Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In South Africa, where motorists are renowned for aggressive driving, where one third of motorists aren’t insured, and where an exceptionally high rate of road accidents cost the economy more than R300-billion a year, the need to embrace defensive driving techniques is a strong one.

“Nobody can predict what other drivers are going to do. Testimony to this is the fact that last year, we received close to 3000 claims for minor bumper-bashings. Adopting a safety-above-all-else mindset, and always anticipating the possibility that someone might pull a dangerous maneuver near you, will put you in better stead on the road.

“You can’t change how others behave on the road, but driving with caution and being prepared can help you avoid potentially dangerous situations,” says Bradley Du Chenne, Senior Executive of Dial Direct Insurance.

He describes defensive driving as a method of driving where safety and accident avoidance are always first in mind. Using defensive driving techniques, motorists are better-able to assess and respond to potential hazards in a predictable way. These techniques go beyond simply adhering to basic traffic rules and procedures and encourage more conscious driving that allows motorists to anticipate situations and make safe, well-informed decisions about how to respond to them.

“At a very basic level, defensive driving is about anticipating or expecting the worst and then acting in the most responsible and safest way possible to avoid the worst happening. For instance, a defensive driver would keep a safe following distance, anticipating that the car in front of them will slam on brakes without warning, and before roaring off when a traffic light turns green, will first check in all directions to make sure that another vehicle hasn’t jumped the lights from the side,” says Du Chenne.

Defensive driving can be taught. Most states in America actually require drivers, particularly those who have committed offenses, to take defensive driving courses.

Dial Direct offers these tips for driving defensively:

  • Follow the rules of the road at all times.
  • Minimise distractions – don’t talk or SMS on your cellphone.
  • Keep your eyes held high and focused on the road ahead – don’t focus only on the car in front of you.
  • Minimise lane changes – pick a lane and stick to it. Also, anticipate and plan escape routes.
  • Keep your eye out for fast and blind lane changers – regularly monitor your rear and side view mirrors for cars darting in and out of lanes and watch out for drivers who absent-mindedly wander across lanes.
  • Look all ways at intersections – when the light turns green be extremely aware of your left, then right side traffic as you make your way through.
  • Get away from bad drivers – put a healthy distance between yourself and other erratic, bad drivers such as those who appear to be drunk, speeding, tail-gating, changing lanes erratically, and even those who are driving too slowly.
  • Keep a safe following distance – this will give you time to stop or swerve if the car in front of you suddenly turns, swerves or stops.
  • Signal early for turns, stops, and lane changes.
  • Brake smoothly and gradually.
  • Keep pace with traffic.
  • Adjust speed and position to avoid potential hazards.
  • Watch brake lights in adjacent lanes.
  • Be on high alert at intersections, when approaching pedestrian crossings; at parking lot entrances, and areas where children are such as outside schools.

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