Defensive Driving

What is Defensive Driving?

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Realisation and Adherence: We often forget that the vehicle is just a machine and driving it requires the driver’s complete concentration on the road.

Any lapse of concentration can lead to a major incident causing the loss of many lives.

People driving motor vehicles need to be responsible and alert for the sake of not only themselves, but also their passengers and other road users. This is achievable by refraining from any activity that can and will cause distractions. Always remember that even if you believe you are a `highly skilled’ driver that can operate your vehicle safely without paying much attention, this doesn’t guarantee that the other driver in the opposite direction might be as `skilled’ as you. So your alertness could avoid a crash that is not your fault .

Low Risk Defensive Driving is choosing to reduce the risk in being involved in a vehicle  incident/ crash (whether it is your fault or not) by driving to save lives, time and money in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.

defensive driveSaving lives is about protecting yourself, your passengers and other road users. Vehicle crashes are the greatest single cause of fatalities and injuries in Australia, with about one-third of all fatalities occurring on Australian roads.

Types of Vehicle Crashes: Studies have shown that the main cause of road trauma involves the following vehicle incidents:

  • A vehicle colliding with another vehicle.
  • A vehicle colliding with a stationary object such as a tree, power pole.
  • A motorcycle crash that does not involve a collision, such as a fall.
  • A vehicle involved in a single vehicle crash, such as a rollover.
  • A pedestrian hit by a vehicle.

Road injury statistics include:

Young people (aged less than 30 years) account for over half (52%) of road trauma victims.

Males are twice as likely as females to be injured in a motor vehicle crash.

  • In most cases, a person involved in a motor vehicle crash has more than one injury.
  • About one-third of serious injuries are life threatening.
  • Motor vehicle crashes cause approximately half of all spinal injury cases.
  • The most common injuries for drivers and passengers, involve the head and chest.
  • The most common injuries for pedestrians involve the head and legs.

What to expect from emergency services: At the crash site, ambulance officers treat the person who is injured in a motor vehicle crash. The officers then transport the injured person tohospital. A hospital emergency room does not operate on a `first come, first served’ basis.   Instead, a nurse conducts `triage’, which is a system that decides how urgently a person needs medical attention.

Emotional trauma: Even after the physical injuries have healed, a survivor of a serious vehicle crash may find their life is forever changed. Perhaps their physical injuries prevent them from working or fully participating in life as they did before, particularly if someone has died in the crash. A survivor of a vehicle crash can experience severe emotional and mental anguish, such as: Flashbacks; Sleeping problems; Anxiety; Guilt; Grief; Depression. It may help the person to talk about their feelings with someone they trust, such as a family member, friend, doctor or other forms of counselling support.

Improving our ability to avoid vehicle crashes requires a driver to build upon the consciousdevelopment of a high degree of: Knowledge, Alertness and Foresight, then the ability to exerciseJudgement & Skill, to protect you the driver, your passengers, other road users, the vehicle and our environment. The Defensive Driver uses all five of these skills all the time ensuring that a
continuous level of awareness is maintained.

defensive driving tipsKnowledge

Knowledge of road rules & site specific policies. Road rules 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.

How long has it been since you last read a copy of the `Road Rules’? Are you aware that we changed from state road rules to national road rules in 2005. Are you aware of the changes made to the state road rules that ensure they align with the Australian Road Rules including annual amendments to state and national road laws.

Knowledge and understanding of the vehicle capabilities and limitations. Understand thedifferences in vehicles (2WD, AWD, 4WD).

Centre of gravity – the higher the vehicle, the higher the centre of gravity. Need to be moreconscious of this when cornering in these vehicles.
Weight of the vehicle – the heavier the vehicle the longer it takes to stop and accelerate.
Blind spots – know how to adjust the mirrors to reduce the blind areas at the sides of the vehicle.
Tyres – the more capable a tyre is suited to off-road the less safe it is for on-road performance.

Electronic drivers assist technology and how they work; (ABS, TC, VDC, VSC, ASC, ESP, EBD).

Your capabilities and limitations. Do not be bullied, pushed or pressured by anyone to driveoutside your comfort zone.

Ability to recognized hazards: Know the defence required if something did go wrong and beprepared to take evasive action. Recognizing the hazard and considering the worst case scenario is the behaviour of a low risk defensive driver.


Stay focused and free from distractions. Any activity that distracts drivers or competes for their attention has the potential to hinder driving performance and has serious consequences for road safety.

The worst driver distractions include;

  • Mobile Phones and GPS (TomTom, Navman),
  • Adjusting vehicle settings (stereo, climate control, MP3),
  • Other occupants – passengers, kids and pets,
  • Maps, reading and writing,
  • Reaching for moving objects and grooming,
  • Eating, drinking and smoking,
  • External distractions such as other people, crashes and crosses on the side of the road that represents a fatality.

Driver distractions are a major cause of motor vehicle crashes.

Approximately 18% of the annual road toll on Australian roads are contributed to distractions.

We often see and read statistics and reports about the dangers of distracted driving. One problem with this is that we can become complacent about the facts and figures, or regard them in a purely `academic’ way – and it becomes easy to lose sight of the meaning behind these figures. The sheer numbers of crashes involved can make it difficult to appreciate the consequences for `real people’.

Tragic stories lie behind many of these incidents, and the effects of distracted driving crashes can extend far beyond the people directly involved.


It is important that you have good foresight and judgment skills to be able to react appropriately in order to drive safely not only for short distance driving, but also long distances, by reading the road situation well ahead.

  • Defensive drivers know that their worst enemy is the unexpected.
  • They never assume the other driver will do the right thing such as give way or move into your crash avoidance space (following distance).
  • They anticipate hazards by scanning the road to size up the conditions as they drive.

Red Mist is a state of mind or a mental thought process that drivers get into when they are so determined to perform an activity such as overtaking or getting to a destination as soon aspossible, that they are no longer capable of assessing driving risks rationally.

Their minds are not on the responsible side of driving but they are prepared to take risks to reach their final destination, to the extent that rationale and commonsense has gone.

A driver chooses to push themselves beyond their limits or capabilities. The driver knows the consequences-if something was to go wrong, however they choose to take that risk.

For example `speeding’. Most of us speed, we know that we are speeding and are aware of the   consequences if we get caught, or if we were involved in a vehicle incident. However, we choose to take that risk and speed. This is `Red Mist’. You choose.

Similar to speeding, a driver knows that they are fatigued behind the wheel; they know that they are tired and fully acknowledge that they should pull over and rest. The driver knows the consequences if something did go wrong (and it could be fatal) – however they choose to push themselves and take those risks `Red Mist’. You choose.

Driving in country and rural areas where the speed limit is 100 kph – you know that kangaroos and wildlife are out and about and you know the consequences if you hit one, it may cause severe damage, however you choose to drive at 100 kph and take that risk. `Red Mist’ You choose.

Red Mist can be managed by drivers remaining calm, taking the time to evaluate the risks andconsequences around them and maintain a proactive, professional and responsible attitude todriving.

A momentary lapse in concentration can lead to a life time of consequences.

Be responsible for your decisions.


Good drivers use GOOD sense and knowledge to make decisions wisely and quickly. Good drivers maintain control of their behaviour, resisting the  temptation to make risky manoeuvres to get somewhere faster or to out-manoeuvre other drivers. They overtake only when it is safe, and always look for the safest, rather than the quickest, alternatives in any traffic situation. Good drivers are courteous, even when other drivers are not.


Defensive drivers develop the skills necessary to operate a vehicle properly and safely to protect you, other people, the vehicle and the environment.

They know the safe and legal way to make turns, change gears, brake and overtake. They can `listen’ to their vehicles for signs of engine trouble, and they can perform simple emergencyrepairs, such as changing a tyre.

A skilled driver operates the vehicle to reduce maintenance cost, fuel consumption and emissions into our environment.

The Defensive Driver uses all five of the defensive driver skills at all times when driving a vehicle.

Defensive drivers recognize that driving is a privilege — not a right. Consequently, they make it a point to know, and respect the rules and regulations, which govern our roads and highways.

Defensive drivers recognize that by `giving just a little’, by tailoring their driving behaviour to the six driving conditions present in the driving situation, they stand to `gain a lot’.