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Driving is all about managing risk


Car accident, each driver blaming the other

The blame game!


If you were asked to define the driving task, what would you say? Would you talk about how to use all the controls – clutch, brake, accelerator (gas), gears, steering? Perhaps you’d mention things like junctions and roundabouts, traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, dual carriageways and motorways, city and rural driving? And of course you’d be right, these things are all part of the driving task. You might also mention mirrors and blind spots, scanning ahead, looking where you’re going, concentrating and not being distracted by friends or mobile phones. Now you’re getting ‘warmer’! Driving is ALL of these things, but they can all be summed up in one sentence:

Driving is all about managing risk!

The image above represents a very common scenario when there is an accident, and that is the ‘instinct’ to blame the other party. Maybe some of the blame for this can be put with the insurers, who insist that their policy holders should never admit to being at fault, meaning that they should keep quiet and stick to the facts of swapping all necessary details, rather than encouraging you to blame the other driver. But the truth of the matter is that there are 3 elements to any crash:

1. SPEED = something was moving

2. SURPRISE = something unexpected happened

3. SPACE = someone ran out of space

(The above risk model is taken from Mind Driving by Stephen Haley. To find out more, and buy a copy of this excellent book, click here)

In managing risk, you should keep all 3 of these elements in balance. What this means is that speed and space need to be managed well – the more space you have then the faster you can go, but as soon as that space is threatened, or reduced, speed should instantly be reduced too (engine braking, ie gas off) allowing you to focus on the danger and deal with it.

The element of ‘surprise’ needs to be eliminated by maintaining constant awareness – scan the road ahead for danger, constantly, and scan the road behind and to the sides with good, effective use of mirrors. To eliminate the element of surprise you might give to others, ensure you know who might be ‘surprised’ by you and what actions you can take to eliminate that surprise (indicate and/or alter position before braking, stopping or changing direction).

Space needs to be valued and managed at all times. If there is a piece of road space needed by another vehicle, then you are in a give-way situation, rather than blindly ploughing on, forcing another road user to give way. These are often referred to as ‘meeting’ situations, such as when there are parked vehicles. Crossing over someone else’s space, such as when turning right, needs to be carefully managed, and in traffic queues, not blocking space that another road user may need to cross is also important, for example keeping roundabout exits/entrances clear if traffic comes to a stop on a roundabout (imagine the queue you could be causing to build up on the joining road!).

So, all of the above adds up to recognising that driving is a constant game of risk management, a ‘game’ you need to learn to play, very well. The game can sometimes be made easier when there is an accompanying passenger willing to help out, such as your driving instructor, but there will come a time when you will be on your own and all decisions will be yours, and yours alone!

A depressing moment for this young female driver after a rear-end shunt!

Don’t let this happen to you!

Ensuring that the tuition you receive allows you to take control and manage all the risks yourself, evaluating any situations when your instructor has to step in and manage the risk for you, is the right way to ensure you will become a safe driver once you are on your own and managing all of the risks yourself. Will you text or talk on your phone? Will you check out your social media while driving? Will you mess around in the car with your mates? Will you shave or apply make-up? Will you have your music so loud you won’t hear the emergency vehicle approaching? Will you drive at high speed along a narrow rural road with blind bends?

If you failed to answer ‘NO’ to any of the questions in the last paragraph, then you are at an increased risk on the road because you are failing to manage all the risks. Don’t become another statistic, get the tuition that puts the task of managing the risks with you – it will be shared at first, but gradually, over time, you should be taking on more and more of the responsibility for managing risk as the driver.

To find out more about driving lessons with Care Motoring, please call, text or email us:

01603 881557

07775 667488

[email protected]

26th July 2015 14:14 - Posted by jackie

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