Five sure-fire ways to improve your defensive driving skills
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We all know that defensive driving helps keep you and other road users safe. But there's only so much you can learn in driving school. Here are several tips from experienced drivers.

Category: Miscellaneous Advice

If you're committed to practicing defensive driving, congratulations! This mindset and attitude will go a long way towards keeping yourself, your passengers and other road users safe.

You would have learned that maintaining situational awareness, scanning as far ahead as possible, and not speeding are some of the basic tactics to employ. Here are a five more handy tips from experienced drivers.

1. Expect the unexpected

It may be a clear day with blue skies, but that doesn't mean accidents won't happen
This doesn't mean adopting a negative attitude. Rather, you should always anticipate potentially dangerous situations created by other road users.

For instance, while driving along an empty street at night, be on the lookout for pedestrians in dark clothes that might suddenly emerge and try to cross the road. Or, be ready to spot a car that has its head lights switched off, or a cyclist without any lights on his bicycle.

You don't have to be near a housing estate or industrial area to be extra cautious. Always be alert the moment you get behind the wheel.

2. Tell-tale shapes and silhouettes

The human silhouette is visible in bright sunlight, but in dark and rainy conditions (and if your windows are fogged up) they'll be harder to spot
Driving in the rain at night is one of the most difficult conditions drivers here will face. Apart from reduced visibility, slippery roads also result in longer stopping distances.

So, how does one spot potential hazards? One way is to look for umbrellas - if you see any, you can assume there are at least two pedestrians (sharing a brolly) standing there. If you see an umbrella that's moving faster than others, it probably belongs to a cyclist.

Be prepared to spot other items such as bags and yes, even hands. Not everyone has an umbrella with them when it starts to pour, and people will use whatever's handy if they have to be out in the rain.

3. Use your horn

Don't wait till the last moment - honk if you see an accident about to happen!
Cars are equipped with horns so that we can warn other road users of danger. But all too often, many of us don't use the horn even when it is clearly called for.

I've seen mishaps caused by drivers failing to check their blind spot before changing lanes. Many of these could actually have been avoided - if the other driver sounded his horn sooner.

So, while we shouldn't use the horn to intimidate and/or signal our annoyance, we must nevertheless be quick to use it when needed.

4. Rear windows

The road looks empty, but someone riding a scooter could still be in front of this car, 'hidden' behind the headrests
Trying to see ahead of the car in front of you can be tricky, especially if you're following an SUV. However, if the vehicle does not have very dark window film, you can peer through the rear window to see what's in front.

Looking through the rear windscreen helps you see what's happening way in front of you. However, be mindful not to be so focussed on that one area that you forget to periodically check your mirrors.

If the car you're following is wide and tall, try shifting your vehicle to the right to look down its side. But only do this if you're driving on the outermost right lane and next to the divider.

5. Reflections

A building's glass windows are great for admiring your car's reflection, and spotting potential hazards when you're driving in built-up areas
Now, in situations where the vehicle in front of you is too wide and/or has windows that are illegally tinted (too dark), there is still a way to get a glimpse of what's happening in front of you.

If you're driving in the city, you can glance at the building windows every so often to see what's happening in front of you. This tactic also works in tunnels with white walls, where the glow of brake lights helps you gauge if the driver in front of you is following too closely behind the vehicle in front of him.

When parking beside a black car, you can also use the reflection of your car on it to gauge how much further your bumper is from the obstacle behind it. Parking sensors and cameras are useful, but sometimes, they are too sensitive - there might still be space to tuck your car in neatly.

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