Don't Get Defensive, We Can All Be Safer Drivers

Are you a safe driver? Some people’s impression of defensive driving is hugging the highway shoulder with the handbrake on and while a few cautious citizens do drive like this, small improvements and refreshers for our ingrained habits can make us all safer on the road.


We drive so much these days that it’s easy to relax behind the wheel, wondering what’s for dinner or what the personalised plate in front means, but do we take notice of what lies ahead of the car we are following? One of the first things learnt when getting into the hot seat of the Driver Education vehicle is to look at the big picture – but that was years and years ago… what’s the big picture again? Training our vision past the vehicle we are immediately following allows us to see what's unfolding in the distance, giving us precious time to make the best possible decisions. Road conditions and road environment can alter without warning so always look for a safe exit-zone on your left hand side if the picture does change. Combined with a safe following distance, having our eyes on the big picture is an invaluable buffer.


It’s easy to zone out while driving, especially if it’s a journey well travelled. Staying alert is crucial and our side and rear-vision mirrors can help us stay present. Keeping your eyes moving between the mirrors gives you an overall take on the road environment, especially when merging from a stationary position.


Until Google perfects the driverless car, I’m afraid we are still the master of the automobile and on long trips we need as many Kit-kat’s as necessary to help us arrive safely. Breaking a lengthy trip up for a bite-to-eat or a coffee is not only the best way to recharge the human batteries but also helps us enjoy the ride. Plan your trip to allow for a bit of leeway, hop out of the seat to stretch the legs and take a few selfies along the way. A short two-minute rest for fresh air will do you wonders.


In the immortal words of the late Peter Brock, “only a fool breaks the two second rule.” And no, he wasn’t referring to the acceptable delay to pick up food knocked off the table; he was talking about the distance to keep when following another vehicle. Counting the time difference between you and the car in front using a power pole is a simple and effective way of judging the distance. And remember! If road conditions are greasy, wet or icy, double your distance to four seconds (yet to be made into a jingle).

Unfortunately, not everyone on the roads has taken Brock’s advice onboard and as a result you haven’t got much breathing space. If a vehicle is too close for comfort, find a space to safely pull over to let them pass.


Kids in the back seat arguing over and demanding books, crackers and toys are one of the biggest distractions we face while travelling in our cars and although we can’t all have a Perspex screen to block this out, we can minimise the hazard. Particularly on long trips, plan for the likelihood of a battle Royale in the back seat and make sure the kids are well fed and occupied. Combined with rest stops to keep fatigue at bay, distracting the kids will help you focus.

Now that you have the passengers entertained, you can concentrate on the job at hand.....until the mobile phone rings. If you’re not armed with a hands-free device, pull over if it is safe or wait until you have stopped to check the text or return the call.       


Keeping to the designated speed limit is one of the surest ways to being or becoming a safe driver. Increasing your reaction time will decrease the probability of an incident and what’s the rush, New Zealand has a multitude of beautiful sights….but don’t get too distracted!


Defensive Driving courses in New Zealand teach many practical methods on how to become a better driver and are not just in place to accelerate the coveted restricted licence. Getting behind the wheel and learning the techniques and theory may not fit into your busy schedule (and the faded Full Licence with your old haircut already shows your experience, right?) but are you the safest driver you can be?

For a defensive driving course near you check out this website, or if you’re looking to upgrade your ride, talk to us about our free trade-in valuation.