Defensive driving

Defensive driving

Defensive driving

0 comments 📅01 December 2014, 19:52

Defensive driving can be defined as active prevention of dangerous situations on the road caused the actions of other drivers, weather conditions, state of infrastructure and terrain. Such style, worthy of James Bond was actually initiated by special services and is always used by drivers of VIPs.

Why not then use some established good practice? Let’s go!

Defensive driver’s checklist:

I – rested and focused.

My car – roadworthy:

  • tyres: in good condition, properly inflated, matching the season.
  • working lights,
  • clean windscreens and mirrors,
  • efficient brakes,
  • suspension in good technical condition,
  • proper level of consumable fluids,
  • hands-free system engaged.


My car and I – we like each other 😉

  • correct position behind the wheel (proper distance between arms and the steering wheel, legs from the pedals, seat angle– almost vertical),
  • mirrors (only edges of the car should be visible),
  • comfort of traveling (correct temperature and humidity inside the car),
  • audio volume and passenger discipline ;),
  • additional accessories secured against displacement during sudden manoeuvres.

Once we run the checklist for ourselves and for the car, time to analyse the surroundings.

  1. Keep your distance – very often seen on bumper stickers. What distance is safe? 3, 10, perhaps 20 metres? Well, it depends. Sometimes even 120 metres might be necessary. When driving distance is proportional to speed. Is should be assumed that distance is safe if it gives us 3 seconds to reach the car in front. This figure results from the reaction time and actions which we need to take during emergency. Let’s convert it to distance. When driving at 30 km/h in the city, in one second we cover the distance of 8 metres. 50 km/h is almost 14 metres in one second, while at 140 km/h this distance extends to 40 metres. How to check it while driving? Take a point of reference passed by the car in front of you. Then count the number of seconds it takes you to pass the same point and correct your distance if necessary. Why three seconds? Average reaction time of an adult measured in laboratory conditions is between 0.5 to 1 second. However, on the road you can expect additional delaying factors. Remember – if you take your eyes off the road for one second while driving on a motorway at typical maximum allowed speed of 140 km/h you cover almost 40 metres totally blindly. Can technology help? Cars from the premium segment are equipped with active obstacle detection systems and active cruise control which both send warning and take action independently from the driver if necessary. Making use of such systems should be a last resort, however, not everyday habit.
  2. Watch the road ahead and analyse. Learn how to actively predict situations on the road. Thanks to this your driving will become smoother and more economical. The examples of such situations are very numerous. One of the easiest, and at the same time increasing the safety by a great margin is the observation of the crossroads we are approaching. The first signal informing about the imminent red light is the blinking green light on the pedestrian crossing parallel to your car. Take your foot off the gas pedal! Speaking of crossings – there are no exceptions, you have to check for pedestrians every time. If another car stops or slows down before one, you can be certain that it’s time to brake. When waiting for the lights, leave some distance for yourself so that you can try to escape a possible pile-up crash.




  1. Mirrors – unlike those in dressing rooms, bathrooms or elsewhere at home they are not meant to observe yourself (with the exception of those mounted on sun visors). Nevertheless, you should definitely use mirrors often. Sometimes a quick glance will save you some paintwork on the back bumper. A habit of doing a rear view mirror check before executing certain manoeuvres should be automatic, every time you brake, for example, especially when you want to let people cross the road on a multi-lane carriageway. In such situation I usually flash emergency lights notifying the drivers behind. Coming back to mirrors – they should always be clean. Remember that in cars equipped with side-view mirror heaters, this function is activated by pressing the button for rear windscreen heating. This little convenience becomes especially useful during rain or when parking in underground garages in winter – foggy mirrors clear up very quickly. Remember that proper position of mirrors plays a very important role. Personally I set the side-view mirrors in such way as to only see the edges of my car and maximise the field of vision on the road. I also check for complementation of the view with the rear-view mirror. Practice during parking and try to minimise the blind spot.
  2. Show your intentions. One of the main characteristics of a good driver. There is no shame in using the indicators a few seconds ahead of the manoeuvre. Especially that such behaviour can prevent a crash. You probably remember the last time you got angry at the driver in front of you who signalled a turn at the same time when rushing from the lights.
  3. Don’t trust other drivers, however always double-check yourself. Many times you might have witnessed a manoeuvre which surprised even the person executing it. Running the red light, no indication, ignoring the right of way or overtaking on a shoulder is unfortunately everyday practice. What do we mean, however, by double-checking ourselves? A few years ago I was a passenger on a trip to a remote destination. Late evening, empty road and a slow intercity bus in front of us. Far ahead, on the opposite lane dim headlights of a truck. Time to overtake… Then, a major surprise: the dim lights ahead were really top clearance lights on a truck that just came up from behind a hill. Good reflex of all three drivers saved all the participants from a disaster. If you don’t see, don’t go!
  4. Think behind the wheel. We will not talk about obvious things. We would like to discuss the culture of driving and the initiative called: boost the mood. Every day, while driving, we should muster enough grace to make other drivers happier while at the same time building trust on the road. A good example is letting the other driver in. If you predict the manoeuvre well ahead, you will not have to brake suddenly, change the speed too much or move to a different lane. It can be seen on a motorway when switching to a fast lane allows the other driver to smoothly enter the traffic.
  5. Practise smooth driving – if you want to upgrade from an ordinary driver to a prime chauffeur. At the beginning, the passengers will appreciate the change. Later on, the driver will as well. What is the effect? Great pleasure from driving and feeling the engine as if it was our own heart. OK, enough said. Time to hit the road.


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