Let me start by asking you a question.
How many time have you got in your car, driven to somewhere and not remembered how you drove there?
Most of the time I bet.
Does that make you a bad driver? Well no not really, but…
It does mean you’re now driving on autopilot and are not consciously aware of what you’re actually doing to control your car.
Again not a bad thing as it speeds up your reactions if you instinctively know what to do if you need to react to something, but…
It does mean you’re not completely concentrating on what you’re doing and you can be easily distracted, which puts you and other road users at risk. Think about it, your phone rings or pings a message, a favorite song comes on the radio and you start singing at the top of your lungs, or the steering committee (the wife) is giving you directions from the passenger seat, and you are distracted.
And all because you don’t have to think about how to drive the car. You just know. Driving is no longer a physical-mechanical thing. Now what you need to do is to make it a consciously mental thing, and this is where the 3 essential driving skills that will keep you safe. And even as technology starts to take over, you’re gonna need these
So what are they?
Remember when you’re driving instructor said to you “look well ahead” what he or she was asking you was what hazards you can see that will make you either slow down, change direction or stop to avoid them. To give you time to physically do something. He or she may not have used the term, but they were developing your awareness.
And that’s essential driving skill #1 – Awareness.
Looking ahead making sure you’re aware of all the hazards and potential hazards. And you’ve got to do it consciously.
To see if you’re seeing all the hazards try doing some commentary driving. In other words, say out loud what you can see that you’re going to have to deal with – and before you get to them. It’s not as easy as it sounds!
If you’re still talking as you drive past you’re not looking far enough ahead.
And that brings us to #2 – Planning
As you look ahead spotting all the hazards you’ve got to think about what you might need to do if you have to deal with that hazard. Maybe you’re approaching a cyclist of a row of parked cars and you’ve got to move out but there are oncoming vehicles – what are you going to have to do?
So, once you’re aware you’ve got to plan what you’re going to do to deal with that hazard. Again well before you get there, in case the situation changes.
And #3 is Anticipation
Not only have you got to see all the hazards but you’ve got to have enough time to do something about them as well. And…
You have to think about what might happen if the situation changes, you have to anticipate what might happen so you can prepare an appropriate action in your mind. Meaning nothing should take you by surprise.
You should anticipate the ball rolling into the road, or the cyclists swerving to avoid a manhole cover or that child stepping out from between parked cars. The list goes on but you get the point. And you can’t do any of that if you’re not consciously thinking about your driving.
Awareness, Planning, and Anticipation,
Chances are you’ve got good physical driving skills if you’re driving on autopilot. Now make yourself a great driver and develop those 3 essential driving skills to keep yourself safe on the roads.
To see if you’ve got it, try commentary driving – you can learn more about it here