Defensive Driving Safety Tip #1: Looking Ahead While Driving
February 23, 2015
One of the first things I’d teach to my driving students was to look further ahead while driving. I wish more driving schools would focus on this. People don’t mean to, but it’s natural human instinct to look directly at the vehicle in front of us or right at the pavement lines. This is especially true during turns and cornering. These habits are tough to break and most people never realize they are doing it! So just how far ahead should you look when driving? By the end of this article, you’ll know the exact answer to this important question.
Aim High in Steering
Many times, you’ll hear this driving tip referred to as “aiming high in steering.” What they mean, is, don’t make your steering adjustments based on what is directly in front of you. Instead, look way down the road. If the road is winding to the right, for example, look as far into the turn as possible. You’ll notice your turns are not only smoother, but you’re being safer, too!
If you don’t recognize a danger or potential hazard early enough, you’ll never be able to avoid the hazard in the first place. Scanning the road 1/2 mile to a full mile ahead goes completely against our natural human response, yet it’s necessary for safe driving. Our bodies weren’t designed to travel at 50mph. We were designed for speeds of less than 10mph. You need to learn to consciously break that natural instinct and focus farther ahead.
Planning Ahead While Scanning Ahead
Since our peripheral vision works well at close distance, we need to focus our main line of vision outward. Always look as far ahead as possible and observe what is happening. Has the next traffic light been green for a while? What about the next light beyond that one? Is it likely the lights will change to red soon? Are their brake lights up ahead when it appears they shouldn’t be stopping? What might be happening? Are there kids playing basketball in the driveway ahead? Is a dog running loose? Proper safe driving requires that you constantly ask and answer questions in your head. But remember, don’t ever fixate on one thing. Always keep your eyes moving and shifting!
Many ordinary events could turn into a roadway hazard. If you notice the potential hazards ahead of time, you will be prepared for the situation. Scanning ahead will also cause you to drive smoother. You’ll find there are less sudden stops and hard braking during your drives because you aren’t taken by surprise as often. However, if you aren’t looking ahead, those hazards will take you by surprise, and could lead to a very dangerous situation. Not to mention the added abuse to your vehicle. Brakes are expensive! These driving safety tips not only lead to safe driving, but it leads to cheaper driving, too!
Be A Psychic Driver
While scanning ahead, you should always predict what other drivers may or may not do around you. Expected the unexpected to happen and always have a game plan on where you will go in an emergency situation. Don’t allow yourself to get blocked in by other vehicles. In almost all cases, you can position your vehicle for multiple escape routes. The important thing here is to be a proactive driver instead of a reactive one. When you get really good at this, you will actually begin to feel like a psychic driver. You will be able to read the “body language” of other drivers and tell what their next step is. Ever see a driver and just know he is going to change lanes or turn even before he does it? With a truly defensive driver, this comes naturally and happens all the time.
Prepare For The Worst
When scanning ahead, you should always assume the worst will happen and be prepared for it. For example, if you see a dump truck, assume something will fall off the truck or just assume the truck will have a tire blowout. You could be wrong a million times and nothing will happen, but if you’re right just once, it could literally save your life. Always assume something unexpected and catastrophic will happen and formulate a plan on how you’ll avoid the situation yourself (increase following distance, reposition vehicle in traffic, slow down, speed up, etc.).
On the next page, I will discuss how to “get the big picture.” This term is used quite often in drivers ed classes, but do you really know what it means? Allow me to explain.
Continue to my second article (out of 5) on proper defensive driving: