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Planning

A systematic and planned approach to every action you take behind the wheel is the basis of advanced driving. There is a procedure for all circumstances, but it must not be inflexible because you need to continually adapt to changing situations. If you are mindful of the procedure, you can be reasonably satisfied that you are equipped to cope with any incidents which occur on the road near you; you need never be caught out by an emergency nor panicked into making a wrong decision. You will drive with a keen awareness of active road safety, anticipating the possible moves of other road users and avoiding situations which could end in an accident.

Sticking to a planned system of driving reduces the chances of surprising other road users. Frequently drivers involved in accidents protest that they are blameless because someone else unexpectedly braked, accelerated, pulled out or turned right. A methodical, planned approach by the errant party would have avoided a dangerous situation, but better anticipation and less trust in the ability of others would have enabled the aggrieved driver also to prevent an accident. Throughout this book, the system of driving with anticipation is described in detail; there is a driving plan to be applied to almost any situation.

Can My Safety Be Given Away?

An example can illustrate the point. When turning, approaching a junction or driving round a hazard such as a parked car or roadworks, follow this sequence: Course, Mirror, Signal, Brake, Gear, Acceleration. Commit it to memory with a mnemonic to remind you of the six initials: Can My Safety Be Given Away? This is how the procedure works on the road:

  • Course: Mentally select the correct course you intend to take.
  • Mirror: Check your mirror before changing course or altering speed.
  • Signal: Signal (if necessary) clearly and in good time to confirm your intention to change course. Remember that clear signals assist all road users, including pedestrians.
  • Brake: Apply the brakes when the car is travelling on a straight path to ensure correct road speed for a lower gear selection if required for maximum car control.
  • Gear: Select the gear required according to the severity of the hazard, in order to arrive at the hazard travelling at the correct speed, with the correct gear engaged and on the right part of the road.
  • Acceleration: Accelerate gently at first, according to road and traffic conditions, and apply more progressive acceleration if it is safe to proceed.

Commentary driving

While you are getting used to this system, try 'commentary driving' to show yourself how well you are assessing the conditions around you. Even when you feel that your anticipation is good, this is a useful exercise to keep a running check on your standard. Simply commentate to yourself, describing what you are doing and thinking as you drive along. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but you will realise its value when you become accustomed to it. Do not worry about what other people may think when they see you talking to yourself! A typical commentary might sound like this:

Turning into School Lane, must be a reason for the name — accelerating away in second gear, moving up to third — make sure the indicator has cancelled keep an eye on speed, the limit is 30mph — sign ahead indicates limit will be 40mph, but a school warning follows it — it's mid-afternoon and children might be about — slow down a little even though the limit allows more, stay in third — there's a pair of feet visible behind that parked van, could be a child waiting to cross or dash out - sound a warning on the horn and prepare to move well out into the road, keeping an eye on that concealed entrance on the right - check mirror first - now signal - move out - we're past the school buildings, now in 40mph limit - speed increases, into fourth - check the mirror - there's a parked car ahead, right on the approach to that sharp bend - someone is in the driving seat so it could move off - yes, a puff of smoke from the exhaust so he has started the engine - good idea to hang back a little, even though another car is sitting far too close behind - just as well I did - there he goes, pulling out without even a glance in his mirror, let alone a signal following him through the bend, keeping a little to the right so I can get maximum vision through this left-hander.

At first you will almost certainly be amazed how much of this sort of detailed planning and observation you have neglected in the past. With a little practice, however, you should surprise yourself with how much more observant you become. Assessing all the information and potential hazards around you long before you reach them is one of the fundamentals of advanced driving.

A five-minute session of commentary driving used to form part of the advanced test, but it has now been omitted because the Institute recognises that those inexperienced in it cannot always do themselves justice. Although some excellent drivers find it difficult to articulate their thoughts while concentrating on the task in hand, it is still worth practising. Advanced motorists regard commentary driving as very valuable, so it remains a voluntary part of the test which candidates can include if they wish to reinforce the examiner's impression of their powers of observation.

Summary

  • Anticipate all road and traffic conditions ahead of you.
  • Always apply a planned procedure to your driving.
  • Practise commentary driving so that you regularly monitor your powers of observation and anticipation.
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