ESSENTIAL ARTICLE: Essential Skills of Driving: Defensive Driving

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The Essential Skills of Driving series started in the ThisDay Newspaper in March 2017 and has been running on a weekly basis (every Saturday), with the aim of educating drivers (learners/novice drivers, experienced/professional drivers, driving instructors/educators, etc) on the basic rules of the road. The series so far has given the necessary advice to help drivers and other road users stay safe on our roads, which in turn will prevent and/or reduce many of the deaths and injuries occurring on Nigerian roads on a daily basis, by improving and inculcating acceptable driving standards and techniques. The series of articles have covered basic driving skills; road procedure; and application of driving skills. In the next few weeks, the attention would focus on defensive driving and eco-driving skills and techniques.

 Defensive Driving

Our roads are getting busier than previous times, and they get busier in the yuletide seasons of every year. Associated with these busy roads, drivers have to cope with the unpredictable, irrational, competitive, offensive and dangerous driving attitudes and behaviours of drivers, which make our road conditions hostile, resulting in higher risk of incidents on our roads. Faced with this, drivers need to adopt a suitable driving strategy and or technique called defensive driving.

Defensive driving is based on effective observation, awareness, anticipation and staying in control; and driving with responsibility, care, consideration and courtesy. It is always about questioning the actions of other drivers and road users, by you being prepared for the unexpected, in order for you not to be taken by surprise as a result of the mistakes of other drivers. When driving defensively, your safety and that of other road users is put above everything else. As other drivers are bound to make mistakes, you should be ready to slow down or stop.

The goal of the defensive driving is to save lives, time and money by training drivers in collision prevention techniques, regardless of road and weather conditions or the actions of other drivers. It is designed to heighten drivers’ awareness of everything happening around them while driving. Defensive driving also promotes an attitude of mutual understanding, courtesy and cooperation on the road.

 Defensive Driving Characteristics

There are five characteristics of defensive driving:

-Knowledge – defensive drivers should have knowledge of traffic laws and regulations, and have the basic understanding about their vehicles, such as how the brake system operates and how to read gauges and lights on the dashboard.

-Alertness – defensive drivers should be alert to what is going on around them. Before embarking on any journey, defensive drivers should be well rested and should never take any drugs or alcohol that could affect their concentration before driving a vehicle.

– Anticipation – defensive drivers should always anticipate what may or may not happen around them, and take the necessary action to avoid any incidence. They anticipate potential hazards from other motorists, pedestrians, weather and equipment and take steps to minimize the risk.

– Judgment – defensive drivers do not embark on risky maneouvres, for example, trying to beat red lights. They try not to overtake unless it is safe and they look for alternatives to any traffic situation.

– Skill – defensive drivers have the technical skills to operate their vehicles safely through traffic without endangering anyone else on the road, and with due consideration to other road users. Even in hazardous conditions, they have total control of their vehicles.

  Stephen K. Dieseruvwe

Director General, Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA)

**Driver Trainer and Road Safety Consultant

**Email: sdieseruvwe@gmail.com

**Tel: +2348167814928