Safer Driving Tips Page 2
THOSE OF YOU who read this column last time will remember that I said I would this time talk about the way to drive using a system or driving in a systematic way. Most people when driving tend to just get in the car start it and drive it in a much modified way of the way they were taught by their driving instructor. Habits creep in to all ways that we do daily tasks and driving is certainly one of the areas where bad habits appear. Just stand on a busy corner for a few minutes and watch the drivers as they go round it. Hands go anywhere on the steering wheel that appeals to the driver, the current favourite seems to be putting a hand on the inside of the wheel to pull it round rather than keeping it on the outside where it should be. The idea of.keeping your hands on the outside of the wheel is that they are, or should be, always in a position to make any adjustment to the steering that may be required. With a hand inside the wheel then time is lost moving the hand from the inside of the wheel to a position where it can help once more steer the car. When time is short then milliseconds count. I have actually been in a car when a person steering this way was turning a corner when a pram appeared in his path it was only by the greatest luck that an accident was avoided. The pram pusher suddenly saw the car and just managed to pull the pram back which was most fortunate as the driver was certainly not in position to change his steering in the time that was available. I think that this is one of very best reasons for steering the way that we were originally taught. There must be a good reason for it or we would not have been taught that way in the first place. Anyway on to systematic driving.
When we drive we perform a multitude of tasks everytime that we want to change the speed or direction of the car and we have a set of controls to help us do just that. We have a steering wheel, a brake pedal, an accelerator, a clutch if our car is a manual and a gear lever or gear selector in an automatic, an indicator switch and not, of course, forgetting that little thing stuck on the windscreen, the mirror! All of these controls we use to assist us keep control of the car whenever we turn a corner, enter a roundabout, in fact negotiate any hazard. Remember a hazard is basically anything you encounter when driving that will cause you to change the speed or direction of your car . The idea behind using a system is that if you use the controls of your car in the correct sequence you will always be in proper control of your car. The car should always end up in the correct position on the road, going at the right speed and in the right gear for that speed. So what is this system I hear you ask? The system of car control is a way of approaching and negotiating hazards that is methodical, safe and leaves nothing to chance.
There are five phases to the system and if you look at the diagram you can see how the system is used to turn right. Let's run through it. When driving, before we can start to do anything we need to use the first part of the system, this first part is called the information phase. This is where we use our senses, particularly our eyes. We need to know if it is safe to enter the corner, so as we are approaching it we are, or should be, looking ahead and assessing the overall situation. We also need to know if anything is behind us so we must look in our mirrors. What we are doing at this point is taking in information to assist us turn the corner, we also, if necessary, need to give information to others who might need to know our intentions by giving them a signal telling them we are going to turn right. Next we need to position our car correctly and having taken our position for the course we are going to steer we need to adjust our speed so that we are going at the correct speed to actually go round the corner. We can do this either by using the brakes or by just letting the speed drop off naturally. Once we have got the speed right we can now take the right gear for that speed and then safely drive round our corner. Having safely gone round we are now in a position to accelerate up to the speed at which we want to travel. That in a nutshell is what is called the system. If you think about it you have to do all these things anyway so it is really only a case of getting them in the right order and doing them at the right time. If you look at the diagram you will notice that I said the first phase of the system is the information phase but you will see that the information phase encompasses the whole of the rest of the system as well. This is because you, when driving, should be constantly weighing up what you are seeing and adjusting your driving accordingly. Circumstances might change as you start to go into a hazard e.g. a roundabout that was completely clear now has a vehicle coming round it so instead of going straight into it you now have to stop to allow the other car to pass your front. If you talk about the system you will find tharthere are plenty of people who will criticise it without having a true knowledge of what it is all about. They will argue that it is a rigid system of driving that makes a driver do things that are quite unnecessary, however this is just not true. The beauty of the system lies in its simplicity. Think about it . There is only one section of the system that is a must and that is the mirror at the start of the information stage. You must know what is behind you if you want to be safe before you can do anything. The rest of the system you only use if you need to. For example, do you need to change position? No. Well don't do so. Do you need to change speed, do you need to change gear, if the answer is no then you don't do so. You only do so if it is necessary for that particular hazard.
That is the beauty of the system, it is a system of car control whereby each section of the system is considered in sequence on the approach to any hazard and is used only if it is needed. However the important bit here is that whatever parts of the system are used must be used in the right order if we want to find ourselves in the situation where we are always in the right position, going at the right speed and in the right gear for that speed. Try it next time you go out in your Volvo and see if it makes a difference to your driving but please oh please keep your hands on the outside of the steering wheel.