Driving needs your full concentration. Being constantly alert to what’s going on around you and what might lie ahead is essential if you’re to prevent an accident.
Here are three basic tips that can improve your hazard perception while driving, helping you to anticipate potential dangers on the road and be a safer driver.
1. Are you driving too close?
You should always leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front, just in case it suddenly slows down or makes an emergency stop.
The safest rule is to never get closer than the overall stopping distance appropriate to your road conditions, giving yourself enough time to react to the situation. The Highway Code’s general guide on typical stopping distances considers both thinking and braking distances.
In general, you should allow at least a two-second gap when driving on good road surfaces in decent weather. But you should double this (or more) in wet conditions, and be aware that stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer on icy roads.
2. Is it safe to overtake?
Before you consider overtaking another vehicle that isn’t stationary, you should consider whether it’s safe and legal to do so.
Don’t attempt overtaking if:
There are double white lines in the middle of the road
The car in front is approaching a pedestrian crossing
You need to enter a bus lane during its hours of operation
You can see a ‘no overtaking’ sign
You should also avoid overtaking anywhere you could come into conflict with other road users, especially on a corner, bend, hump bridge or the brow of a hill.
Even when you’re confident the road ahead is sufficiently clear, always check your mirrors to be sure no-one behind you is beginning to overtake you. Use your indicators correctly to make your intentions clear, take extra care when overtaking large vehicles, and leave plenty of space when passing vulnerable road users such as cyclists.
3. How’s your speed?
Don’t kid yourself that speeding isn’t dangerous. Britain’s most recent government statistics concluded that exceeding the speed limit or travelling too fast for the road conditions were the contributory factors towards 19% of fatal road accidents in 2018.
It goes to show that, even if you’re not exceeding the national limit, you should be aware if you’re driving at a safe speed for the type of road you’re on. Consider reducing your speed at night, in poor weather conditions, and when the road ahead presents hazards (such as bends). Remember, you’re sharing the road with pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and perhaps even horse riders. That said, driving too hesitantly or slowly is also potentially dangerous, as it can cause confusion and problems for other road users.
The best thing you can do is always set out with the conviction that you’ll drive safely and confidently, at the appropriate speed for the road and conditions, and with consideration for those around you. And never start a journey without having car insurance.