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Defensive Driving Techniques - The Eyes Have It!

Dec 13, 2007
Not that we recommend trying it, but you can't drive very far with your eyes closed without running off the road or hitting something! Many other physical impairments can be overcome in order to drive safely, but impaired vision may be a real handicap in adopting defensive driving techniques. If you drive, the health of your eyes, or sight, should be considered paramount. Have regular eye tests and adopt appropriate remedies for any condition which might effect your driving, both during the day, and at night.

Quickly Scan Your Vehicle

Even before getting into the driver's seat, a quick scan of your vehicle may reveal problems such as a deflated tyre, or external mirrors knocked out of alignment. Such issues may compromise your ability to implement defensive driving techniques once you're underway. From inside your vehicle you can again check your external mirrors and adjust them if necessary. If someone else has driven the vehicle before you, you may also have to re-adjust the rear view mirror to suit you. Be aware of any blind spots not covered by your direct vision, or your mirrors. The external and internal cleanliness of the windscreen, side and rear windows is also something to attend to. When you turn on the ignition, note what any warning lights such as petrol, oil, temperature, etc. may indicate. It can be very distracting having to drive some distance worrying about having enough petrol to make it and constantly looking at the gauge to check.

Pay Attention

When driving, pay attention to the traffic conditions and the environment around you so you can apply your defensive driving techniques if you identify a likely hazard. Keep you eyes up and look ahead, not just at the road or vehicle immediately in front of you, but further down the road so you can anticipate. You should be looking about 15-20 seconds ahead of your vehicle, farther if you can. This gives you the time to recognize and avoid most potential hazards before they become a problem.

Actively Scan

defensive driving techniques require more than just staring passively through your windscreen at the road ahead. You must actively scan traffic and environmental conditions at all times. Don't concentrate on any one thing in your field of view for more than a second, keep your focused vision moving in a scanning "pattern" so that you clearly see everything that may affect your progress. If you allow your eyes to remain fixed on any one thing, your peripheral vision immediately begins to narrow down into "tunnel" vision--and you lose your ability to detect movement to the sides. Keeping your eyes moving prevents this from occurring and helps you with your defensive driving techniques.

Peripheral Vision

In addition to scanning conditions directly, use you peripheral vision to become aware of situations that may require your direct attention. Your peripheral vision picks up movement quickly, but doesn't provide a clear view. It is your "early warning" vision for defensive driving techniques.

It's All Done With Mirrors!

Your external and rear view mirrors serve a most useful purpose in employing defensive driving techniques. It is important to check your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds while driving, but you also need to know the blind spots on your vehicle, which are large often enough to hide other vehicles. Mirrors also will not reveal a vehicle that is changing lanes behind you, so it is very important to turn your head and quickly look before making a lane change.

Mind Your Eyes!

One of the most important aspects of defensive driving techniques is recognizing in advance, or anticipating, impending hazards before they become a problem for you. Early recognition allows the time you need to take action avoid trouble. It is vitally important that you recognize and become immediately aware of what you see while driving. By "connecting your mind to your eyes" you can realize the possibility the ball rolling across the road may be chased by a child, that a vehicle approaching on an adjacent roadway may not stop at a cross street, and recognize other potentially hazardous situations. Use your eyes to see, and your mind to analyze what you see for potential dangers.

There are other important ways to use your vision as a key tool for defensive driving techniques for safe driving. Use appropriate protection for your eyes, such as sunglasses to reduce glare in sunny conditions. Make sure your windscreen wipers provide good visibility in wet conditions. Don't drive at all in conditions which severely impact visibility for all drivers.

Your vision is perhaps the most important tool you have while driving. Use it effectively! Look as far down the road as possible, and use a scanning motion to take in and analyze everything that is happening around you or close enough to be a hazard. It's a defensive driving technique you can't do without!
About the Author
Ray Hogan is co-owner of DefensiveDriverSense.com which provides quality resources on defensive driving techniques,advanced driving and traffic safety programs.
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