Sharpen your safe driving skills

What makes a safe driver?

What makes a safe driver?

Self-discipline is probably the most important of all. It is the only counter we have against impatience and aggression, which are the root causes of so many accidents.

Only by gritting our teeth and forcing ourselves to relax will we tolerate the painfully slow driver who refuses to move over into the yellow lane to let us pass, instead of trying to intimidate him by tailgating, flashing lights, etc.

Nobody is born with self-discipline and it's not something that money can buy.

Good judgment is nearly as important as self-discipline. Overtaking on the open road, for instance, is often a matter of judgment: Does my car have enough power to quickly build up a speed differential? Can I see far enough ahead? How far is that approaching car and how fast is it travelling?

Experienced drivers know that it is notoriously difficult to gauge the speed of a vehicle coming directly towards you, and doubly so at night.

Alertness behind the wheel is a feature of every safe driver. The average reaction time of a person is usually taken as 1,5 seconds. At 100 km/h you travel 42 metres in 1,5 seconds.

That's almost half the length of a soccer field before you have even reacted. If you are drowsy, or preoccupied with a cellphone conversation, your reaction time can easily be 2 seconds or longer, whereas a highly alert driver, his foot hovering over the brake pedal because he sees children playing next to the road, can cut down the reaction time to one second.

Anticipation is an automatic habit of safe drivers. They are always scanning the road ahead (and behind, in their rear-view mirror) so that they have enough time to take appropriate action instead of relying on frantic, last-second braking, swerving, etc. They will see a bus stopping and immediately fall back a little in case the car in front has to stop suddenly.

In their rear-view mirror they will see the sun low on the horizon, and they will realise the drivers of cars coming from the front might be blinded, and therefore it is a good idea to switch on the headlights to make themselves more visible.

For many of us the holiday period will mean long hours on the road. Perhaps we should regard it as an opportunity to sharpen our safe driving skills, instead of an unavoidable drudgery.