Ask Yourself "What If?"
Although the term 'advanced driving' covers a plethora of topics, one of the things that ties them all together for me is 'planning'. An advanced drive is a planned drive, where the driver constantly questions and re-evaluates what they are doing. Fundamental to this is the creation of a 'safe space' around you and your vehicle; thereby protecting you and also, occasionally, allowing you to protect others from their own mistakes. There are three fundamental ways that advanced drivers do this.
Looking into the distance
Whilst a truism, the principle of "you can't avoid what you can't see" is critical to driving safely. The earlier you spot something, the more time you have to plan for it and safely navigate it. Advanced drivers are taught to scan into the distance and work their eyes back to the immediate, rather than starting at the bonnet and working outwards. This way, you're always planning for what is coming up, rather than reacting to individual situations. This not only makes the drive smoother and more enjoyable, but also cuts down on fuel usage and wear and tear on the car.
Tyres & Tarmac
How often have you pulled up at a junction, or set of traffic lights, and the car behind you has stopped inches from your boot? Or, possibly you've done the same thing to the car in front? Now ask yourself "what if they break down?" or, in the case of a hill start "what happens if they roll back?" As an advanced driver you'll be taught the concept of "Tyres and Tarmac" - this advises that when you pull to a stop you leave yourself enough room so you can see the tyres, and some tarmac, of the car in front. Why? Because this way, if you have to manoeuvre, you will have enough room. This is also your 'safe space' in case they roll backwards, or the car behind you doesn't quite stop in time and pushes you forwards. It can also provide a haven for a cyclist or motorbike and, if the emergency services need to get past, allows you to pull in to the side relatively easily.
The two second rule
You only have to drive a short distance on a motorway to see numerous instances of cars bunched together with insufficient gaps for braking. The slightest incident can then dramatically escalate into multi-car accidents as people, with no time to react, concertina together. The two second gap, measured by finding a stationery object on the side of the road (such as a sign, bridge support or gantry) and reciting the phrase "only a fool breaks the two second rule" as the car in front goes past, is a way that advanced drivers mitigate against this. Those two seconds, which at 70mph will means you cover approx. 62m, is marginally less than the entire braking distance you'll need (75m) but is more than enough for your thinking and reaction time (21m). It comprises your 'safe space'. Consider increasing this gap slightly if the car behind you is close, so that you can manage your braking and safely bring the person behind to a stop as well as yourself. Of course, you should also double it in wet weather and increase it further in icy conditions. The two seconds also help make the drive smoother, since you can ease off the accelerator if you notice things slowing up ahead.
So, by using these three concepts the next time you're out on the road to create a 'safe space', together with a constant questioning mindset of "what if", you'll not only improve your drive but also go someway to making the roads more enjoyable for everyone. If you want to learn more techniques such as these, or are interested in how you can improve your driving in general, the Kent Group of Advanced Motorists runs regular sessions - including a free drive check - from our centres in Grove Green and Littlebourne. Find out more on the Kent IAM website.