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Hazards and driving style :

It is very important to have a confident and competent driving style. If you are able to convince your driving examiner within the first few minutes that you are an excellent driver, they are less likely to be looking for faults as you drive throughout your driving test. To do this your driving should be smooth, predictable and boring !

Everything should be planned well in advance,and the only way you can do this is to be constantly scanning the whole situation around you. Check the mirrors often, and change frequently where your eyes are focusing. Then if your focus point is steady, change the area within your field of view that that your attention is upon. Scan into the distance, mid-distance, close-to, and side-to-side.

Here are a few rules you can use to keep you safe on the road, and improve your technique:

  • Make all your changes of speed and direction smooth and predictable. If you don't take anyone by surprise it is very difficult to have an accident.
  • Take responsibility for dealing with a situation, not relying on other people to do the sensible thing.
  • Always keep space around your vehicle: Hold well back, keep space to your sides, and always try to maximise your safety margins (see below).
  • When vision is restricted, such as by a parked vehicle, or by a truck turning, always assume that something may happen in the area that you cannot see, until you can prove to yourself that it's not.
  • Take responsibility for your learning, and make your own decisions. Try not to wait for your instructor to tell you what to do, but take the initiative. Your ultimate aim should be to drive with your instructor as though he wasn't there.
  • Drive defensively: Take control - try not to allow another driver to put you in a position of danger. Eg. never open a gap to your side that you are going to close off later, because as soon as you open the gap someone may move into it.

Maximising your safety margins:
One of the most important concepts of good driving is that of "maximising your safety margins". This means that you should leave as much space around you as possible, on all sides, and drive at a speed which enables you to cope with anything that may occur:

For example:  You are driving along a busy, but fairly narrow, two-lane one-way street full of shoppers, with parked cars both sides of the road (Leigh Broadway). You want to turn right at the end, so you need to be in the right-hand lane where the road splits. However, to maximise your safety margins, you should stay in the middle of the two lanes, at an appropriate speed, until you have slowed down close to the end of the street. Thus giving yourself maximum clearance from the parked cars and pedestrians on both sides of the road.

The closer to hazards you drive the slower your speed must be: less space; less speed

You wouldn't be maximising your safety margins effectively if you stayed close to the cars one side to give lots of clearance the other side, because the danger may come from the side you are close to! And you wouldn't be maximising your safety margins if you drove too fast, because you may not be able to stop in time.

Expecting that something may happen:
Blind areas, where your view is obstructed, places you can't see, are the dangerous places; anything could be happening out of sight. When you are driving you should always be expecting the worst, then if something does happen you will react twice as quickly. And, try to always drive at a speed from which you can stop EASILY within the distance you can see to be clear.

When visibility is restricted: a bad driver assumes that nothing is there until they see there is; a good driver assumes that something is there until they see there isn't.

So you're driving along and you can see that there is an obstruction to your view ahead. There is the potential for something to be happening in an area that you can't see: what do you do?

There are a number of options, you might: 

  • Cover the horn with your thumb so that you are ready to use it to warn someone of your presence
  • Change your road position to move away from the possible hazard. Every centimetre you move away, takes you another centimetre away from a collision.
  • Ease off the gas and cover the footbrake, to reduce your reaction time.

"It's no good seeing the hazard,
if you don't do anything about it"

What's behind the van
What's behind the van?

What's around the bend
What's around the bend?

Car emerging around bend
Car emerging around bend?

Hazard children ahead
Hazard children ahead!

Car about to pull out?
Car about to pull out?

A developing hazard is something that is beginning to happen. It may be a cyclist looking over their shoulder, a pedestrian walking towards the road, or car approaching a junction ahead of you. If it's developing it implies some sort of movement, or a sequence of events. The DSA's example of this for the hazard perception test is of a parked car that you can ignore until its right indicator flashes - at this point the hazard has begun to develop, as it may pull away. In real life however, this is much too late to begin your thought processes.

Not getting caught out:
It is very easy to get trapped in a hazardous situation by going in too fast. What action you take depends totally on the exact nature of the hazard. However the general procedure is: hold back, give yourself time to think, reduce speed so that you don't have to brake suddenly, and try to leave plenty of space around you (don't feel pressured by drivers who are behind). Then be sure of what you are doing before you proceed.

Going into a situation too slowly just means that you delay people behind for a second. Going into a situation too fast means that you delay people behind for an hour, while you sort out the details of the accident.