For many people, the road to booking their road test is one full of education and understanding of the rules of the road and how to make sure you don’t break those rules, so you pass your test.

The test becomes the gateway to freedom and the one milestone that has to be passed to get out there and be a safe and responsible driver.

However, for a few, this is just the beginning.

Some drivers simply pass their test and then forget most of what they’ve learned, but there’s a group of drivers who practice a technique that can help save lives, fuel and insurance premiums, and it’s based on common sense.

Defensive driving is a practice defined loosely as “driving to save lives, time and money in spite of conditions around you and the actions of others.”

These are important points which we’ll cover one-by-one.

Driving to save lives

Let’s face it, cars are dangerous.

The minute you pass your road test, you can drive your car around without supervision. That car is over a ton of steel, and if it hits your regular soft-skinned human, it’s going to hurt them — a lot.

They can also do a lot of damage to other cars, which can become very expensive.

But, let’s concentrate on people.

Defensive driving means expecting the unexpected.

For example, if you turn a corner and a person is crossing the road out of view, then you might not see them until it’s too late. It might well be entirely their fault. They might be crossing the road without looking, their face buried deep in a mobile phone and their headphones so loud they can’t hear.

Does it matter who’s fault it is if you hit them and they end up seriously injured or even dead?

A defensive driver will make doubly sure that the way is safe, and rather than rely on the actions of the person crossing the road; they will assume that anybody crossing is unaware of them, regardless of the situation.

This goes equally for other places on the road where people may be standing, ready to cross. The defensive driver will be looking for areas where people might not be fully aware of their location and adjust speed and direction to suit.

Another area where safety is important is when following others.

Keeping your distance behind the car in front is extremely important because if they brake sharply, you need to be sure you can stop in good time, too.

The best defensive drivers will use a roadside object such as a tree to time the distance between them and the car in front and adjust if necessary.

Taking these precautions will save lives and also the emotional trauma caused, regardless of fault, to those involved in many accidents.

Driving to save time

This might sound odd, but driving extremely quickly might not be the best way to get from A to B.

Judging the cars around you and understanding the best way to avoid traffic, to keep flowing at junctions, that’s the real skill.

A professional driver friend of mine almost never got stuck at a red light. He would look ahead and judge when the lights were about to change and either slow down or speed up accordingly.

Very often he would reach traffic lights at a time just before they were about to go green, and he could then nip in front of the cars queuing. It was quite a thing to be in a car with him.

He didn’t drive particularly fast, but he could easily beat anyone else simply by reading the road and being in the correct position at the right time.

Driving to save money

Fuel is getting more expensive every week, so making the most of it is essential.

That means never hammering the accelerator to pull away, not braking hard and never driving faster than is necessary.

Studies have shown that driving aggressively can burn up to 40% more fuel than those who take a more considerate approach.

A few tips to save money:

  • If you’re braking hard all the time then you’re driving too fast. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and traffic. Stop/start driving is a massive suck on your fuel
  • When approaching a roundabout, look ahead and adjust your speed so you can slide into the traffic flow without excessive braking. This will save you time and fuel.
  • Do you really need to overtake? It probably won’t make much difference to your journey time, yet it will burn a lot more fuel as you accelerate.

Can I take a course to learn all this?

Check your local press and you’ll probably find advanced courses in your area that will cover all of these topics.

However, one of the best ways to learn is through experience, and you’ll get that as you explore the roads with your new full driver’s license!