HAZARDS IN DRIVING
Driving most often refers to the controlled operation and movement of a motorized vehicle, such as a car, truck, or bus. Driving in traffic is more than just knowing how to operate the mechanisms which control the vehicle; it requires knowing how to apply the rules of the road (which govern safe and efficient sharing with other users). An effective driver also has an intuitive understanding of the basics of vehicle handling and can drive responsibly.
Although direct operation of a bicycle and a mounted animal are commonly referred to as riding, such operators are legally considered drivers and are required to obey the rules of the road. Driving over a long distance is referred to as a road trip.
A hazard is a source of danger. When driving, it is something that forces you to change your speed (usually to slow down) or change your steering (usually to steer around it) to avoid a collision. A hazard can be any possible source of danger on or near the road that could lead to a crash, and it can come from any direction. It could be a:
• child chasing a ball onto the road
• parked car door opening
• vehicle merging into your lane or stopping suddenly in front of you
• slippery road surface after rain.
Real and potential hazards
Examples of real hazards are: a stop light, a car moving slowly or stopping in your lane, a curve that requires you to slow down, a pedestrian or vehicle blocking you.
A potential hazard is something that might happen: a car signalling the intention to change lanes, a car on the shoulder that might pull out, a pedestrian who might cross the road or a traffic light that might change.
Different types of Hazards
Depending on where you are driving will make a big difference to the types of hazards that you can expect to see. There are always a few exceptions to the rule, but here are a few examples of what you might expect.
Different types of hazards in residential areas (Built up)
In some residential areas you may see a 20 mph speed limit in force. It is vital that you take extra care when driving through built up areas, as you can expect to see plenty of pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars. Rather than just looking directly down the road, try to scan the area paying special attention to parked cars that could be hiding a small child about to run out into the road.
Below are just some of the different types of hazards that you can expect to see when driving in residential areas:
• Vehicles emerging from junctions
• Car doors opening
• Vehicles moving off or coming out of driveways
• School crossing patrols
• Children running out from between parked cars or playing at the side of the road
• Pet animals running out into the road (mainly cats and dogs)
• Cyclists and motorcyclists
Different types of hazards in country lanes
You must take special care when travelling on country lanes. In most cases the speed limit is much higher than in residential areas, so vehicles will be travelling at a much higher speed. You will also find that your visibility is greatly restricted due to narrow lanes, overgrown hedges and sharp bends. It is vital that you adjust your speed to suit the road you are travelling on and don’t feel pressurised to drive at the speed limit that has been set.
Below are just some of the different types of hazards that you can expect to see when driving on country lanes:
• Narrow country lanes, possible only wide enough for one vehicle
• Sharp bends
• Blind junctions covered by overgrown trees and shrubs
• Unmarked junctions
• Pedestrians walking on the opposite side of the road.
• Farm animals
• Slow moving vehicles, such as tractors.
Dealing with hazards
As a driver, you will constantly face hazards on the road. A hazard is any object or situation that could be dangerous.
• intersections (including driveways)
• curves or bends in the road
• pedestrian crossings
• the position or movement of other road users, such as other vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians
• changes in weather and road conditions.
To deal with hazards safely, you should get into the habit of using the hazard action plan and system of car control described in this section.
The hazard action plan
When you’re driving you should always be:
• identifying potential hazards that could affect you
• predicting how the hazard might develop and endanger your safety
• deciding what action to take to negotiate the hazard
• acting on your decision by using the system of car control.
For example, if there are children playing near the kerb. They may run out after a ball or after each other. Using the system of vehicle control, choose a course as far away from the children as possible (while still keeping on your side of the road), check the mirror, use the brakes and slow down.
Drivers must recognize and be aware that there are numerous hazards present in both urban and rural driving environments. With all the potential hazards on the road, is being distracted or inattentive worth the risk? Being distracted or inattentive impacts your ability to recognize, react and avoid the various hazards on the road. Keep these potential hazards in mind while you drive.