Town Driving

As you know, most incidents that do take place do so in built up areas where the density and variety of road users are more likely to create potential “conflict” areas. Also, not surprisingly, it’s where speed limits tend to be lower…

Often, road users are having to deal with a combination of hazards almost simultaneously and it’s little wonder that a “hazard overload” can afflict drivers in particular. Correctly prioritising hazards tends to come with practice and experience but we shouldn’t forget that there are around a million new drivers on UK roads each year who don’t have this experience. And neither do certain other groups:

  • People who rarely but occasionally venture into towns
  • Foreign nationals and tourists (can you spot a hire car at a hundred metres?)
  • Children and teenagers in particular

Fortunately, the majority of “around town” incidents are relatively low speed but they do account for the lion’s share of insurance claims, with even a fairly small “bump” with no injuries being sustained probably costing somewhere in the region of £1,000 to repair the bent metal. And of course, even a “low speed” impact with an unprotected road user (cyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian) can have devastating consqeuences.

We all make mistakes around town; not least navigational ones. If you need to make a manoeuvre that’s perhaps a little unexpected by other road users, ask yourself three questions before carrying it out: Is it safe? Is it convenient or necessary? Is it legal?

From your own perspective, it’s worth bearing in mind that generally road users don’t crash into other road users who they know to be there. It’s normally those of which they are unaware who become the victims. So, one fairly easy trick is to try to make yourself as obvious to other road users as possible. For example, we associate the colour red with danger – so it’s no surprise that that’s the colour chosen for brake lights, is it? Other road users react to red – in just the same way you do – so you can use this to your advantage, for instance when trying to prevent yourself from being rear-ended while sitting in a traffic queue (mind you, better still not to be in a queue in the first place but we’ll come to that later).

Imagine you are sitting in a queue of traffic and the brake lights on the vehicle in front go off. What is your first thought or reaction? With most of us, we’re self-programmed from experience to assume that the vehicle ahead will start to move off… so quite often we do too; only to get a sudden “surprise” when it becomes clear that they’re going nowhere! This is particularly true at roundabouts and we have yet to find the driver who has not, at some point in his or her driving career, been led into making the assumption that the vehicle ahead has gone, when, in fact, it’s still right where it started!

If we didn’t have junctions around town, we wouldn’t have so many accidents. But we do; and we do. There are two main reasons for crashes at junctions:

  • One road user did not see the other road user
  • One road user misinterpreted the actions or communication of the other road user

You’d think therefore that it should be fairly easy to overcome this problem but experience tells us otherwise. We tend:

  • To be impatient at junctions
  • To make assumptions about the intentions of other road users
  • To look at vehicles rather than their drivers
  • To not look thoroughly enough (particularly with regard to cyclists and motorcyclists)
  • To arrive at junctions without planning for the “what if?” occurrence
  • To be led by others rather than making our own decisions (for example by relying on indicator signals)

And don’t forget, any joining point for vehicles or other road users with the road you are on constitutes a “junction”, so be wary at petrol stations, supermarket/car park entrances/exits, pubs, etc.

Try to be prepared for the unexpected and a way of doing this is to anticipate the daftest action by the other road user you can imagine and take your own compensatory action before it becomes a reality. Is he going to pull out on me and if he does have I time and space to react?

Will this truck on my left have sufficient room to negotiate this roundabout without moving into my lane? No. Oh! I’m in the wrong place!

KEEP MOVING! A moving target is always more difficult to hit than a stationary one, so try to keep those wheels turning. If you make this an aim in itself, you’ll very quickly hone your anticipation skills to a fine point. Try to avoid joining other people’s queues and think instead of creating your own (not by holding others up but by creating your own space in front that you can move into). You can use “observation links” (the clues along the way that will tell you what to anticipate) to build a picture of the ever-changing driving environment and you may find reflections and shadows give advance warning of other road users’ presence.

From a control perspective, when driving around town select a gear that gives you most flexibility at any given speed. “Flexibility” in this sense means the ability to speed up or slow down in roughly equal measure by using “acceleration sense” and relatively small adjustments on the accelerator pedal. You’ll probably find this means you use a lower gear than you used to but you’ll very soon get used to it and enjoy the relative “freedom” that changing gear less often brings with it. Don’t worry too much about fuel consumption; modern engines are at their most efficient further up the rev range than used to be the case and in fact will often use more fuel if they are being laboured in too high a gear.

 

Summertime Driving Challenges

Summer is finally here?  The kids are out of school, families begin to plan and leave on holidays and a whole new list of challenges present themselves to drivers.

What challenges does summertime driving present on and off the job?

Kids are out of school and can be anywhere…they are excited to be out in the sunshine playing and may not take care to look both ways before entering the street

Many more cyclists can be expected.  These include: those little ones just learning and wobbling around with or without training wheels, experienced cyclists touring the countryside loaded with camping gear, racers training for the next event, recreational cyclists on mountain bikes

  • Slow moving recreational vehicles driven by folks who are less than experienced in these larger vehicles
  • Tourist drivers unfamiliar with roads and possibly driving slow and lost
  • Pedestrians of every type and description
  • Tourists, if you are in an area where there are attractions, campgrounds or resorts;
  • Sightseers around landmarks or parks
  • People out for a cool evening stroll
  • Excessive heat can affect drivers in negative ways

Summertime can also create challenges for vehicles.  So if you are planning, plan to have your vehicle checked.

What are the best ways to manage these challenges?

Children

Anywhere that there may be children around, slow down and take extra care to think and look ahead.

Anticipate where children may be coming from and cover your brake if you are in doubt at all about where they may come from.

Remember, we all teach our kids to be safe around traffic, but some learn faster than others!

Cyclists

Dealing with cyclists can be frustrating, particularly if they are slow and in your lane where you don’t have room to pass.

Every cyclist has different skill levels and capabilities and a different attitude towards traffic.  When you encounter a cyclist on the road, remember to SHARE THE ROAD responsibly.  They are not permitted to ride on the sidewalks and gravel shoulders are difficult and dangerous for most road bikes; they are required to be on the roadway and it’s everyone’s responsibility to share.

Take a breath, be patient and wait till you can pass safety.  NEVER crowd a cyclist as you pass.

Recreational Vehicles

You may be in a hurry to get to your destination, but remember these motorists are on holiday!  They may be less concerned about time and speed.

The driver may not be experienced in this size vehicle.  Watch out, particularly for rentals/Motorhomes, often these drivers have no experience at all!

If you are driving in mountainous areas, you may find that many Motorhomes are underpowered, overloaded and SLOW!  Be patient with these drivers as they are likely going uphill as fast as they can!

If you are the Driver, take every opportunity to pull over if you are holding up traffic and let others pass.  This is much safer than waiting for the guy behind you to attempt an unsafe pass.

Tourists

Maintaining patience behind a lost tourist is challenging but it’s the only option.  Give them a break and time to figure out what they are doing.

When you are traveling, check your maps first and use a satenav.  Pull over if you are lost or uncertain to re-orient yourself.  Avoid last minute turns or lane changes.  It’s safer to go around the block or come back if you miss a turn.

Don’t ruin your holiday with an accident!

Pedestrians

Pay particular attention in summer for pedestrians.

Scan intersections and make sure that you should check before turning.  In heavily trafficked tourist areas, keep your speed very low.  Be aware that around lakes, beaches and parks, some of the pedestrians may have been drinking and taking chances.

Vehicle Preparation

Check your vehicle to make sure that it’s ready for summer driving.

One of the most common failures is the cooling system.  Check your coolant levels regularly and top up when needed.

If you are towing a trailer, make sure that your vehicle is rated to tow the weight and has the capability to slow and stop it on the downgrades.

Make sure that you secure camping or recreational equipment in the vehicle so that it doesn’t move around or obstruct vision.

Have a great holiday!

www.fleetdrivingsolutions.com

Choose your Attitude

Even the best of drivers can let their driving deteriorate when their attitude starts to slide.

What attitudes can turn a normally good driver into a risk-taking one?

  • A feeling that everyone is out to get me or hold me up.
  • Judgements about other driver’s actions ‘everyone else is a lousy driver‘ that leads to frustration.
  • Angry feelings that may have no connection with driving until you are behind the wheel like a fight with the boss, spouse, kids or co-worker.
  • A need to be right or ‘WIN‘ in a situation
  • Can you think of more?

These things are called personal factors and they influence our driving behaviour if we let them.

Attitudes are a combination of what we are thinking and feeling. These are things that we have control over at least to some degree. Someone, when regularly cultivates strong negative feelings and thinking including anger and blame, will often have what is called a ‘bad attitude‘ but this is just a reflection of their emotional state

What kind of driving behaviour can result from negative attitudes?

  • Aggressive driving like speeding or cutting others off.
  • Retaliation and road rage
  • Vehicle abuse
  • What others can you think of?

Taking personal responsibility for our thinking, feelings and attitudes is key to safe driving. When you are behind the wheel, it’s your responsibility to drive defensively regardless of the pressures that may invite you towards negative thinking and emotion.

If you believe yourself to be a good driver, realize that most others are not as skilled as you and give them a break!

Don’t expect perfection; in fact, expect poor driving from others and take the high road by not reacting negatively. Remind yourself about everything that you have to be grateful for in life. It sounds simplistic but if we forget that we have so much to be grateful for, and start focusing on the negatives, we can easily get caught up in an attitude slide.

  • Give the other person a break regularly and make sure that if someone gives you a break to return a friendly wave.
  • Remind yourself regularly that you are in control of your own emotional weather and that it’s your thinking that most determines if you have a sunny disposition or a stormy one!

Fleet Driving Solutions, providing fleet and advanced driving training services to companies throughout the UK. Call 0203 633 4682 or 07919 193299