One of the most important things you can do to be a safer driver is to look well ahead of you when you're driving, so you can pick up potentially dangerous situations before it's too late.
The earlier you spot a potential hazard, the more time you will have to take evasive action.
Rather than looking only as far as the vehicle in front of you when driving, you should actually be scanning the road in front to a distance of at least 12 seconds ahead of where your car is – that is, the place you will be after driving for 12 seconds.
As a rough guide, 12 seconds is approximately six cars ahead.
Many people only look ahead of them when driving. This means they're not getting the full picture of what's happening on the road.
As well as looking ahead, you should also use your mirrors to look to the sides and behind every few seconds while you drive. This will help you spot potentially dangerous situations that could be forming around or behind you.
Moving your eyes regularly and concentrating on what's going on around you will also help you to stay alert on long journeys.
You should create a 'cushion' of safety around your whole vehicle by making sure there is a safe distance in all directions between you, other vehicles and potential hazards.
This will give you and other road users more time and space to avoid any hazards.
The cheapest insurance you can have is space around your vehicle.
The more space you have the safer you will be.
It's easy to get distracted when you're driving. Things like music, talking passengers, passing scenery and roadside advertising can all divert your attention from your driving and the road.
You must learn to ignore distractions and concentrate on your driving when you're behind the wheel. If, for any reason, you must look away from the road, follow the pointers below:
Following the tips above will help you avoid many potentially dangerous crashes. However, despite all your best efforts, there may still be occasions when you find yourself on a direct collision course with another vehicle or other hazard.
For this reason, it is wise to identify possible escape routes all the time while you're driving. That way, if you find yourself in danger of a crash, you'll be ready to take quick evasive action.
Most escape routes will be to your left, so take note of what's on the left-hand side of the road as you drive. Ask yourself questions like:
If there are no safe escape routes, reduce your speed and increase your following distance so you can stop in plenty of time if a crash situation develops.
Furthering your driver education
As a driver, you never stop learning. You should always be looking for ways to improve your safe driving skills.
Practice, combined with the right attitude, will help you refine your skills, but there are also courses you can take to help you become a safer driver.
Contact the NZTA on 0800 699 000 for information on advanced driver education courses in your area, or look at Factsheet 66, Driver licensing courses for licence classes and endorsements.