Defensive Driving Tips from the AA

In order to protect yourself and fellow road users, one needs to learn how to drive defensively to avoid crashes. Here are some tips on how you can increase your chances of survival on our roads.

Overdriving headlights

The cause of many crashes at night is that drivers overdrive their headlights. This means that drivers are driving too fast for the distance they can stop. They cannot stop in the distance they can see on dipped beam and end up hitting pedestrians, potholes or tyre casings. Adjust your speed so that you can stop in the distance you can see. Can you stop from 100 kilometres per hour in 45 meters, because that is how far headlights shine on dipped beam by law?

Crash avoidance

There are only two things that a driver can do to avoid a crash situation, change direction or adjust speed. When you do not have an escape route to the left or right, you have to adjust your speed. Remember that every time an oncoming vehicle approaches, you have no escape route to the right. Make sure you have one on the left by adjusting your speed early to ensure you have an escape route.

Follow another vehicle at night

Always follow another vehicle and use their headlights to look well up ahead. As long as the brake lights work on vehicle in front of you, you will get early warning of trouble.

Checking blind spots

Don't think you have no blind spots with split exterior rear view mirrors. Every vehicle has blind spots. Get into the habit of checking to the relevant side before changing lanes, before turning and at merge areas. Additionally, do not linger in other vehicle’s blind spot areas. This is when you cannot see the other driver's eyes in their rear view mirrors.

Coastal and Highveld car performance

When travelling from the coast to the Highveld and are looking at overtaking another vehicle, you have to consider the extra load from passengers and luggage as well as the fact that due to the thinner air at the higher altitude, the vehicle has lost 15-17% of its power. This killer situation develops very quickly when both vehicles are doing 120 kilometers per hour and the gap is closing at 66 meters per second.

Safe overtaking manoeuvres

Apply "acceleration sense" when overtaking. Ensure that you have left additional following distance behind the vehicle to be overtaken. When a safe gap has been identified for overtaking, this allows the driver to be able to accelerate in his lane to gain speed before moving out to overtake. This makes the overtaking manoeuvre much quicker and safer.

Driver visibility

Visibility and judging the seed of the oncoming vehicle are important factors. Driving with your headlights on all the time makes your vehicle more visible to other road users. Remember that flashing your lights will not move an oncoming vehicle out of the way. Rather take evasive action like slowing down or identify a suitable escape route.

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