30 April 2024 · Tips N' Tricks

Defensive Driving


Mastering the art of defensive driving: a comprehensive guide: Being a conscientious driver, you prioritise safety above all else. However, there's another crucial element to consider: defensive driving.

What is defensive driving?

Defensive driving is essentially a collection of various principles, tactics and techniques intended to help you reduce the risks associated with driving. It's an acknowledgement that the roads are a dangerous, unpredictable place and a commitment to expect and be prepared to deal with the worst-case scenario.

What defensive-driving techniques should I use?

Defensive driving all flows from driver's mindset and attitude, which is vital because this has a huge bearing on how you act behind the wheel. A defensive-driving mindset means recognising you're about to engage in a potentially dangerous task and getting your head right first.

It means putting away the mobile phone and other distractions, not eating or putting on make-up while you drive and choosing not to drive if you're tired, affected by alcohol or highly emotional, all states when we are susceptible to making poor decisions.

Once you've got your head right, you can try these tactics to keep you safer.

Get your driving position right

A defensive-driving mindset means knowing you might need to perform an emergency manoeuvre at any time and if you're not seated correctly you could struggle to control your car. There are some basic tips to make sure your driving position is correct (defensive driving or not).

You should be able to put your foot behind the brake pedal and touch the firewall without stretching your leg too much (this will ensure you can brake effectively) and touch the top steering wheel with the bottom of your wrists without stretching your arm too much (this will ensure you have full steering control).

You also want to set your seat height so your eyeline is level (this will ensure you can look up the road) and you should keep your hands in the nine and three o’clock position (this will ensure you have maximum wheel-twirling capacity).

Slow down

Obviously speeding is a big no-no but you can still drive at a legal speed and be going too fast for a particular scenario. There are many cases when dropping below the posted limit is likely to keep you out of trouble, from wet weather or fog to passing a traffic jam in the next lane. If in doubt, slow down – it's the simplest way to buy more braking distance (i.e. time) if something unexpected happens.

Stay back

Further to the above point, keeping your distance from the traffic in front will also buy you additional braking distance should you need it. Follow the three-second rule (i.e. travel three seconds behind the vehicle in front) but you want to leave more distance in wet weather, fog or other potentially hazardous situations.

Scan and anticipate

Another key aspect of defensive driving is being eternally vigilant to possible dangers. You want to look beyond the car ahead of you and scan up the road while engaging your full anticipatory skills. Some dangers on the road creep up from behind, so perform regular mirror checks around every three seconds to ensure you're fully aware of what's going on around you in all directions.

Being seen is an integral part of driver safety and this tactic ensures other drivers won't lose sight of you and potentially stray into your path. From your perspective, having your car's nose approximately level with its rear quarter panels is the no-go zone.

Polish your emergency-driving skills

Attitude and anticipation can go a long way to lowering your risk exposure but there's no substitute for knowing how your car reacts in an emergency manoeuvre and having the techniques to control it. If you want to truly be the safest driver you can be, invest in a defensive driving course with one of Australia's many driver training organisations.