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As part of the driver licensing system, the driver competency standard has been set as:

  • the basis of the new driving assessments
  • used by driving assessors to determine if L2 & P1 applicants have sufficient and safe driving skills, and they demonstrate progression towards the standard, to drive alone on Tasmanian roads. At a driving assessment, driving assessors look to the standard to find out whether a L2 & P1 applicant demonstrates progression towards 'competency'.
  • a tool for training
  • a recognition that driving involves driver behaviour (ie they choose to do it).

Who can use the competency standard?

This standard, especially units 1 - 4, can be used by learner drivers, supervisory drivers and driving instructors and all drivers to check a learners progressions towards the standards and to determine if they are ready to take the new driving assessment.

Driving instructors may use it for assessing their student's progress and to be a checklist of learning points for devising learner driver courses. It can also be used for determining whether their students are demonstrating progression towards competency are ready to take their driving assessment.

The standard, especially units 5 - 6, may be useful for training experienced drivers or for them to evaluate their driving habits.

The purpose of the driver competency standard is to "effect the safe, efficient personal mobility by operating a car in the public traffic system"

Safe driving has two important parts:

  • the skill to drive safely - these include the basic physical driving skills and applying the road rules and
  • the will to do so - these include the driver's values, emotions and personal needs (units 4 and 6 have elements that relate to this part).

The summary of units and elements in the driver competency standard are:

  • operate the car
  • guide and control the car
  • drive in an orderly traffic system
  • minimise conflict
  • manage crisis
  • review and adjust driving.

1How to operate car

The basic skills you need to safely operate a car. The five elements are:

1.  Make sure the car is safe.

To do this you must check that the car is legal to drive which includes checking that:

  • your vehicle is registered - you can check online - Registration Status
  • all of the tyres are inflated and valves capped
  • all lights are in working order
  • the windscreen wipers are in working order
  • the horn works
  • the car's bodywork is sound.

1 Check the car's basic maintenance.

  • is the windscreen clear?
  • is there enough air pressure in the tyres (look at the tyre sticker in the car to find out the correct amount)?
  • is there enough fuel?
  • are the fluids under the bonnet are at their correct levels (engine oil, radiator coolant, brake fluid, steering fluid and windscreen washer bottle)?
  • are the electrical connections under the bonnet are secure?
  • is the fan belt lot stand is in good condition and correctly tensioned?
  • are there no oil leaks of fluid?

2. Check that you leave the car safely parked.

  • is the handbrake holding the car?
  • ensure a manual car is in first gear (if it is on the flat or facing uphill) or reverse gear (if it faces downhill)
  • are the tyres  turned towards the kerb?
  • ensure an automatic is in park
  • is the ignition is locked?
  • are the windows  closed?
  • is the key removed?
  • all the doors are locked
  • is the car legally and safely parked (read The Learner Driver Handbook)?
  • is the parking position safe?

2. Get Ready to Drive.

To do this you must check your legal requirements. Check that:

  • you have a current driver licence with you
  • if appropriate, L or P plates are on the car
  • you are following any conditions on your driver licence (like glasses).

Prior to actually driving the vehicle you need to check, adjust and make sure you have followed some precautions listed below.

1. Check how your car controls work. Check the:

  • security system and steering lock
  • handbrake - find it, put it on and make sure it feels firm
  • footbrake - it should feel firm
  • gears - where they are, and how many there are
  • clutch - how its feels to move the pedal
  • position of accelerator
  • instruments, switches and controls - where they are and how they work.

2. Adjust the driver's seat so you have control and can operate the car effectively. Check that:

  • your legs are apart, and your right foot can operate the brake
  • the seat supports your legs, and you can fully press the clutch pedal with your left foot
  • your knees are slightly bent and will not lock into a straight position if you fully stretch them
  • your hands can make a full turn of the steering wheel, and there is a slight bend in the elbows when your shoulders are against the seat
  • the head restraint suits the height of your head (about level with the top of your ear
  • the seat height, and its base and back supports, suits you
  • the steering wheel suits you - make sure it doesn?t block the instruments or cramp your legs.

3. Adjust the mirrors so that you can see as much as possible.Check that:

  • the rear window is in the centre mirror
  • the side mirrors allow you to just see a small part of the side of the car and a level view of the road behind (? land, ? sky).

4. Put on your seatbelt and adjust it. Check that:

  • the lower part of the belt fits below the stomach (hip to hip)
  • there are no twists in the belt
  • the belt is firm - pull out any slack between the belt and your body
  • the shoulder height is adjusted, if available.

5. Make sure the inside of the car is safe. Check that:

  • there is nothing loose inside the car (store things in the boot or glove box)
  • in a station wagon or a van, any cargo cannot move about
  • the doors are closed
  • the passengers have seatbelts on and they have adjusted them.

6. Set the climate control and demisters:

  • check that they are set for the conditions you expect on the journey.

3. Move off.

To do this you must start the engine. Check that:

  • you know the best way to start this car so that it will run, and keep running. It should be standing still when you start the engine
  • you know what to do if the engine does not start the first time or if it does not keep running.

1. Select gear. You must:

  • keep the car stopped and hold it with the foot brake before you select a gear
  • make sure the gear you select will be the one that lets the car move off in the correct direction without straining the engine.

2.  Move off smoothly 3.4 Move off on a hill (either up or down hill). You must:

  • move off without jerking the car. But if you make a mistake you can fix it immediately and not let the mistake affect other parts of your driving
  • move off without rolling the wrong way. It is unnecessary to use the handbrake if you can take off smoothly without it
  • move off without jerking the car
  • be able to immediately fix any mistake you make when moving off. The mistake should not affect other parts of your driving.

4. Use instruments and switches.

1. Check the gauges and warning lights after the engine starts.  You must:

  • know what to do if warning lights do not go off at the proper times
  • know what to do if the gauges tell you there is a problem.

2. Respond to gauges and warning lights when driving. You must:

  • know what to do when warning lights come on or gauges say there is a problem
  • respond to gauges and warning lights in less than 30 seconds.

3. Use switches and other controls as you need them.  You must use the car's switches, including:

  • lights
  • indicators, horn and hazard lights
  • wipers
  • climate and ventilation controls
  • cruise control
  • the side window
  • equipment for entertainment and communications.

5. Stop the car.

To do this you must be able to stop and keep the car stopped.  You must:

  • not strain any of the car?s mechanical parts or jerk the car
  • be able to have the car stand safely, with the engine running.

1. Use the park brake to hold the car. You put on the handbrake:

  • when you are going to leave the car, or if you will not be driving away again immediately
  • to hold the car still.

2. Switch the engine off.  You must:

  • before leaving the car switch off the engine in a way that suits the car.

3. Select a gear that makes the car safe.  You must:

  • for an automatic car, place it in 'Park'
  • for a manual car, place it in first or reverse gear. (When you are facing uphill on a steep slope, select first gear; when you are facing downhill, select reverse).

2How to guide and control the car

The skills you need to accurately drive and position the car on the road are:

1. Car manoeuvres.

1. You must be able to do car manoeuvres and they must be legal.  To be legal includes:

  • how and where you stop
  • where you park.

2. Not begin without a warning to other road users. You must:

  • check the car mirrors and your blind spot
  • indicate by turning "on" the appropriate indicator light.

3. To be safe you must:

  • look over the whole area where the car will go during the manoeuvre, and then check that it is safe to continue
  • not block traffic flow unnecessarily during the manoeuvring.

4. To start in the right place you must:

  • begin the manoeuvre in a starting position that suits the manoeuvre. Like, approach a forward angle park so that you can do the park in the smallest number of movements.

5. Keep watching. You must:

  • use the mirrors to help you. But don’t adjust the mirrors on the passenger’s side while you are manoeuvring
  • look in more than one direction when manoeuvring, but you must look in the correct direction at the correct time. (When doing a reverse parallel park, check as the front of your car swings in, will it clear the parked car in front.)

6.  Control your car direction and speed. You must:

  • make sure the car moves in the correct direction during a manoeuvre
  • The movements must be steady and smooth
  • Keep the speed slow enough so that you can compensate for any mistakes you make.

7.  Place the car accurately at the end of the manoeuvre. Do not touch the kerb or ride up on it.

2. Manage accelerator.

1. To do this you must move the accelerator smoothly to change speed:

  • You must - use the acceleration in small movements. Change of speed should not jerk your passengers.

2.  Use the accelerator to keep a steady speed:

  • You must maintain a steady speed by adjusting the accelerator smoothly.

3. Use the accelerator to deal with a hill:

  • when you come to a hill you must use your accelerator, rather than the gears, to keep a steady speed.

3. Manage the brakes.

1. To manage brakes you must brake efficiently.   To do this you must:

  • use the brake to slow the car
  • use the brake mainly when the car is travelling straight
  • choose the best part of the road surface for braking
  • when going down hills use the engine braking to help the car’s brakes
  • do not skid
  • vary the brake pressure according to changes in the road surface.

2. To brake smoothly and steadily you must:

  • brake gently at first, and then apply pressure smoothly until the car is slowing. Before stopping, ease off the pressure (to avoid jerking your passengers), and then ease it back on
  • Use your right foot on the brake pedal.

3. To stop accurately at a point you must:

  • vary the brake pressure to make the car come to a steady stop
  • the car must stop within 1 metre of the chosen stopping point
  • car come to a steady stop

4. Manage steering.

1. To do this you must steer smoothly making the car go exactly where it should. You must:

  • steer with both hands unless using other controls
  • not grip the wheel too tightly
  • sit so that you can properly control and operate the car
  • when steering and ‘straightening up’ the car should always be going where it should. (Wheel shouldn't slip through fingers.)
  • use the steering method that best suits but you should always be able to turn the wheel further if you have to.

2. To steer an accurate course when driving in a straight line you must:

  • steer with both hands unless you are using other controls.
  • have your hands on the outside the wheel with the palms on the rim at about the ‘ten to two’ or ‘quarter to three’ position.
  • not grip the wheel tightly.

3. To steer an accurate course in curves you must:

  • steer with both hands
  • not grip the wheel tightly
  • sit so that you can properly control and operate the car.

5. Use Gears.

1. To do this you must change gears smoothly (not jerking the passengers). You must:

  • finish selecting a gear in 3 seconds or less. (Time this from when you first move the clutch pedal to when it is released)
  • when changing to a lower gear, smoothly match the engine speed to the road speed
  • if your car is an automatic, avoid ‘kick down’ by using the accelerator gently, and by selecting a lower gear yourself before you need it.

2. Use a suitable gear for your speed and the driving conditions so that the engine is not revving or is strained. You must:

  • choose a gear that will not cause the car to skid
  • select the gear before it is needed, (like before going down a steep hill).

3. Change gears mainly when the car is travelling in a straight line. A gear change is not over until you have released the clutch pedal, you must:

  • release the clutch pedal when travelling in a straight line.
  • at an intersection or curve -not change gears when turning the steering wheel.

4. When changing to a lower gear, get the speed right first. You must:

  • adjust your speed so that when you change gear it does not jerk the car, or make the engine over-rev.
  • slow down first using the brakes before you change gear.

5. When going down hills, select a suitable gear. You must:

  • choose a gear which can help with braking (if necessary) so you don't need to use your brakes too hard or long.

6. Use accelerator, brakes, steering and gears together smoothly to do this you must:

1. When braking into a turn, ease off the brakes as increasing steering. You must:

  • reduce your braking when increasing your steering. (Like - Coming into a turn, if you put the brakes on firmly, then ease off the brakes as you start turning the steering wheel, so that the tyres can have enough grip.)

2. When holding the steering in a turn, keep speed steady you must:

  • not accelerator too much.

3. When driving out of turns, accelerate as reducing steering you must:

  • increase your acceleration as you reduce your steering.

4. Adjust steering, braking and acceleration to variations in the road surface. You must:

  • adjust your steering, braking and acceleration smoothly so that your car can handle changes in speed or direction.

You must not:

  • Jerk your passengers in the car
  • Squeal your tyres
  • Have your tyres lose their grip.

5. Combine braking and gear changing to efficiently you must:

  • use your brakes and gears together when your car is travelling straight
  • finish each gear change in a reasonable time
  • wait until the clutch is engaged before you steer.

You must not:

  • Jerk your passengers
  • Increase the engine revs to change gear.

6. In turns and on poor roads, prevent automatic transmissions from ‘kicking down’. You must:

  • use the accelerator gently. Choose a lower gear before a turn or on a poor road surface.

3How to drive in an orderly traffic system

The driving techniques you need to use in a traffic system when everyone is obeying the road rules. Eventually, you use these techniques almost without thinking about them. The six elements are:

1. Use driving procedures.

These are routines that help drivers deal with things that they do regularly. Experience drivers have these as habits - so that that they do it almost without thinking.

Driving procedures include when you:

  • change lanes
  • enter slip or turning lanes at an intersection
  • near a lane which ends or merges
  • enter and leave the traffic flow
  • make a u-turn
  • respond to emergency vehicles.

1. Before changing direction or turning (like moving the car more than one standard width sidewards). You must:

  • use the mirrors
  • signal your intention well before and keep indicator on until change of direction or turn is finished
  • indicate for at least 5 seconds if moving from a stationary position at the side of the road
  • check the rear blind spot just before you start to move.

2. Before entering an area in which you have to slow down or stop (intersections, roundabouts, crossings and where there may be pedestrians, cyclists and parked vehicles).You must:

  • use mirrors and signal, adjust speed and change gears
  • check your mirror before you brake (around 3 seconds) and afterwards (before 1 second).

3. Before turning the car at an intersection (and driveways) you must:

  • use the mirrors, adjust speed and use gears
  • indicate for enough time to give warning (around 3 seconds or 20 metres) before turning and turn indicator off when finished turning.

4 .Before entering a curve you must:

  • Use the mirrors, signal and brakes and change gears together.

5. Before overtaking - You must -

  • Use the mirrors and signal, adjust speed and change gears.

2. Navigate the road system

1. Know how to get where you want to go to - (like to a shop, to a friend's house, to another suburb). Drivers don't always use maps as they may already know where to go or someone may be directing.

2. Use information signs, the landscape to find the way you must:

  • be able to spot road destination signs when moving in traffic
  • look around for information signs and geographical features etc to find out where to go

3. Use road signs and road markings to help you get to where you are going and be able to pick the correct lanes for particular manoeuvres so that you will get to your destination.

4. To adjust your route if you make mistakes navigating you must be able to go the "wrong way" but be able to "get back on course"

3. Pass through the road and traffic system.

You must:

  • follow the road rules
  • navigate
  • carry out driving procedures
  • take in information about the environment around the road

This element describes what you have to do in three general situations; these three are then broken up further according to how much ‘thinking’ an experienced driver would need to do to deal with each. Experienced drivers can do all these things together to do this you must:

1. Always follow road traffic laws.

2. To drive in a town or suburb with light traffic (with other vehicles going in the one direction and there is no need to select gaps, with other vehicles going the same speed) you must:

  • respond and complete manoeuvres smoothly and steadily
  • only make movements that other road users are expecting you to make.

3. To drive through a city or suburb with heavy traffic dealing with situations and conditions effectively you must:

  • watch other road user movements from several directions at once
  • accurately pick gaps in the traffic to deal safely with situations
  • handle the traffic going in your direction moving at various speeds
  • respond and complete manoeuvres smoothly and steadily
  • do what other road users expect.

This situation means that you have to deal with a lot of information and make complicated driving decisions.

4. To drive in a country area effectively, with light traffic and minimal road change you must:

  • make decisions about other road users who are coming from one direction at a time
  • accurately pick gaps to deal safely with situations
  • take the right action and complete manoeuvres smoothly and steadily
  • plan and make decisions at the appropriate time so you don't act suddenly
  • do what other road users expect.

This situation means that -

  • most of the traffic is moving in the same direction and at the same speed as you
  • you will not need to make complex decisions about road blockages, the surface, the tightness of corners or the steepness of hills.
  • You have to deal with the complexity of decisions you make, rather than the number of road users.

5. To drive in a country area with a lot of other traffic and some variations in road conditions dealing with situations effectively you must:

  • watch other road user movements from several directions at once
  • accurately pick gaps in traffic so that you can safely deal with situations
  • take the right action and complete manoeuvres smoothly and steadily
  • do what other road users expect
  • the traffic moving in your direction is not travelling at your speed
  • you will need to make complex decisions about road blockages, surfaces, the tightness of curves or the steepness of hills
  • plan and make decisions at the appropriate time so you don't act suddenly.

This situation means that dealing with a lot of information and making complex decisions.

6. To pass through the road and traffic system also includes driving on special road systems, dealing with situations effectively. (Special road systems include long-distance driving and remote driving on sealed/unsealed roads).

4. Travel with traffic and respond to it.

This element includes driving tasks and events that should be given special attention as they are not routine or they require drivers to judge accurately. To do this you must:

1. Complete driving manoeuvres in traffic legally and in a timely manner. You must do this when:

  • entering a traffic stream from a parked position, or from a driveway
  • leaving a traffic stream to get into a parked position or a driveway
  • changing lanes
  • merging
  • entering or leaving a multi-lane road
  • doing manoeuvres and
  • overtaking

2. Respond to special events legally and a timely manner. Special events include:

  • emergency cars
  • obstructions
  • road works
  • big changes in the road surface
  • narrow bridges and animals

3. Respond to pedestrians legally. Pedestrians may be

  • between or near parked cars
    on a footpath or median strip
  • on a road or crossing

4. Respond to low-speed vehicles legally. Low-speed vehicles include:

  • cyclists
  • skateboarders and roller blades
  • mopeds
  • powered wheelchairs; and
  • tractors or other plant machinery

5. Drive efficiently in the traffic system.

Experienced drivers can ‘work in’ with other drivers and cooperate with them to keep the traffic flowing. Their actions do not surprise other drivers or cause other drivers unnecessary trouble. To do this you must:

1. Drive so that other road users do not have to change the way they are driving to fit in with you. Situations include:

  • picking the gaps in the traffic on an intersecting road
  • moving into the traffic stream
  • merging
  • changing lanes; and
  • overtaking.

2. When you can not move freely through traffic and there are safe and legal options available, act to get around the problem. This could be a driver in front who has stopped to make a right turn and it is safe for you to overtake on the left.

3. Co-operate with other road users.  This could be helping other drivers merge, change lanes, or allowing cars to enter traffic (especially when it is busy).

4. When a situation may cause you to change speed, use the brakes and ease off the accelerator early and smoothly. This is smooth driving. It also helps save fuel and cuts down wear on the brakes.  Situations could include traffic lights in the distance turning red, hills and curves, and approaching slower-moving traffic.

6.  Adjust driving for poor visibility.

1. Adjust your speed so that you can stop within a safe distance.To do this you must:

  • at night, limit your speed so that the car can stop inside the distance that you can see in the headlights
  • in heavy rain, dust, mist, fog and smoke, reduce your speed so that you can stop inside the distance you can see.

2. Use the headlights effectively. You should:

  • dip the headlights within 200 m of approaching cars, or when driving less than 200 m behind another car
  • at night, use high and low beams to give you the best view, but avoid dazzling other road users
  • dip the headlights at crests of hills, intersections and before corners to help you see if there are other road users coming
  • in poor light conditions during the day, turn on the lights to make it easier for others to see your car.

3. Dealing with glare at night:

  • adjust your speed and position
  • flip the mirrors to the right position
  • turn your eyes to the left side of the road away from the other car's lights.

4.  Prepare the car for night driving:

  • clean the windscreen
  • make sure the lights are working and correctly adjusted
  • adjust the mirror for night.

4How to minimise conflict

The driving skills you need to avoid trouble before getting into it. Driving conditions are not always perfect. Other drivers make mistakes or take chances in spite of the road rules. Experienced drivers 'second guess' what might happen.

1. Adjust to the driving environment.

(as road situations - eg narrow streets with parked cars are different to a wide street - and conditions change).

1. Adjust speed to suit the situation or condition. To do this you must:

  • Travel at a speed that suits the road situations and conditions
  • Travel at a speed that will allow you to deal
  • with other road users
  • with anything that might go wrong in a particular environment
  • Slow or fasten your speed as you enter the new situation or condition.

2. Match your path (the course the car is following) to the situation or condition. To do this you must position your car safely for:

  • parked cars (Leave at least 1.5m to allow for car doors opening)
  • repeat hazards (like driveways) on either side of the road
  • traffic coming the other way

3. Respond to situations in the driving environment.  On the road there will be many hazards that must be dealt with. If another road user doesn’t obey the law, or doesn’t drive safely and reasonably, their path might cross yours.

When driving, you must be able to respond to other road users doing the wrong thing, this is why it is important to:

  • keep space between your car and the vehicle in front
  • try to predict and adjust your driving for what might/could happen
  • when you can't see what is ahead (like a blind intersection) to slow down and move away from the centre of the road

To do this you must:

  • Respond to an immediate threat (where other road users' paths may cross yours - like blind intersections, pedestrians, cyclists, cars blocking your view). You must:
    • turn your eyes to things that may become an immediate threat
  • Position your car so that you can see as well as possible. If it is safe and legal, move your car on the road so that you can see more and that others can see you better, to do this you must:
    • drop back from a large car (like a bus) to see more of the road ahead.
    • when coming up to a blind intersection on your left, move towards the centre of the road to see further ‘round the corner’.
  • Match your speed to the distance you can see to be safe in front of you and to the sides.This is particularly important at:
    • blind intersections
    • blind curve
    • hill crests
    • cars parked on the side of the road

When you come up to a hill crest, blind intersection and corner, slow down until you can see it is safe to keep going. It is safe when you can see over the hill, round the corner or down a side street.

4. Move your car on the road to keep you away from things that may be dangerous. Do this by:

  • moving to the left when coming up to a crest of a hill or moving towards the centre of the road when coming to a parked car
  • moving to get more space between you and another road user

5. Adjust your driving in good time when other people do something that may be unsafe. ‘In good time’ means you have time to brake, accelerate or move smoothly to another part of the road to avoid a crash.

This means planning ahead and predicting how the driving situation may change before it does.  You might:

  • back off the accelerator
  • start to brake smoothly and steadily
  • steer away from the hazard

Some times you may need to accelerate (like when a car is closing in quickly from behind)

6. When you make a mistake and find yourself in an unsafe or illegal situation, correct it immediately. Experienced drivers make mistakes, but they fix them before they cause trouble.


2. Avoid stressful or difficult driving environments.

1. Stop the car until conditions improve. You might do this in very bad weather, or in very bad road or traffic conditions, if you are finding it very difficult to concentrate

2. Choose a different route. You might do this to:

  • avoid bad weather and road surface conditions;
  • avoid particular environments that you find difficult or unsafe because of the traffic conditions (for example, a tricky intersection); or
  • avoid environments that you don't feel comfortable driving in.

3. Make safe decisions in stressful situations. To do this you must:

  • When you are in a new or complicated driving situation (like driving in mud, deep pools of water, slippery gravel), slow down and make cautious decisions.
    • You must slow down
  • When you are driving an unfamiliar car, familiarise yourself with it. You should:
    • practise finding and using controls and switches before you move off.

4. Make cautious decisions:

  • keep a low speed
  • be more careful when overtaking, cornering and picking gaps in traffic the unfamiliar car might be more or less powerful than you think.

3. Reduce distractions in the car.

To reduce distractions in the car you can:

  • turn the radio/cassette down or off
  • stop a conversation
  • ask passengers to be quiet
  • pull the car over, if you need to.

4. If you are uncertain about a driving situation (like overtaking or selecting a gap), make a cautious decision.

To make a cautious decision you could:

  • Hang back instead of overtaking
  • Wait for the next gap in the traffic.

5. Respond positively to other road users (like a driver behind who wants to go faster).

You could:

  • talk to yourself to remind yourself to stay calm
  • don't criticise other road users’ behaviour
  • pull over to let the other driver past
  • breathe deeply
  • concentrate on other driving tasks
  • go a different way.

6. Respond safely to frustrations and delays in traffic.

Things you can do:

  • go another way
  • keep safe following distances
  • talk to yourself about what’s in it for you if you behave cautiously, and what it might cost you to behave in a risky way
  • don't criticise other road users' behaviours
  • do some deep breathing and try to relax your jaw and shoulders.

7. Manage your motivations

‘Motivation’ means the feelings and thoughts that make us do things. It is something we cannot see; we just know that people act in certain ways for certain reasons. The reasons why we behave the way we do is part of what makes us ‘good’ or ‘bad’ drivers. You should use the motivations that help drive safely and try to control the motivations that make you drive unsafely. To do this you must:

1. Drive so that it shows you value life and property. Safe drivers value life and property. They don't want to be harmed or to cause harm.

2. Stop your emotions from interfering with safe driving.  Emotions which might interfere with safe driving include:

  • aggression
    unhappiness (or happiness!)
  • impatience
  • depression
  • anxiety from worries.

You could try talking to yourself to work out the situation, ask if you are getting any benefit from these emotions when driving and ask yourself its effect. Also, try deep breathing; pulling over, stopping and making a phone call; or going another way.

3. Notice yourself taking risks. When this happens think about the benefits and costs of both risky driving and cautious driving, and make decisions you can live with.  If you want to be safe, but are a bit short of skill, your ‘safety motivation’ will make up for the lack of skill. But it doesn’t work the other way. You may be very skilful, but if you have a tendency to take risks you will not be a safe driver.

5How to manage crisis

Drivers can reduce conflicts on the road but can't get rid of them. The five elements are:

1. Avoid a crash that is about to happen.

Crashes don't happen often. It's hard to predict when crashes are going to happen, this is why it is important to keep enough space between vehicles to avoid a crash in case one day someone makes a mistake.

To do this you must:

  • Let other road users know about the imminent danger
    • You could sound the horn or flash your headlights.
  • Keep a safe following distance between your car and the car in front. You must keep enough space between your car and the vehicle in front (it is safer to stop than swerve - you just have to keep enough space

The table below shows:

  • how much space you need to stop (with reasonable brakes, tyres and driver, on a flat road) at various speeds
  • the amount of time it takes to stop

At 60 km/h, if your foot is ready on the brake pedal and a car has pulled out one and a half seconds in front of you, you can stop to avoid a crash. If your foot is not on the brake it will take you much further to stop. An extremely quick reaction on to the brake pedal will take about half a second. Studies have shown that the average reaction speed is 3/4 of a second, before drivers apply their brakes. In that reaction time their car has been travelling forward without braking. Stopping distance is therefore measured by using 2 distances - reaction distance (the distance travelled before braking) and braking distance ( the distance travelled while under brakes) and adding the 2 together -

Speed40 km/h60 km/h80 km/h100 km/h
Reaction Distance (metres)8121620
Stopping Distance (metres)10223860
Total Distance (metres)18345480
Travel Time (seconds)11.522.5

Most crashes occur in less than 2 seconds after the driver recognises there is a problem.

2. When you do not have enough stopping space to avoid the threat of a crash, choose the best escape route. If you must swerve, you must:

  • take the best and safest escape route by thinking about the consequences - it may be the next lane, onto the shoulder of the road or off the road

3. If you accidentally drive off the road on a straight, take the right action to get safely back on the road. You must:

  • stay at a steady speed and keep in a straight line parallel to the road.
  • find a smooth road edge to get back onto the road.
  • steer gently back to the road ? no big swerve.

4. When you find yourself going into a curve too fast, take the right action to fix your mistake. You must:

  • brake firmly if the car is still traveling straight, then ease off the brakes as you go into the turn
    if you are already in the turn, ease off the accelerator and brake gently
  • try to look towards the end of the curve, as this will help you know where to steer.

2. Do the right things to keep control (or get back control).

This element is about avoiding skids and escaping from them. A skid means the car has lost the grip of one or more tyres.

If you watch the changes in your driving environment and do things in good time, you should never get into a skid. If a tyre does skid it means you have made a mistake. It's a sign of bad driving.

As mistakes do happen a driver needs to know how to deal with them. Don't think you need to be able to control skids to be a safe driver. These skills are only one tiny part of being fully competent.  To do this element you must:

  • Keep some extra tyre grip in reserve in case something bad happens. If something bad happens, you will have to do something - brake or swerve -to avoid it, without the tyres skidding.

By driving smoothly, you can keep some extra grip in reserve.

3. Take the correct action after a crash.

1. Prevent any more injury or damage.You must:

  • stop and switch off the engine.
  • care for the injured
  • turn on your hazard warning lights
  • protect the area [use warning devices].

2. Carry out legal requirements. You must:

  • notify police when: someone has been injured, or property damage
  • exchange names, addresses and registration numbers
  • if possible, find witnesses.

4. Take the correct action after your car breaks down.

1. Stop your car safely - if you know something is wrong. Things that might go wrong include:

  • brakes failing
  • broken windscreen
  • tyre(s) failing.

2. After a breakdown, act immediately to make sure that you and other road users are safe. You should:

  • move off the road if possible
  • place your warning signs legally
  • turn on your hazard lights
  • move all passengers out of vehicle.

3. Carry out minor running repairs. This may include changing a flat tyre or pushing out a broken windscreen.

6How to review and adjust driving

You can learn from your driving experience and become a safer driver. The four elements are:

Watch your own driving and improve it.

1. Improve your driving when you notice your bad habits. Drivers start to drive badly when too much is happening at once for them to take in. Symptoms that show your driving is getting worse include:

  • sudden braking or steering movements
  • not responding to environmental conditions
  • a clenched grip on the wheel
  • sitting stiffly
  • not responding to other road users
  • shallow breathing
  • staring straight ahead
  • sweating.

Things you can do include:

  • more scanning of what’s happening around you
  • stop the distractions (asking passengers to be quiet, turning down radio/ sound system)
  • do nothing else but driving
  • take a rest break.

2. After making a mistake, get your driving back to normal. To get your driving back to normal you must recognise that you have made a mistake, and how it changed your driving

3. Do not repeat your mistakes. To stop repeating a mistake:

  • Spot the mistake
  • Work out the difference between what happened and what should have happened
  • Know why it happened (lack of skill, not paying attention, not knowing how to do it, or not wanting to do it correctly)
  • Take action to avoid repeating the mistake.

4. Don't compare yourself with others. Don’t judge yourself against other drivers - this can make you over confident. You may begin thinking you are a better driver than you are.

Think about how you behave on the road, and change it if necessary.

1. Avoid repeating unacceptable risks. An unacceptable risk is one that could have a result that you would be unhappy about.

2. Know when you are likely to break the road law and change your driving behaviour.

3. Show by the way you drive that you know you are at least partly responsible for any driving incident (any driving incident that you would prefer not to happen) that happens to you

When drivers explain these events in a way that recognises they are at least partly responsible for any driving incident, they are taking a ‘my mistake’ view of driving. A ‘my mistake’ view can help you learn from your mistakes.

The way you describe a driving incident will show the way you think. Generally you will have either the ‘my mistake’ view or the ‘I had nothing to do with it’ view. Obviously, if you think you had nothing to do with it, you are unlikely to learn anything from it.

4. No matter how often you may have ‘got away with’ risks in the past, be still cautious about risks and risky driving.

Driving can be dangerous, but crashes, and even near misses, are very rare events for most drivers. The result is that most drivers do not feel that driving is dangerous. They have become ‘hardened’ to the risks, because they have been in so few crashes.

You should be cautious about risks, no matter how often you have ‘got away with them’ in the past.

5. No matter how many safety features your car has, still drive cautiously. Safety features may include things like airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and high-performance roadholding and handling features.

Some drivers believe that because their car is ‘safe’, they themselves don’t have to try so hard. Studies have shown that some drivers with anti-lock brakes (ABS) fitted to their cars drive faster in wet conditions, and follow closer to other cars, than they did before they had ABS. They end up at the same level of risk as they were before.

Watch how other road users behave.

1. Watch how other road users behave, and think about why they do behave this way

Don’t rate other drivers as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ — especially not ‘bad’, as this can make you too confident about your own driving.

Watch what other drivers do, and think about why they do it. A driver who makes a gap to let you into traffic is being courteous. If you add some of that courtesy to your own driving, you will gain something from it, and so will other drivers. If you see a driver being impatient, think about why they are impatient, and watch for it in your own driving. Take note of all the drivers who are doing the right thing (and you’ll see that most of them do, most of the time).

2. When you see another driver make a mistake, remember it so that you can avoid the same mistake in the future.  Mistakes, no matter who makes them, can be learned from. The more you use mistakes, the more chances you will have to improve.

Watch out for things that cause risk and do something about them.

1. Be aware that risk is higher when you drive at night - particularly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night

2. Do not drive with alcohol, or any drug that can affect your driving, in your body.  You must also check the label of any over the counter medications that you take before you drive.

3. When your friends are in the car with you, keep up your safe driving. Don't show off.

4. Know when you are tired and do something about it.  Symptoms of tiredness include:

  • not keeping the car on a steady speed or course
  • constantly adjusting the radio/tape/CD
  • moving around in your seat
  • dry mouth
  • shivering
  • constantly adjusting ventilation
  • rubbing your face
  • yawning often
  • heavy eyelids
  • sore eyes
  • double vision.

Things to do about tiredness:

  • stop as soon as possible
  • sleep
  • take a rest.

5. Take action to avoid getting tired:

  • stop and take a rest break at least every two hours or 200km
  • drink plenty of water
  • scan (looking around) your driving environment as much as possible
  • pay attention to the way you sit
  • eat light meals rather than heavy ones
  • keep the car cool inside
  • keep the fresh air coming in
  • don't drive if you didn't have enough sleep the night before.

Things you can do before driving include:

  • plan to avoid driving during your normal sleeping hours
  • get enough sleep
  • improve your physical fitness
  • not drinking alcohol
  • cut down car noise inside the cabin
  • avoid driving after a long period of hard work - either physical or mental
  • avoid heavy meals
  • arrange regular eyesight checks.