Drivers will tell you that it is always the other driver that you have to watch out for and not really yourself. That is partially true, but there is still a lot you can do from your side to minimise the dangers posed by other motorists on the road.
It’s a sobering thought, and we all tend to forget this, but to have a driver’s licence is actually a privilege and not a right. Just because someone has a driver’s licence is, of course, no guarantee that that person is a safe driver. Good driving doesn’t just happen by itself.
CAN ATTITUDE BE A MAJOR DANGER ON THE ROAD?
Yes, you may think how can a silly thing like attitude endanger my driving? Well, it is really true – ask the ones that have crashed their cars – in nearly all cases, if they are really honest, they will say it was their attitude.
Let’s unpack this word attitude.
ATTITUDE OF NO SELF-RESPECT
Many motorists are not very confident drivers, and that attitude can cause serious headaches for other drivers on the road. What you mean by that? Well, when driving, the motorist must not be aggressive (another attitude discussed later) but must certainly be decisive.
When for instance coming to a four-way stop, if you got there first, you need to go and not hesitate, as this will confuse other motorists.
AGGRESSIVE ATTITUDE – WHAT ABOUT DRIVING IN THE “FAST LANE”?
Here we are dealing with an attitude that is the opposite of the previously-mentioned one, but even more dangerous. We need to ensure that our own driving doesn’t trigger aggression or road rage in other drivers.
For instance, in a two lane road, we should, if possible, not continually drive in the “fast” lane even though we are sticking to the speed limit. Sometimes, it is just pure pride keeping us in the fast lane. We say “Why should I go to the “slow” lane, when I am sticking to the speed limit, whilst this guy sitting on my car’s rear bumper just wants to speed?”
We can’t be the judge of that motorist, who may possibly have a legitimate reason for having to exceed the speed limit. And why frustrate drivers this way – if they want to speed, although not justified, it’s still their prerogative. By moving over to the other lane, you keep your peace, and the other driver can overtake you without becoming frustrated, or worse still – angry.
AGGRESSIVE ATTITUDE – TAILGATING
In South Africa, motorists have a notorious disregard for respecting the distance between themselves and the car in front of them. So often you hear “This guy was right up against my car’s back bumper.” The driver who is doing this is already showing aggression – for whatever reason, he wants you out of the way as soon as possible.
The best way to diffuse the situation is by moving over to the other lane if there is one. Although you are allowed to move into the emergency lane during day light (eg when an ambulance is involved), you need to remember that you are at considerable risk at being there. There could well be, for instance, a cyclist, pedestrian, or stationary car in that lane, and you might only spot them once you go over the rise of a hill.
ATTITUDE OF COMPLETE LAWLESSNESS
How often do you see cars going into the lane of oncoming traffic and then try and quickly find a spot in the row of cars in the left lane when oncoming cars are bearing down on them? What about those guys going through the red traffic lights as not the first but the third car? And that driver who goes into a lane meant for turning left and then quite happily goes straight? So the list goes on and on.
HOW CAN THESE NEGATIVE ATTITUDES BE URGENTLY ADDRESSED AND CHANGED?
These attitudes are deeply embedded with our motorists, and need to be urgently addressed if anyone out there is serious about reducing the accident rate. What about good driver education – such as regular adverts on TV? It’ll most probably be amazing what impact that would have on motorists’ attitudes, if they are regularly exposed to say short video clips on typical driving attitudes.
This cannot be emphasised enough – the only way this negative and destructive driving culture can really begin to change noticeably is through a consistent, ‘zero tolerance’ 24/7 law enforcement system. If, for instance, the AARTO merit point system was seriously implemented and enforced, the shock waves would spread very quickly when motorists get to hear that some drivers’ licences were recently suspended for 6 months because these drivers had run out of points.
So, here we are, driving every day in this chaotic and lawless traffic on our roads. We can’t wait for those perpetrators continually breaking the law to be eventually sorted out by some law enforcement system – life has to go on! So what can we do in the meantime, as law-abiding drivers to protect ourselves?
The answer lies with the successful culture of defensive driving.
WHAT IS DEFENSIVE DRIVING?
Defensive driving refers to using certain skills and techniques for defending ourselves against the threats of errors caused by motorists. Of all road accidents, 85-90% can be blamed on driver error. When we drive defensively, we are on the alert and prepared to address whatever happens on the road.
Defensive driving involves anticipating dangerous scenarios as well as the mistakes of others. It’s again about an attitude of being cautious and aware, with the intent of making the road safer, not only for ourselves, but also for others. This is, of course, the opposite of aggressive driving.
A defensive driver is prepared for any danger by trying to avoid it. For instance, an elderly driver avoids peak hour traffic, as well as night driving. One also needs to be aware of the following:
- Your own driving ability – choose traffic times and weather conditions that you can handle best
- The condition of your car – it must be well-maintained, have no defective brakes, worn tyres, not be overloaded, and so on.
- Road, weather and traffic conditions – delay travel if adverse conditions prevail. Planning your route will avoid over-fatigue from setting in.
- Adjusting to road and weather conditions – you need to adapt to adverse road conditions by e.g. slowing down. With the first rains, the road surface could be extra slippery due to possible oil slicks.
- Knowing the rules of the road – you need to know when to give the right of way, road markings, and so on, and be alert to those who don’t know what they mean.
- Protecting yourself from injury – ensure that all your passengers including yourself are all belted up. Loose objects inside your car should be secured.
SHARING THE ROADS SAFELY AND DEFENSIVELY
Below are just a few of the techniques that can be used when driving your car:
- Continuously checking your mirrors and scanning the road ahead.
- What’s happening in the front of the car that’s in from of you?
- Be aware at all times of what’s happening 360 degrees around you.
- Flow with the traffic – not too slow or too fast.
- Be aware of other drivers that could suddenly shoot out of their lane, and try and anticipate what they might do. Don’t assume anything.
- Approach traffic lights with caution, whether they are red or green.
- A courteous attitude goes a long way!
- Keep an eye on pedestrians, cyclists, and stray animals.
- Check your blind spot before changing lanes, and don’t drive into the other driver’s blind spot.
AVOID AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS
- Avoid potential road rage scenarios. Let your attitude be passive, and put pride in your pocket.
- Let tailgaters know they are too close to you by just tapping the brakes.
- Don’t hog the fast lane, especially when a speedster is approaching.
- Always pull back or away from an aggressive driver – let him overtake you.
- Concentrate on the road, and avoid distractions.
- Control your emotions as much as possible.
- Don’t drive when feeling tired, or under the influence of alcohol.
ALLOWING TIME AND SPACE
Keep a safe following distance by sticking to the 2-3 second rule. Increase this to 4-5 seconds when travelling at night or in bad weather.
Don’t weave in and out of lanes.
— Arrive Alive (@_ArriveAlive) March 21, 2017