Skill When You Need It…

Have you ever been driving along minding your own business and out of nowhere another driver does something that causes you to react?

Don’t worry you aren’t alone, in-fact it would be very strange to have a situation where you never need to compensate for the misgivings of another driver. Last year as per the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were some 20.1 million registered vehicles in Australia, that is a lot of vehicles to avoid.

Combine this mammoth number of vehicles circulating around with all the variables that driving presents and you have a situation where mistakes will happen. Over 90% of all collisions involving motor vehicles are the fault of a driver. So is it any wonder we need to compensate for other people’s mistakes.

Of course, it is never us that makes these mistakes…. cough cough. Well, this is where we need to be honest, how many times have you reflected on a situation and thought, I wonder if I contributed to that? Or what would have happened if I had not been paying attention?

It may be that we avoided a serious incident by the smallest of margins and that should be a reality check. I mean how often do we practices evasive driving tactics? Or how often do we see how our vehicle responds when we need to avoid something like, say a pedestrian that runs out in front of us?

Now I know what you’re going to say, if I am paying attention and driving defensively then I should not need this type of driving, and I fully agree with you. But it would be impossible for us to interpret every possible situation 100% of the time given how busy our roads have become. So, it is reasonable to assume these things will happen from time to time and that is where the question is derived from, are you ready for when this happens?

At a recent defensive driving program, one of our attendees (Ben) tested out his Holden Commodore on what we call a swerve and recovery exercise. Years ago, these exercises presented considerable danger as without modern technology this manoeuvre is fraught with danger to an unskilled driver. But modern technology such as stability control makes this attainable, however it is not easy to pull off without knowing how and when under stress.

So, our driver Ben when increasing the speed to 100km/h and after several practice attempts with our instruction managed to negotiate the exercise leaving the smallest of margins. Now if this was a real-life scenario where Ben was required to avoid something life threatening at this speed he would have successfully achieved this outcome as he didn’t hit the cones. He was surprised by his vehicles handling ability and limitations giving him a new appreciation for the preventative measures he learned that day.

Remember if you want to give yourself a fighting chance in the real world then you must practice these techniques the correct way with guidance and be familiar with how your vehicle will respond. Sadly, we can’t just practice these on the public roads, and this is why regular investment in driver training is the only viable solution.

Stewart Nicholls

Steer Safely – Managing Director

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