Knowing the clutch from the brake pedal doesn’t necessarily make you a good driver…
The qualities of a good driver
Everyone thinks they are a good driver. But, knowing the clutch from the brake pedal doesn’t necessarily make you a good driver. It’s a skill that demands constant honing and polishing, and it has a lot more to do with character and personality type than one would think.
If you don’t have the right attitude, it won’t matter how much knowledge or skill you have, you won’t be a consistently good driver. The aim is to stay calm and tolerant in all situations.
By the same token, drivers who are overly fearful generally aren’t good drivers. The key is to not panic in emergency situations, and have the presence of mind to decide and execute the best action for that moment. A good driver will also be self-aware of his/her bad habits, and will constantly strive to overcome them.
Linked to this is the realisation that there is always something to learn. Nobody is perfect, so learn from your own mistakes, and from the mistakes of others.
Being courteous to other road users is also very important. That means coexisting with all other road users, including motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Getting agitated, impatient and angry can have disastrous consequences. Realise and accept that you share the road with others, and act and react accordingly. You will not only be a better driver, but also a safer driver.
A driver who steers, brakes, changes gears, and accelerates smoothly is a good driver. Smooth driving also places far less stress on the mechanics of a vehicle, thus avoiding unnecessary and inconvenient breakdowns.
It’s important that drivers employ defensive driving when on the road. It’s all about recognising and reacting to potential situations before they happen in the interest of not only your safety, but that of other road users. By acting on situations ahead in a timely manner, you will become a smoother driver. In other words, be proactive.
To be a good driver you need to be able to anticipate what other road users will do. If you know where to look, you will see clues all around: pedestrians who might be about to run into the road, children playing on the pavement, water or items on the road surface, or stray animals. These are all signs to give you information to act upon. Be vigilant, and be aware, as this will make you a better driver in the long run.
Knowledge is defined as what is learned, understood, or what you are aware of. A good driver knows what leads to accidents (distracting activities, daydreaming, fatigue) and is therefore more aware of how to avoid or minimise these risks. A good driver also knows his or her limitations – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and knows how to overcome them.
By knowing your vehicle’s abilities and shortcomings, you will be better equipped to respond to potentially dangerous situations. Does your vehicle have enough power to execute passing manoeuvres safely and timeously? How hard do you have to step on the brakes to come to a complete stop? Is your vehicle equipped with ABS brakes or will you need to apply cadence braking? Are there any other driver aids, such as stability control and traction control, which need to be considered?
A good driver isn’t necessarily the person with split-second reflexes, the eyesight of a hawk and the talent of a racing driver. A good driver is anyone who understands that all road users have a responsibility to each other to obey the law and the rules of the road. It is anyone who is unselfish, and who respects the rights of others.
Let us all strive to become better drivers. It doesn’t take that much effort and has far-reaching benefits for everyone.