Defensive Strategies

The slogan ‘always expect the unexpected’ springs to mind and is very apt in numerous situations that drivers, passengers, pedestrians and mobility scooter users will find themselves in whenever venturing on the roads. Below are just some token thoughts and examples.

Journey preparation is all important, apart from obviously being ‘fit’ for any outing it is equally important to allow some contingencies. Spare medication, details of medication you are taking, emergency contact details, spare / extra clothing, hi-vis garment, torch, charged mobile phone – the
possible list is endless depending on individual circumstances.

Planning your route is another important factor. Whilst technology has made huge advances it should not be wholly relied on.  If a journey involves unfamiliar routes then it is good to have back up in the form of maps or guides. The latter also give a good longstop where technology gets it wrong or coming across an unexpected road closure.

The defensive strategy really comes in to its own when using the roads. It is a combination of a number of factors including hazard perception, observation, concentration, fore thinking the actions / moves of others and making safe judgements. The question of ‘right of way’ in a situation whilst maybe technically in favour in a given situation should never over-ride a safe option.

Modern highways management is quite different to many of the principles of earlier years and updated knowledge is crucial. Highways management used to be universal in all aspects of implementation whereas now there are often ‘local’ deviations. Road users need to be absolutely focused to pick up the ‘local’ situation. For example, on two lane roundabouts the nearside lane used to be turn left or straight on, the second lane turn right; nowadays both lanes can be straight on or turn right. Three lane roundabouts can be even more confusing because lane one and two can be turn left and only lane two straight on. There are even some areas where you can traverse roundabouts going right rather than left!

We now have the introduction of Smart Motorways and ATM (automatic traffic management). It is important to understand how these work and even more important for both drivers and passengers to react in an emergency. It is a fact that the majority of ‘hard shoulder’ KSI (Killed or Seriously Injured) incidents on motorways happen during the first fifteen minutes – it is imperative all understand safe procedures.

LGV / HGV incidents account for 43% of KSI incidents despite being a small percentage of vehicles on our roads. Two factors are prevalent:

  • ‘Blind spot’; where a vehicle, person or mobility scooter is not seen in the mirrors of the HGV.  Depending how the mirrors are set, and how good the drivers observation is, the biggest danger zone will be mid-way along the vehicle going forward to a point forward of the vehicle. In defensive driving one should only enter this zone for the shortest possible time and especially so with foreign left hand drive vehicles.
  • Speed; where HGVs simply fail to stop in time. When approaching standing or slow traffic you can have a degree of control by gradually reducing your speed rather than late or even harsh braking.

Slip roads joining main carriageways are another area of concern. Theoretically joining traffic should merge at a similar speed to the traffic on the main carriageway. Unfortunately slip road traffic often presumes a ‘right’ to barge on or expectation that you move to another lane (this often would not be possible). By sensible adjustment of your speed and acute awareness of joining traffic unpleasant experiences can be avoided. This is a good time to let ‘right of way’ give way to ‘common sense’.

Numerous other examples for ‘defensive driving’ can be given.