Safe Driving Tips – A Professional Guide
Safe driving is a state of mind. Be alert for the unexpected and ready to take evasive action. Before planning a long drive, always get a good night sleep and eat a snack or meal. Pull over and take breaks every couple of hours to be physically active, even if you do not feel sleepy at all. If you can, share the driving responsibilities with your friends and colleagues.
Knowing what is happening around you
Glancing regularly in the rear and side vision mirrors enables you to know what is occurring behind and beside your vehicle. This is very important, especially for overtaking and changing lanes.
Rear vision mirrors
Before driving, adjust your mirrors after you have positioned the driver’s seat. The outside mirrors should be adjusted so that they just catch a view of the edge of your car. As a guide, you should be able to just see the rear door handle in the bottom corner of the side mirrors.
When adjusted correctly there will be an overlap between the view from your inside and outside mirrors. However, regardless of how well you set up your mirrors, there will be blind spots and you must remember to do a head check. Glance regularly in the rear vision and side mirrors. By doing this you will be aware of what is occurring behind you. This is very important for overtaking and merging.
Mirrors don’t really show you everything behind and beside you. There are blind spots and you may not be able to see a small vehicle like a motorcycle or bicycle. You need to be able to do a head check by turning your head, to the left or right and quickly looking over your shoulder to make sure that the space you are about to move into is not occupied.
This applies when you are changing lanes, pulling out from the kerb, turning, or temporarily entering a bicycle or bus lane. Turning from the waist to do a head check, instead of just turning your head will make it easier to see traffic.
When you are getting into or out of your car, you must not cause a hazard for any person or vehicle including cyclists when opening your door. That’s why a head check is essential. It can be a life saver.
Take care in car parks and near trams and buses
Pedestrians, especially children and people using motorised mobility scooters, can be difficult to see when you are reversing in a car park. Relying on what you can see in your mirrors is not enough. You need to do a head check to look over your left and right shoulders. If you have a passenger, ask them to look too.
Other road users can act unpredictably, e.g. when approaching a stopped bus or tram be aware that a child may run out from behind or in front of it. Be prepared to take evasive action if necessary.
Often the ability to judge distance and speed deteriorates with age and older people may take longer to react. So, keep a safe distance from the car in front. Under normal conditions, on most roads and highways, you should try to have a three second gap between your car and the car in front where possible. In wet weather and at night, leave a bigger gap.
The way to work this out is to pick a solid object beside the road, such as a post. When the back end of the car in front reaches the object start counting ‘one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three’ – three seconds. The front of your car should not have reached this point until you have counted three seconds. If it has, you are too close.
The three second gap should be extended to four seconds in the following situations:
- at night or in poor light
- bad weather conditions such as rain or fog
- when you are tired
- when your vehicle is heavily laden and can’t stop as quickly
- when you are towing
- when you are unsure of the road.
Waiting to turn
When waiting to turn into a driveway, side street, or at an intersection have your wheels pointing straight ahead. This way if your car is hit in the rear you will go straight ahead. If you have your wheels turned, you are likely to go in that direction, perhaps into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Always obey the speed limits and remember to be aware of when school speed zones are in effect. The speed limit is the maximum speed at which you can drive. Depending on the traffic, weather and your familiarity with the road, you may need to drive at a slower speed that is safe for the conditions. Try to drive in the left lane so that others can pass you if they wish.
Daytime running lights
Research shows that using headlights on low beam during the daytime reduces the risk of a crash because you can be seen more readily by others. Many newer cars have daytime running lights that automatically switch on when the car is started. Remember that low beam headlights must also be used in hazardous weather conditions that cause reduced visibility.
Driving at night
Avoid driving at dusk or at night. Overnight driving can be dangerous on country roads which have no street lighting. If it is necessary to drive at night, do not drive at those times when you would normally be asleep. Keep the journey as short as possible and travel on familiar roads.
Long distance travel
Try to avoid long distance travel if possible. However, if it is an important journey, plan it well in advance and where possible share the driving with your spouse or a friend. Rest well before you start the journey and plan for frequent rest periods; at least every two hours.
If you are not feeling your best or if you are an older driver
You should avoid driving if you are tired, upset or not feeling well.
Avoid potentially dangerous road and traffic conditions, particularly if your reaction times have slowed down.
Plan to drive when there is less traffic and avoid driving in the wet or in poor light.
Be especially alert to what other road users are doing and avoid distractions, including use of mobile phones, GPS navigation aids and music players.
Don’t allow passengers to distract you from the driving task and ensure that any devices such as heaters or radios are selected and adjusted appropriately before you start driving.
Older drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes at intersections and on multi-lane roads. Be aware of selecting a safe gap in the traffic, especially when entering the flow of traffic, driving through an intersection, turning or overtaking.
Plan your trips to use intersections with traffic lights. Intersections with Stop or Give Way signs are a better choice than intersections with no signs.
Try to find roads with less traffic. If possible choose a route where you can do left turns instead of right turns.
At intersections, always look right and left, then right again, to make sure that it is all clear to go. Do this even where there are signs and traffic lights. Take the time to look for any vehicles and to judge their distance from you. Many crashes occur because drivers do not follow this basic driving practice.
Peripheral vision can decrease with age so to compensate, turn your head more. If there is any doubt about how far away a car is, don’t proceed until it has passed. If the driver behind is sounding the horn, don’t be bullied into moving off until you are satisfied that it’s safe.
You can reduce the impact of driver aggression by driving in a courteous manner.
Try the following tips.
- Don’t drive slowly in the passing lane
- Don’t prevent other vehicles from overtaking
- Avoid cutting in on others
- Change lanes correctly when it’s safe to do so
- Don’t block intersections
- Give way to others when pulling out
- Avoid following too closely to the vehicle in front
- Use indicators to allow plenty of warning
- Avoiding aggressive drivers confronting you
- Acknowledge any mistakes you may make
- Don’t retaliate against other drivers. If the other driver is ahead, increase the gap between you and the other car. If the other driver is tailgating you, maintain a steady speed or enable him or her to pass. If very concerned, drive to a police station.
- Avoid verbal or direct eye contact
- Ensure all your windows and doors are locked
- Make a note of the registration details and report the matter to police
If you’re an anxious driver
- Accept that anger will do nothing to get you out of irritating traffic situations
- Recognise when you are becoming angry
- Take deep breaths and try to regain calm
- Avoid the kind of traffic you know is likely to make you angry or apprehensive
Good drivers know that they cannot control traffic delays or aggressive drivers. What they can control is their reactions to these situations. Good drivers keep their cool.
Driving assessments / Crash course driving
For many of us, it’s a long time since we had any crash driving course lessons. It’s a good idea to have a driving assessment and a refresher course if necessary.
- Safe Driving Tips from VicRoads Test