward defensive driving.