EssentialÂ Skills ARTICLE
When driving, you need to allow space around your vehicle and clearance when you are following other vehicles. Maintaining a safe gap to other traffic will reduce danger and can even prevent a crash. This gap is known as adequate clearance and maintaining this around your vehicle can help create a safety zone to allow for the mistakes of other drivers. You should always keep a safe distance when you are following other vehicles, and you need to also keep clear of parked vehicles and other obstructions. When driving along you should be able to give this adequate clearance when there are no oncoming vehicles or if the road is wide enough that oncoming traffic is not adversely affected. When passing parked vehicles, you need to allow the same clearance in case a car door opens or someone steps out from between parked vehicles. As you approach parked vehicles, look well ahead and steer out into position early so you can follow a smooth line past parked vehicles. If the road is too narrow or you canâ€™t give a metre clearance or approximately a car doorâ€™s width because of approaching traffic, you will need to slow down. The closer you need to get to parked vehicles, the slower you should go.
Â Clearance to the Side of the Vehicle
As has been discussed in earlier articles, whilst driving you should normally keep about a metre from the right kerb or other obstructions, which we referred to as your normal driving position or your safe driving line. If you are unable to stay a metre away from the kerb or any obstructions, as you get closer, you must reduce your speed. A slower speed will allow you to manoeuvre your vehicle through the smaller gap safely. As a rough guide, a metre is about the width of your car door.
Â Following Behind Other Vehicles (Queuing Traffic)
When joining a queue of stationary traffic, make sure that you brake early enough so that you can stop safely. You should stop far enough back so that you can see the vehicle in front and some tarmac between the two vehicles, referred to as â€˜tyres and tarmacâ€™. Leaving this gap will enable you to manoeuvre around the vehicle should it stall or breakdown.
Â Following Moving Traffic
When driving we should be able to stop within the distance we can see to be clear ahead of us. However, in urban traffic it is sometimes impractical and we would not be able to leave our full stopping distance, so we must always drive with due care and consideration to other road users.
Â Following Traffic at Higher Speed
When following other traffic at a speed in excess of 60 kilometres per hour, you can use the second rule to ensure you are following at a safe distance. To apply the two second rule, wait until the vehicle in front of you passes a fixed point and then say, â€˜only a fool breaks the two second ruleâ€™. This will take about two second, and if you arrive at the fixed point having completed the rhyme, then you are at a safe distance and you are more than two seconds away. But if you arrive at the fixed point without completing the rhyme, then you are too close. You should check your mirrors, ease off the gas slightly to allow the vehicle in front to pull away slightly and then apply the rule again.
Â Following Cyclists and Motorcyclists
When following cyclists and motorcyclists, stay well behind until you can give them enough clearance as you go pass them. Always remember that cyclists or motorcyclists can wobble or move sideways without warning to avoid pot holes and so on. Always think of the consequences if a cyclist or motorcyclist fell off as you were passing them, so give cyclists and motorcyclists enough room where possible so that if they fell off, you would still be able to avoid them. And if you must overtake with less clearance, then you must slow right down.Â In next weekâ€™s article we shall be discussing overtaking on single carriageways and dual carriageways using the MSPSL or hazard routine. For further explanations or clarification on the articles in the Essential Skills of Driving column, consult theÂ author. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€¦Concluded
Stephen K. Dieseruvwe
Director General, Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA)
**Driver Trainer and Road Safety Consultant