On October 29th, a small group of young drivers including myself were fortunate enough to attend Driver Skills International and National Driving Academy’s Defensive Driving Course.
The course runs for a full day and involves both theory and a practical session and is held every 3 months in Canberra at EPIC.
Driver Skills International representative Mike Edwards led the course on this date.
Although getting up early on a Saturday morning may not be the most ideal for a young P Plater, we all took away valuable tips and skills that I’m sure are going to stay with us for the rest of our days on the road.
The primary aim of this defensive driving course is to help new drivers understand and familiarize themselves with their own car so that they will be better equipped to handle an emergency situation. The course is also a great opportunity to further that newfound sense of independence that a license gives you, by demonstrating how to check tire pressure, check the oil, battery, etc.
One of the first tasks we were asked to do is come up with our own definition of what defensive driving is. Together, we came up with this single definition: Defensive driving is the act of not leaving your safety up to everyone else on the road. Rather, defensive driving gives you the tools and strategies to help protect yourself and take responsibility for your own actions as a driver, rather than being a victim of someone else’s reckless behavior.
Following this, we underwent an interactive theory session covering human factors, defensive driving techniques, managing and reducing risks associated with driving and vehicle performance and systems.
One of the most valuable aspects of this session for me was the covering of warning lights on the dashboard. I admit I just hoped I would never have to see any of them flash up because I did not know what half of them meant!
A quote from our course leader Mike that really stuck out to me was, ‘Good drivers don’t just drive’. This means we should always be monitoring and scanning for hazards, mainly weather, terrain, traffic, tyres, fuel, speed, fluid level, load, dashboard.
After lunch a practical session on a track is then held which covers vehicle maintenance, seating position, steering technique, simulated emergency braking exercises and low speed manoeuvring exercises.
Our entire group found this valuable as rarely do we actually open the bonnet and inspect our cars we have grown so fond of in the recent months of obtaining our licence. This gave us the confidence that if we ever find ourselves stuck in a situation such as stranded with a flat tyre or a beeping alarm on the dashboard; we will be able to deal with the situation at hand, rather than panic.
60kph. The aim of this exercise is to demonstrate the effect of ABS braking, as well as the impact of speed. Arguably, this exercise is one of the most eye opening parts of the course, as it shows the stopping distance required when comparing 40kph to 60kph, and also highlights the importance of the 3-second gap.
An alarming fact Mike also detailed to us was that at 90kph, if you take eyes off road for 4 seconds, you travel 100m which is roughly equivalent to you driving the length of a football field blindfolded which of course demonstrates the notion that no text message is worth taking your eyes off the road for.
After this, we undertook reverse parking practice which from personal experience after avoiding anything other than a basic park for the past year was a very valuable refresher!
If this course didn’t have enough, beer goggles were also provided and we were asked to try and walk along the track in a straight line, throw a ball to one another, and pick up an object on the ground. Needless to say, this reinforced how alcohol impairs the mind when driving and was a frightening reminder that the only safe amount of alcohol to consume before driving is always zero.
For me personally, the driving tip that stuck out the most was that you should never wear your seatbelt across your neck as in the event of a crash this can cause significant damage; rather it should be across your shoulder and chest to avoid injury and still keep you safe.
Overall, I found the course to be an extremely valuable experience, as I feel I am more educated about my car as well as have a greater understanding of the responsibility that all drivers have to each other. My favourite quote from the day that will certainly stick with me long after I have left my P plates behind is, "It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for.”
Driver Skills International and National Driving Academy’s Defensive Driving Course runs for 1 day every 3 months in Canberra and is suitable for drivers of all levels of experience, however learner drivers must have an adult accompany them. Visit our webpage to check upcoming dates and buy tickets.