The answer to the heading of this section is not easy because it is not only one thing. There are a number of characteristics that you will need.
Not necessarily in this order but you do need all six.
Letís look at each one of these separately.
Concentration is to be able to keep your mind on what you are doing; in this case, driving.† If you are 17 years old and your exams are getting near, or you are looking forward to your football team going to the top of the league on Saturday, thatís fine, but donít think about it whilst you are driving.
If you are a mum driving to the shops thinking about what you need to buy; tea, coffee, sugar, etc.† Or am I going to be late picking the kids up: don't think about it whilst you are driving. If you are Joe the plumber going to fix Mr Leakís radiator, wondering if itís the valve or the radiator itself and maybe you're thinking of that £1000 still owed to you by Mr Debt: don't think about it whilst you are driving.
If you are not CONCENTRATING on your driving, and you do hit a child, or a car, who is to blame?
The six-year-old child was too young to be out on her own on that busy road, that could be true, but if you had been thinking about your driving, could the accident have been avoided?
If you did hit another car, the other driver may also have some responsibility as his mind may have been elsewhere.
A way of learning how to concentrate on your driving is to give a running commentary as you drive along, whether on your own or with someone else. You will probably learn from the comments that come back to you; some may please you and some may not. This is another way of hearing other people's views on different situations.
††††† Keep your mind focused on your driving, and no doubt less accidents will occur.
ANTICIPATIONĖ DEFENSIVE DRIVING
Anticipation is reading into things that are happening around you, which in turn will lead you into defensive driving, another very important quality in a good driver. Imagine setting off in your car with your eyes closed; what are you going to ANTICIPATE? Nothing, is the obvious answer, so what does this prove? It proves that if you look no further than the end of your bonnet you are going to have very limited information to ANTICIPATE. To enable you to read the road well, it is vital to constantly keep changing your areas of vision between short, medium and long distances. This will give you a greater picture of what is happening around you and maybe by doing this you can ANTICIPATE what is going to happen, this should naturally lead you into a more defensive way of driving. Defensive driving is all about taking precautions before they happen in the interest of your well being and other road users. By driving in the above manner you will also become a far smoother driver because you are acting on things that can be seen well ahead† (a mile or more on some types of road). There are literally hundreds of clues all around if you know where to look. Feet under parked cars, reflections in windows, headlights coming around corners; all signs to give you information to act upon.
The next two examples show how to interpret situations that you see.† The first example is nothing to do with driving but it makes the point very well.
You show a child of 3 or 4 years old a picture of a lad running down the lane with apples falling out of his pockets, with a farmer chasing him with a big stick; it wonít mean much to him.† Show him the same picture when he is 8 years old and more 'streetwise', then he will know the farmer is going to give the lad a good hiding for pinching his apples.†
†Now lets consider an inexperienced driver approaching a Zebra Crossing with Mr Reckless a few paces from the crossing. What should the driver be reading into the situation?† The driver should ANTICIPATE Mr Reckless dashing straight onto the crossing without looking both ways first.† The driver should have checked the mirror and started to reduce speed so that if Mr Reckless does dash onto the crossing without looking, you are ready for him.† If Mr Reckless does pause at the kerb edge, fine you are still prepared.† If he walks straight past the crossing so what, it might have cost you a few seconds but you have been well and truly in charge of a potentially dangerous situation due to your CONCENTRATION, ANTICIPATION AND DEFENSIVE DRIVING
†It is important to be able to use all of the controls smoothly and efficiently.† Donít be happy with the fact that you can change gear.† This should be done without jerking your passengers about in the car.
Likewise when braking, accelerating and cornering you donít want to see them swaying about all over the place. This isnít SKILLFUL driving. This is probably how you will drive when you start learning and it will continue that way for a considerable time; but with practice it should improve.
Try and think of the last time you were in a car, and when the driver stopped you didnít even feel it come to rest.† To do that consistently takes SKILL and CONCENTRATION.† The next time you are out with your partner, suggest pulling up at a convenient place on the left, so that neither of you can feel the car stop, then swap over and you try to do it.
Take this a step further using the rest of the controls including steering, and watch your passengers to see if they are jerking about in their seats. If they are, do something about it, master your controls.† Drive smoothly.
The positioning of the car on the road when cornering as well as being in the correct gear and at the right speed are all very important not only from the passenger's comfort point of view, but for the balance of the vehicle.† This manoeuvre does not necessarily have to be carried out at slow speeds, but it should always be safe.† The general rule is slow in and quick out of bends, but this is when your SKILLS have been developed to a considerable standard. It is so easy to get it wrong and finish up in the hedge bottom.† No doubt many of us have seen cars that have come to grief along the roadside and very rarely is it the fault of the vehicle.† In the majority of cases it is driver error, due to lack of SKILL, CONCENTRATION and not ANTICIPATING the situation.
You cannot become a SKILLFUL driver in a short space of time; it takes a lot of practice behind the wheel of a car to develop the above qualities and some people may never acquire them.
†If you donít have the right attitude, it won't matter how much knowledge or skill you have; you won't be a consistently good driver; because your attitude will keep letting you down. You will have to work very hard at changing it, which I'm sure can be done with the right attitude, if you see what I mean!† Your aim is to stay calm and tolerant in all situations and then you have cracked it.† Is this possible? Yes! Although I fear it is more realistic to say most instead of all, but any improvement in attitude is a bonus.
Lets talk about KNOWLEDGE of the HIGHWAY CODE.
The learner drivers and the newly qualified drivers amongst us will no doubt be quite familiar with the Highway Code because of the recently introduced Theory Test.† How many of us who passed our test during the last five years have looked at the Highway Code.† Take that a stage further.† I passed my motorcycle test in 1957 and my car test in 1959 and I have had to refer to the Highway Code many times due to the career I chose. How many people who passed their test in the late fifties or well before that have looked at the Highway Code since? There is no doubt about it we could all learn more by reading the Highway Code, and that should help make us better drivers, providing we obey the rules that we had forgotten about, and we learn the new rules that we didn't know about.
Do you have a Highway Code and is it current?† If not, it may mean a trip to the newsagents.
Lets see how much of the Highway Code you can remember. Don't reach for it until you have tried to answer the following questions: -
Here are a few signs for you to have a think about.†
Can you identify them and can you answer the questions regarding motorway driving?
What does this sign mean?†
1(a). Can you explain the difference this sign means depending on what road you are on and on what vehicle you are driving?
2. Do you know the meaning of this one?†
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††††††
3. What does this one mean?
4. Which sign means the opposite of sign 2?††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
5. What is the difference between a circular sign and one shaped like a triangle?
1. What are the four different coloured sets of studs on motorways for, and where are they?
2. What should you do if anything that could be dangerous falls from your vehicle, or any other vehicle, while travelling along a motorway?
3. Can you build up your speed on the hard shoulder to rejoin the motorway after the breakdown of your vehicle has been repaired?
The answers can be found at the end of this section.
How did you get on? Better or worse than you thought, is it necessary to go and buy the current Highway Code.
That has probably given you considerable food for thought on just those few situations.
As I have said KNOWLEDGE of the rules of the road is one of the qualities needed to be a good driver. We have just looked at the tip of the iceberg and I mean the very tip.
Very often over looked in the question 'What makes a good driver'.† It is so easy to drive to your own rules when cocooned in your vehicle.† Ignoring speed limits and road markings, carving other drivers up to gain a few seconds, when the other driver is as late as you are, but he can handle it a lot better than you can.† Parking on the footpath regardless of the person with a white stick and mothers trying to get passed with a pushchair.† Not conforming to traffic signs.† If you imagine the vehicle following is a police car would you drive to this standard?
How do you make a SELF DISCIPLINED driver?† I donít think you can unless they want to become one
Some people will say that ATTITUDE is the same quality as SELF DISCIPLINE.†† I donít think so and I believe they are different qualities.
ďTHE BEST DRIVERS ARE THE SMOOTHEST DRIVERSĒ.
This statement is an absolute fact; it is not a printing error! It is not the fastest nor the driver with the biggest car or bike, nor the one who does the most miles!
I make this point because with the advent of more and more people using their cars as a place of work rather than just as a way of getting to work, many drivers now have a completely different attitude towards driving and their cars. Their cars are simply a means of getting from A to B as quickly as possible and they drive with almost tunnel vision between the two points. You do get the impression that because some of these people cover far greater distance than the national average they automatically think they are therefore the best drivers or have more right to the roads than some others.
I am sure we have all experienced a situation similar to one of those I have described in my introduction. Now with the advent of the ďPolice Camera ActionĒ type programmes that are on TV we can all witness the way some of these individuals drive. They demonstrate a poor attitude towards their cars and any other road users they see as nuisances! There are many examples that we see that are the complete opposite of what I discussed in this section.
Nowadays as all cars can easily reach the national speed limit there is no skill whatsoever needed in getting to 70 mph. Anyone in the country can stand on the accelerator and hold the steering wheel straight! However the next time you are travelling at a certain speed and you see Dashing Dave approaching as though heís about to drive over the top of you or get in your boot, just watch him. In many instances you will be certain that in a straight line they are prepared to go far in excess of the speed limit with no regard to road or weather conditions or to other traffic around them.
You will however observe some common features with this type of driver. The first is that whether on a country lane or on the motorway a good/smooth driver will usually keep up with this type of driving. I am not suggestion for one minute that you race them. But having experience of this type of driver it is noticeable that the car may be fast but the driving is at times quite inept. The car whizzes past in a sometimes dangerous overtaking manoeuvre that leaves the overtaken and the oncoming traffic having to brake and control a potential accident because the driver has totally misjudged the situation in respect of speed and distance. You also tend to find that by the time you come to bends and corners you are back with him and their speed drops. This demonstrates a lack of skill when it comes to cornering and use of gears. You can be proud of yourself that not only are you a far more consistent driver, you have probably done it easily and will have total control of your car and temper! You will have demonstrated all the points that make a good driver and will have done it in a way that put as little strain on your vehicle as possible. Iím sure youíll agree, a far better situation than Rep Van-Winkle.
Donít be thinking that the safest drivers have to be the slowest because that is completely wrong. You only have to take a look at the world of motor sport to see that the points I have made in this section are true. At first glance whether you are watching Super bikes, Grand Prix, Rallying or any thing else, it looks like they are all mad idiots going hell for leather around the track. But watch them closely, the top ones in particular, and you will see that they are smooth and make all the manoeuvres look like one continuous piece of riding or driving. They have all the qualities needed to be a good driver; they could not be consistent or fast if they were lacking any of them. I myself enjoy driving at the limit when roads allow and nothing is more satisfying than when you drive along twisty roads and maintaining 60 mph through the bends as well as on the straight bits. That is the challenge! The feeling you get when you know you have gained the experience and ability to drive on the limit, and to accomplish this in the knowledge that you have done it quickly and still safely, is a very satisfying feeling. I donít mean it in a smug way but you should look upon it as an achievement to be really proud of, like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Remember to practice and keep everything smooth.
The following qualities are required to make a consistently good driver.
Concentration, Anticipation (Defensive driving) Skill, Attitude, Knowledge and Self-discipline.
Think about all the points in this section and practice really hard to improve yourself.
This will inevitably make you a far smoother driver.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Answers to the questions: -
1 National speed limit.† 60mph two way road and 70 mph on dual carriageway
2 Priority over oncoming traffic.
3 Road narrows on both sides.
4 Give priority to vehicles from opposite direction.
5 Triangular signs are warnings and circular signs give orders.
1 Red is left hand edge. White separates the lanes. Amber is at the right hand edge of the motorway and finally Green shows where slip roads join the motorway.
2 Stop at the next emergency telephone and tell the police. Do not try to remove it yourself.
3 The answer is Yes.