Motoring News 20.2.2017 12:26 pm

How to drive like a defensive whiz at the Volkswagen Driving Academy

As he is still in his tyke days as a motoring journalist, safety remains a priority all the time, writes Ntsako Mthethwa.

It remains a proven fact that the major cause of road accidents in South Africa and across the world is driver error. The figure is as high 85%-90%, and this includes not only the honest mistake or error in judgment, but also driver recklessness, driver inattention and many other factors.

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As I am still in my tyke days as a motoring journalist, safety remains a priority all the time, with the objective to always strive to reduce errors on my side and adjust my driving to be more attentive and defend myself against the threats from errors by other road users.

Such skills and techniques are called defensive driving skills and to make sure that I am aware and prepared for hazards on the roads – and there are many – the Volkswagen Driving Academy invited me for a full-day safety training course at the Zwartkops Racetrack to better equip me with the necessary attitude, awareness and physical skills to avoid being in potentially life-threatening road situations.

Get it into your mind that more than half a million accidents happen on South African roads per year, and your chances of being involved in one are extremely high. More than 1 000 people die every month on our roads, which is around 30 people each and every day. Simply imagine your entire office or lecture room at varsity being wiped out every day. This is the reality we face on the road.

The training was conducted using a relaxed discussion format. We were encouraged to actively participate. The theoretical presentation covered all the necessary driving skills required for a defensive driver. Subjects including skidpan theory, how to avoid getting hijacked, seatbelts, texting and driving, how to control oversteer and understeer and emergency skills were covered in detail.

The key to any good defensive driving strategy is knowing how to avoid traffic crashes and recognise potential hazards before it’s too late. That’s why defensive driving courses tend to present a lot of information on crash-prevention techniques.

As part of the defensive driving course, I learnt the crucial crash-prevention techniques that include:

  • Scanning the roadway and adapting to surroundings
  • Employing the three-second rule for following distances
  • Knowing your vehicle’s stopping distance
  • Being aware of reaction distance
  • Environmental hazards
  • Vehicle emergencies
  • Sharing the road
  • Passing and necessary following distance
  • Right of way
  • Speed adjustments and railroad crossings
  • Correct seating position
  • ABS / ESC emergency braking
  • Braking with and without ABS
  • Hijack-prevention tactics
  • Different hijacking situations
  • Types of hijackings

You’ve passed your driver’s licence, right? Or maybe you’ve even been driving on SA’s roads for years and you think you’re a good driver? You may be right, since you have a lot of experience behind the wheel, but you have a lot of bad habits too, without even being aware of them.

One of the best ways to step back and take a closer look at your driving skills and knowledge is to go on an advanced driving course. Courses start from as little as R520, and, for course bookings or enquires, contact 079 028 6313, email info@vwda.co.za, or visit the Volkswagen Driving Academy at the VW SA website, www.vw.co.za

As for myself, after completing the course, I have a greater appreciation of the many driving challenges and a better understanding of how to avoid potential collisions and injuring myself or others.

The defensive driving module proves to be more than useful when faced with day-to-day driving situations.

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