Defensive Driving

Six Driving Conditions (Light, Weather, Traffic)

What does `Drive to the Conditions’ actually mean?

There are SIX driving conditions that confront drivers every time a vehicle is operated.

Light ~ Weather ~ Traffic ~ Road ~ Vehicle ~ Driver

If any of these conditions are adverse, your driving will be affected and you should take action to correct them.

When your visibility is reduced through hazardous weather conditions, such as dust, heavy rain or fog, turn your head lights on, reduce speed and look to your left for either the edge line or the shoulder of the road to guide you. You should also increase your Crash Avoidance Space (following distance).

Driving in traffic is very demanding and requires a driver to be attentive, in a good frame of mind, remain alert,

check mirrors and maintain a safety zone around the vehicle.

Unless you have this attitude you should not be driving.


The first requirement of safe driving is to see and to be seen.

The problem may be too much light or not enough light. The solution. Adjust your driving to suit the existing conditions. For bright sunshine, wear sunglasses and use your sun visor. Avoid looking directly at oncoming bright headlights. Look well ahead to the left for road edge markings as a guide. For low-light conditions turn on your headlights – not parking lights.

In all situations involving adverse light conditions:

¨ Reduce speed and increase the Crash Avoidance Space (following distance),

¨ Keep a sharp eye out for animals, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycles,

¨ Avoid driving into dust clouds, and driving at dusk and dawn; and

¨ Be extra cautious of shadows over the road that hide potholes, bull dust and wildlife, particularly kangaroos blending into the shadows.

Driving at night is more demanding and stressful than driving during the day. We make natural compensations for this as we drive, however traffic death rates are still three times greater at night than during the day.

One reason night driving is so dangerous is that 90% of a driver’s reaction depends on vision, and vision is severely limited at night. Depth perception, colour recognition and peripheral vision are compromised after sundown.

sixdriving condition

Night Driving: All drivers need to be aware of the potential hazards driving at night present. These hazards include fatigue, reduced visibility, poor lighting, other (impaired) motorists and animals on the road. Fatigue is perhaps the most dangerous hazard when driving at night.

Night driving can be tiring and difficult; tiring because of the lack of eye movement due to concentrating on your headlights and difficult due to the lack of vision and colour that is available.

When you drive at night the pupils in your eyes open to allow more light in so that you can see. As a vehicle approaches your pupils adjust as the headlights get brighter and cause your pupils to react. The intensity of the light bleaches your retinas. When the vehicle passes and you have darkness ahead of you again, your pupils take time to adjust again (between 3-5 seconds). It is during this time that is the most dangerous because you are driving without being able to see very far

Your eyes never get use to the dark because you are looking at a bright object – your headlight beam. This is the main reason for drivers failing to see animals, pedestrians and cyclists.

Consider the following if you choose to drive at night:

¨ Be confident all lights work correctly and are visible;

¨ Ensure mirrors and glass are clean inside and out;

¨ Avoid looking directly at oncoming headlights;

¨ Increase your following distances;

¨ Use high beam where possible;

¨ Dim lights for oncoming traffic; and

¨ Drive within your headlight beam.

 Overdriving your headlights means not being able to stop inside the illuminated area ahead.

It is difficult to judge other vehicles’ speeds and distances at night.

Do not overdrive your headlights, it creates a blind `crash area’ in front of your vehicle.

You should be able to stop inside the light area.


Sometimes you have to consider the elements for traction, good visibility and maintaining vehicle control. Your best weapon is good judgment. That may mean postponing a trip until conditions improve.

Make yourself visible to others, most importantly, slow down, maintain a safe following distance and be alert.

Keep all windows clean and use your air conditioner when windows are fogging up.

¨ When raining, roads are slipperiest when it first starts to rain. Surface oil and grease form a slick film that’s not washed away until after 20 or 30      minutes of hard rain.

¨ In light, misty rain the oil and grease will form a slick film that never gets washed away.

¨ Too much speed, a thin tyre tread or improper tyre pressure may lead to hydroplaning.  Steering and braking are then affected because the tyre isn’t in contact with the road – it’s actually riding on a thin layer of water.

¨ High winds make steering difficult. Control your vehicle, and watch out for other vehicles swerving into your path, particularly vehicles, caravans, trucks, semi trailers and road trains.

¨ Use low beams when driving in fog – not high beams or parking lights. Low beams direct light onto the road ahead. Light from high beams will hit the fog and be reflected off it.

Driving on wet roads can be very dangerous as you may realise from the number of crashes. This is because a layer of water forms a barrier between the road and the vehicle’s tyres and stops the tyres from obtaining a good grip on the road.

Your risk of a crash on wet roads trebles if your tyre depth is only 1.6mm (minimum tyre depth)  compared to new tyres. A vehicle with a good tyre tread will usually disperse the layer of water out through the tread. However, a tyre that has a minimum amount of tread (1.6mm) will be unable to disperse water in sufficient qualities and will hydroplane at 90 kph.

Hydroplaning (called aquaplaning in Europe and Asia) means that the tyre (and vehicle) is floating on top of the road surface. If it occurs, the driver has little or no control over the vehicle and is at the mercy of wind and/or road camber.

To avoid hydroplaning in wet weather:

¨ Look ahead for wet roads.

¨ Don’t’ drive with bald or badly worn tyres.

¨ Slow down when there is heavy rain or standing water on the road.

Do not use Cruise Control on wet/slippery surfaces as it can make the vehicle accelerate. Vehicle incidents often occur as a result of hydroplaning, but in many cases this is due to poorly maintained vehicles and tyres, driver inattention or poor road conditions and has nothing at all to do with cruise control.

If cruise control is engaged when hydroplaning occurs, the driver’s subsequent reaction could make the situation worse than it may have otherwise been e.g. the driver may hit the brake heavily to disengage cruise control and this could lock up the wheels. In addition, drivers often move their feet away from the pedals when cruise control is engaged and are less attentive than normal. The small delay caused by these factors, could equate to the difference between a safe recovery and a serious crash. In addition an inattentive driver could hit the accelerator instead of the brake to disengage cruise control, causing the vehicle to speed up and loss of control.


Intersections are one of the most common locations for traffic crashes. Besides having vehicles moving in up to four directions, there might also be stopped, slowing or speeding vehicles; red light runners; drivers changing lanes; pedestrians; and drivers attempting to enter moving traffic. Because intersections present so many unpredictable situations you, as a good defensive driver, will always anticipate what might happen before you arrive at one.

Scan the intersection, foot of the accelerator, resting your foot above the brake and be prepared to take evasive action for the worst case scenario.

It may not happen ~ however if it did, you are well prepared.

Signals lie. Never enter an intersection at the top of the posted speed, even if you have a solid green light. A green light at an intersection is an indicator that you have the right-of-way. A green light cannot think or see and will not stop another oncoming vehicle. Don’t trust them.

Slow down slightly before entering an intersection and see for yourself that it is safe to enter. The immediate danger is the traffic coming from your right on the cross-street. Look right first to make sure all traffic is stopped or stopping before you enter the intersection. Then look left. If it is safe, enter the intersection and roll through with your foot off the accelerator and covering your brake.

Red light runners. The majority of crashes at controlled intersections happen within 4 seconds of a light change. If you are stopped at a red traffic light DO NOT RACE into the intersection as soon as the light turns green and never roll through a light that changes from red to green just as you approach the intersection. Hesitate; look right first, then left, then right again before you drive into the intersection. Looking right and left will only take a couple of seconds.

Anticipate. Watch ahead for drivers in the left cross street who are planning a left turn into
oncoming traffic. Many times drivers may be inpatient and will pull out into the lane in an attempt to `beat’ you. Also watch for drivers who may be attempting an unprotected right turn across
oncoming traffic. They may also attempt to `beat’ approaching traffic by pulling out when it is not safe. Anticipate their actions and slow down.

Pay attention. While attempting to turn into an intersection from a stop, remember that traffic moving with the green light always has the right of way. If you cannot make the turn without causing traffic to slow for you, then wait until you get the green light. If you do have plenty of space to enter, watch for vehicles around you and pay particular attention to pedestrians and

Turn signals lie. Don’t turn into an intersection just because an approaching vehicle has a turn signal on. The driver may plan to turn just beyond you, or the signal may have been left on from an earlier turn. Wait until the other driver actually starts to turn before you continue.

Don’t block the road. Whenever you enter an intersection, even if you have a green light, make sure there is enough room to get completely across it. You are a nuisance and a danger if some portion of your vehicle is blocking a traffic lane or a pedestrian crossing.

Mind your wheels. If you are attempting a right turn while in an intersection, don’t turn your wheels in the direction you are turning until it is clear to go. If you are rear-ended while you are waiting, your already-turned wheels will steer your vehicle into the oncoming traffic.

Rear end crashes are the most common type of vehicle incident.

A fair number of vehicle crashes involve some sort of rear end crash. The damage can be as simple as a fender-bender or, in some cases, can lead to a total loss of the vehicle.

 Rear end crashes are often caused by tailgating or following too closely without adequate stopping distance.

Driver inattention is often to blame, particular pulling up behind a  vehicle that has stopped at a intersection.

Another cause is a sudden deceleration by the vehicle in front, maybe to avoid an object in the roadway or unsafe conditions.

Protect yourself from the consequences of rear end crashes: Typically a rear end crash, even at moderate speed, involves a trauma to the back and neck from the impact of the crash. This trauma, commonly known as whiplash, can have consequences which range from mild to severe, with pain lasting for months or years. In more severe cases, permanent injuries, such as herniated disks, may occur.

How To Avoid A Rear-End Collision

¨ Allow enough space and time for safe stopping, and do not tailgate.

¨ Increase your stopping distance, especially in wet, slippery, icy conditions and gravel roads.

¨ If another driver is driving aggressively, let them pass you rather than have them tailgate.

¨ When carrying a heavier than normal load, allow more space and time to stop.

¨ If you must stop suddenly, flashing your brake lights may alert the driver behind you.

¨ When stop in traffic/intersection (behind other vehicles or on the white stop line), allow enough space in front to take evasive action if the vehicle behind you is not going to stop and always check your mirrors to know that the vehicle behind is going to stop.

Driving in heavy traffic: Driving at peak hours or on busy highways is not much fun for anyone. Plan your trip so that, on the roads you choose, traffic is light and you have plenty of time to enjoy your trip. Leave earlier.

Do you understand the two types of merging? A problem with merging into freeway traffic is being able to see traffic that is behind you on the freeway in the lane you want to enter. Turning from the waist instead of just turning your head will make it easier to see traffic. Remember to use the full length of the merging lane on the freeway. This means you can use your mirrors to see traffic from behind.

Remember you must not cross a lane line unless it is safe to do so, and make sure that you are travelling at the same speed as the freeway traffic when you join the freeway.

Head checks: A head check is the turn of the head to the left or the right to make sure the space you are about to move into is not already occupied. Turning your head is very important because mirrors have blind spots. You may not be able to see a vehicle in your mirrors – especially a small vehicle like a motorcycle. Many times there will not be a vehicle in your blind spot but occasionally there will be. That’s why a head check can be a ‘lifesaver’.

Rear vision mirrors: Glance regularly in the rear vision mirrors. By doing this you will be aware of what is occurring behind you. This is very important when overtaking. Regularly checking the rear vision mirrors means that you will always know what is happening behind you. However, remember to do a ‘head check’ before changing lanes.

Road Rules

Knowledge of the road rules & company policies, which brings road users to share a common goal. If we did not have road rules, road fatalities and road rage would be a lot higher.

Road rules and company policies provide guidance,

control and uniformity to ensure the correct and safe movement of vehicles and other road users within an area or length of road.

Are you aware of the changes made to the state Road Rules which ensure they align with the Australian Road Rules.

What is your understanding on National road rules?