Hazard perception is one of the most important skills you gain when you’re learning to drive, however people don’t always remember to use it after they’ve passed their test. Being aware of your surroundings can help towards your braking and acceleration and more importantly, reduce your chances of being involved in a serious accident.
So, what should you be looking out for and what is considered a potential hazard?
- Other road users - Pedestrians, drivers/motorcyclists, cyclists, horses/animals, farm vehicles
- Environmental – Weather, road surface, debris and dirt in the road, fallen trees
- Physical – Roundabouts, junctions, blind/tight corners, narrow lanes, cliffs, roadworks
When it comes to hazard perception, observation is the key to making sure you’re aware and prepared. Here are some questions to ask yourself before things start to develop:
- Are there any junctions, side road or driveways coming up that other road users could pull out from?
- Is there anything on the road surface that could affect the handling of the car?
- Are you keeping a safe distance from any vehicles in front?
- Have you checked your mirrors and blind sports?
- Have you used your signals to make sure other road users are aware of what you’re planning to do?
- If making a manoeuvre have you checked it is a safe place to perform this manoeuvre?
There are rules of the road, but we’re all aware that not everyone follows these. You can’t predict or assume what another road user will do but you can prepare yourself.
- Do not place yourself in another vehicle’s blind spots.
- Keep a safe distance between yourself and any vehicle in front
- If you see another vehicle joining the same road as yourself prepare yourself to decelerate or stop if needs be.
- Be alert even if you have right of way
It is important to also look out for developing hazards, these are things that may not be a hazard when you first spot them but could become a dangerous situation. The sooner you spot the first signs the earlier you can prepare yourself to react.
So how can this help with braking and acceleration?
Being observant means, you’ll have more time to prepare and avoid danger. This should help reduce the chances of having to drastically alter your speed and/or direction of driving.
By looking well ahead and responding early and gradually to changes, the smoother you’ll drive. Harsh acceleration and braking uses more fuel, puts more wear on the vehicle and reduces the time and distance you have to respond to hazards.
A car parked on the roadside up ahead? Prepare to keep your car a safe distance away from the car in case the door opens, and someone steps out. If there’s oncoming traffic ahead, prepare to stop behind the vehicle and wait for the traffic to pass so you have the space to move past safely. Accidents can happen when drivers’ mis-calculate the space they have to get through, therefore if you’re not sure always wait till you know there’s enough room. It will also mean you won’t have to accelerate or brake suddenly last minute.
A vehicle driving up from a side road that joins yours? Prepare to stop if they do pull out, this should reduce the risk of having to slam on your brakes. Remember just because you have right of way doesn’t mean they will stop for you!
Stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle? Make sure the road ahead is fully clear and you have plenty of time to overtake, this will prevent you from having to accelerate harshly to avoid oncoming traffic. Again mis-calculating the amount of time you have to get past can lead to serious accidents, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
So what does this all mean if you're a WiseDriving customer?
The smoother your braking and acceleration the higher your driving scores will be. A higher score shows you’re displaying safer driving behaviours and are at less of a risk of having an accident. This is great for your safety but also your bank! by showing your safer and less risk of an accident you could earn money off the price of your insurance.
Acceleration and breaking are two of the factors we record, speed and the times you drive are also recorded to get a picture of your overall driving.