Defensive driving is focussed on preparing the driver for the risks associated with driving by teaching awareness and good risk identification.
The idea is that if a driver can be more aware of the potential dangers, they can avoid them and avoid accidents.
Defensive driving courses involve anywhere from one session with a driving instructor to an ongoing prolonged course of instruction.
In New Zealand, doing a defensive driving course reduces the amount of time you have to wait to upgrade your license from a restricted license to a full license.
Defensive driving courses equip drivers with a range of techniques that can help them to avoid scenarios where they could become involved in an accident.
The basic premise of the training is around the driver being fully aware of their surroundings and the scenarios that could possibly lead to trouble. A defensive driving instructor will teach the student to expect the worst.
E.g. A defensive driver will notice that there is a dog off its leash on the side of the road which could suddenly dart out into traffic. The defensive driver will adjust their driving to accommodate this risk.
E.g. A defensive driver will notice unpredictable drivers on the road and adjust their own driving to ensure they avoid potentially dangerous situations.
A defensive driving course will cover a range of aspects of safe driving including:
Everyday driving situations
This includes preparing the driver for what they will encounter in their everyday driving routines. This might be poor road conditions, traffic jams, large vehicles, light and visibility issues, other motorists and pedestrians. The main message here is around maintaining awareness of the road and others using it, adjusting driving to suit the conditions and observing simple driving safety techniques like the two second rule, checking your blinds spots etc.
This includes teaching the driver how to react in the case of the car being out of control or some other emergency situation. This means learning what to do if your brakes lock or if you are skidding out of control. It means learning how to best respond to situations that are dangerous to you and other drivers without panicking.
Driving in bad weather conditions
Bad weather is a reality in New Zealand. You could encounter searing heat and blinding sun as well as heavy rain and gusty winds. Driving in these conditions is challenging. Part of reducing the risk is making sure your car is in a road worthy state. When you are on the roads, defensive driving is about assessing the conditions and adjusting your driving to suit them.
There are numerous techniques that are taught in defensive driving courses that help to reduce the risk of accidents. These include making sure the driver prepares the vehicle to improve safety. You should always make sure your mirrors are adjusted so that you have maximum visibility, keep your windows clear and clean, avoid tinting and only drive with a current warrant of fitness. When driving make sure your hands are positioned in the correct way at approximately 9 and 3 or 10 and 2 (imagine a clock face) on the steering wheel. Check your mirrors regularly for hazards and keep a close eye on the road in front of you and the footpaths beside you. Keep a safe travelling distance on either side and in front of your car. Always observe the road signs and adjust your speed according to the conditions.
Defensive driving can save your life; there are numerous courses you can take to improve your driving skills. These techniques become ingrained in your driving style giving you invaluable skills for driving in all conditions.