How to be a better driver
Don’t always accept the prevailing slower-is-safer wisdom, writes Denis Droppa
Most people consider themselves to be above-average drivers, which is of course statistically impossible. But there is a way to be a better driver and improve your chances of staying alive, and ensuring other road users do too.
Baz Luhrmann opens his Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) song by exhorting us to protect our skins, the long-term benefits of which have been proven by scientists. He goes on to say that for the rest of his life advice has no basis more reliable than his own meandering experience.
As we get ready to hit the roads this holiday season we similarly dispense advice on road safety, as gleaned from driving instructors and road safety experts.
This one’s at the top of the list because, like wearing sunscreen, the long-term benefits of courteous driving is a proven technique to staying alive — and even partially sane — on our congested roads.
There are many factors to this but it boils down to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
Don’t block the overtaking lane on freeways; it causes road rage. The keeping left and passing right law was created to keep the traffic flowing smoothly. This also means not occupying the fast lane by default, and moving over only when you see a faster car approaching in your mirrors. There will be a time when you lose concentration and not notice a car behind, causing unnecessary irritation.
One has no business in the freeway overtaking lane unless one is overtaking. Make keep-left-pass-right your mantra.
Slower isn’t always safer
Don’t exceed the speed limit; it’s safer and more economically expedient. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that driving slower is always safer, as urged by some insurance company phone apps.
While such apps are good for discouraging you from behaving like a wheel-spinning boy-racer, and using your phone while driving, they have a downside.
For instance, they penalise you for accelerating faster such as when merging onto a freeway or overtaking — in both cases getting it done faster is the safer thing to do.
Drive positively and overtake quickly. Good driving demands continuous planning and the making of correct decisions to suit the circumstances at that time. There is no room for half-hearted or doubtful drivers, as they cause collisions. Overtake in the minimum amount of time to leave the road clear for other vehicles.
It is not so much speed that kills as the speed differential between vehicles, so the idea is to not drive a lot faster or slower than the prevailing traffic.
Be compos mentis
Don’t drive drunk or stoned. Enough has been said about the dangers of drunk driving not to need repetition here, but the recent relaxation of cannabis laws has brought another potential danger onto our roads.
After the private use of cannabis in SA was effectively decriminalised in 2018, it raised the prospect of more people driving stoned as newly emboldened dagga users came “out of the closet”.
Motor News attended a driving experiment at Pretoria’s Gerotek test centre late last year which incontrovertibly found that driving under the influence of cannabis had a detrimental effect on a person’s ability.
Also, don’t drive drowsy. When loud music, drinking coffee, or even pinching yourself fails to overcome your body’s need for a nap, stop the car and take a break, even if it adds five or 10 minutes to the journey.
Know the rules of the road
The rules of the road have been designed for the safety of all road users. Know these rules and obey them at all times. Use your signals to inform others clearly of your intentions. It is the only way we can communicate with other road users. Ensure that your signals are clear and not misleading in any way.
Advanced driving skills
Consider attending an advanced driving course to improve your skills behind the wheel. While some might think these courses are for boy-racers to have fun chasing around a racetrack, they teach valuable driving skills and provide an important insight into safe braking and cornering, situational awareness, and defensive driving.
It’s all the important stuff the K53 test doesn’t teach you, and you might just have fun doing it too.
Get to your destination safely
Accidents have enormous effects on our lives both financially and emotionally. As the driver your main aim is to get your family to your holiday destination safely and to enjoy your holiday and then to get your family home safely.