Driver anticipation and risk management

Driver anticipation and risk management

Should I Go or Stop?

During the the process of learning to drive there becomes a point where the student starts taking responsibility for their own decision-making. This natural transition in learning occurs when a student starts pre-empting the driver trainer’s instructions; acting automatically and making split decisions on an ever-changing road environment. This transfer of responsibility and safe decision-making is good and is the main goal of every driver trainer. It promotes a learner drivers self belief and confidence which further enhances the learning process. However; independent decisions we all make while learning something new don’t always go according to plan. With regards to learning to drive, there are times when every student driver is unsure and indecisive of how to react to a traffic situation ahead which delays decision-making and hazard reaction time.

Many situations that arise when driving require a response from the driver to change speed or direction. In these situations the driver makes one of three possible decisions:

  1. It’s safe to go
    • – You slow down on approached to a roundabout and see it is completely clear – there is no traffic on the roundabout so the decision to continue is straightforward.
  2. It’s necessary to stop
    • – You slow down on approached to a roundabout and see it is blocked by stationary traffic – the decision to stop is obvious.
  3. Not sure if I should go or stop
    • Assuming a learner driver has identified the hazard ahead; the uncertainty to stop, slow down or go is normally due to not wanting to make the wrong decision. Learner drivers don’t realise that every driver has this moment of uncertainty on approach to hazards because it can be very difficult to predict outcomes as situations ahead develop. When experienced drivers feel uncertain whether to go or stop their immediate decision and instinct is to slow down and expect to stop. It is this instant response and reaction to slow down and prepare to stop that keeps drivers safe on the road.

If you’re taking driving lessons yourself you may well have experienced this situation and recognise it by a uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty as to whether to slow down, stop or go; perhaps when approaching a narrowing space between park cars and oncoming traffic. As soon as you start feeling this uncertainty, check the traffic situation behind and start to slow down immediately and continue slowing down as much as necessary to give yourself more thinking and reaction time. It will also give more time for following traffic to respond to your changing speed and the changing road conditions ahead. In this example, if you’re getting Close to the obstructing vehicles (a couple of bus lengths) and you’re still not sure whether to go or stop then the decision is easy: STOP. You may find that on some occasions you slow down too much and maybe stop unnecessarily; But in these situations it’s easy to get going again. Naturally the more you encounter these situations and gain driving experience the more your confidence in your own judgement will grow and your reactions will become much quicker, more accurate and therefore safer – just like experienced drivers.

I hope this post has been helpful to anyone learning to drive. If you have any questions or want advice about driving lessons please visit Kinghams Driving school or phone Steve Kingham on 07749 621632.

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