LOW RISK DRIVING = “DYNAMIC DEFENSIVE DRIVING” (aka “ADVANCED DRIVING”)
OVERVIEW OF DYNAMIC DEFENSIVE DRIVING COURSEWORK
“Low risk driving” meets two needs of physics:
1. The need to use energy to balance opposing forces.
2. The need to avoid potential collisions – others’ as well as one’s own.
Each of these two needs suggests a term that physicists use – the need to create a ‘dynamic equilibrium’ (a balance between opposing forces).
Hence “dynamic driving”.
Low risk driving also reflects the need to avoid collisions – be they caused by oneself or by other road-users. This suggests the need to be ‘defensive’. In other words, drivers need to think in ‘worst-case terms’ (“I see, it might, therefore I will.”). In short: to drive “defensively”.
Some driving schools still hold “advanced driving” in high regard. Advanced driving relies on a regular practice of particular – and immediate – collision avoidance techniques. Usually, advanced driving needs the use of dedicated private facilities such as witches hats and skid pans.
The NSW RMS does not encourage drivers who do not have a full drivers licence to practise ‘advanced driving’. Firstly because it builds in an artificial sense of safety. Secondly because the strategic nature of defensive (‘low risk’) driving is a much safer way to consistently avoid others’ collisions as well as one’s own.
So “Dynamic Defensive Driving” (‘3D’) is a more accurate way of describing low risk driving.
DYNAMIC DEFENSIVE DRIVING COMPRISES FOUR LAYERS
Namely, interaction with
- The car through its controls (e.g. steering wheel) and facilities (e.g. mirrors).
- Specific streetscape features and areas (e.g. crests, bends, intersections).
- Mobile elements of traffic flows (e.g. other cars, trucks, motorcyclists).
- Potentially mobile/hazardous entities (e.g. children, cyclists, bushes).
Layer 4 is build on top of Layer 3. Layer 3 is build on top of Layer 2. And Layer 2 is build on top of Layer 1.
Each layer has particular ‘driver operations’, whose complexity reflects the complexity of the layer itself.
- Layer 1 implies the need for a minimum of surrounding traffic.
- The 2nd layer suggests a light trafific density.
- Layer 3 suggests a moderate traffic density.
- Layer 4 suggests a heavy and diverse traffic density.
This strategic view maximises licence applicants’ self-reliance from the very beginning. That is the most efficient way to address and integrate the most important difference between a provisional and a learner’s licence: the need for no assistance.
A “SNAPSHOT” OF DYNAMIC DEFENSIVE DRIVING COURSEWORK
1. CONTROLS AND FACILITIES
I drive the client (FREE!) from a pre-arranged meeting place to a quiet start-off place. (Low risk driving right from the start!) Having put the plates on, the client and I swap seats. I introduce the client to the Dynamic Defensive Driving (‘3D’) WorkSheet. I use its Focus Page to ask some questions from which I describe and demonstrate
- push-pull steering;
- nameable points of the clutch and steps of a hill-start;
- significant costs of owning a car (e.g. petrol, rego, repairs). Controls and Facilities
After naming each of the car’s controls and facilities we then go through the internal pre-start checks (e.g. seat, mirror and seat belt adjustment), the start-up sequence (including running through the gears) and the start-off sequence.
2. POINT-TO-POINT DRIVING
Having driven for a few minutes along a quiet sealed road, we turn off onto a dirt road. We do, at slow speed, an “on-gas/off-gas” exercise. Clients feel how forces in one dimension can be balanced by applying a force in another dimension.
Returning to a sealed road, this theme is developed further by identifying the normal reaction to a “something [e.g. a crest, a bend, an intersection] coming up” and how the after-action can best match the reaction. This is expressed as a four-part formula. It describes “dynamic driving” precisely. It is experienced as a two-part foundation of all ‘point-to-point’ driving.
This is the foundation stone of dynamic defensive driving. It minimises – in terms of low risk driving – the likelihood of single vehicle collisions.
We drive to a place open enough for a reversing exercise. Blind spots are demonstrated. Rearward lights are identified. The client then positions her/himself properly and begins to slowly reverse, firstly in a straight line and secondly, using push-pull steering, around a tight 90 degree leftward bend.
We then drive a short distance to a quiet suburban street, one suitable for three-point turns. I use the WorkSheet’s “forward/reverse ‘U’ turn” template to
- outline a suggested pattern of steering;
- identify that most driver operations have three parts;
- describe three parallel imaginary lanes;
- use a checklist to confirm the safety of the spot selected for the turn itself (check the mirror also!);
- identify the three roadcraft steps essential to the execution of this (and many other) driver operation(s).
The client then does a three point turn, with relevant but minimal help.
AIM & STEEP HILLSTART
We next drive along more challenging bi-laned streets (including a right turn at a marked intersection), do another three-point turn and then stop at a spot on a steep upward slope.
As stipulated by the updated TAFE teaching qualification, I write out the aim (the “what”) of Dynamic Defensive Driving. I then ask the client a comprehensive and structured series of questions about it.
This anticipates a critical aspect of low risk driving – CAS (crash avoidance space) and hazard perception and avoidance. An aspect of driving so important that the RMS incentivises applicants to address it through the Safer Drivers Course. Enrolment can credit clients with a further 20 hours in their loggable driving record.
Once I have signed, sealed and orally delivered the guarantee of a practicably good result, the client starts the car off. I coach the client in the particular sequence of using the car’s controls so that the car does not roll back at all even on the steep slope.
3. TRAFFIC FLOW DRIVING
We enter a multi-laned road (with moderate traffic) at a large and open roundabout. We drive along it to a larger 5 way open roundabout, directly after which the client demonstrates the roadcraft sequence before merging. Approaching a set of traffic lights, the road widens again. Four more roundabouts are driven through, again using the roadcraft sequence. Returning to (wide) point-to-point streets, the client positions the car properly for a couple of right turns.
In a quiet suburban street (s)he chooses a spot to do another three-point turn and completes it successfully.
(S)he then stops next to another car parked parallel to the kerbface. Selecting reverse gear, the applicant shifts her/his seating position, checks and reverses slowly. (S)he times her/his leftward steering so as to make it impossible for the front left of the car to collide with the rear right of the front car. At an appropriate angle (s)he steers rightwards. I provide additional (‘secondary’) guidance to enable the applicant to achieve a final position close and parallel to the kerbface.
I reinforce the client’s learning by writing out, on the 3D WorkSheet’s “reverse parallel park” template, five primary guidelines. These, together with secondary guidance, help enable the client to achieve similar results in private practice.
After returning to a multilaned road I ask the client to turn right from it at a roundabout. (S)he needs to have ensured an appropriate ‘pre-position’ in approaching it. That is followed by another right turn (from a ‘right turn only’ lane). After a further 500m (s)he then makes a clearly defined kerbside stop.
We use the “left & right turn & merging” template, together with questions and discussion, firstly to enable the client to suggest which regulatory signage best suits the intersection depicted in it. (40% of collisions happen at intersections.)
Secondly (s)he names which roadcraft sequences are needed at which locations. (S)he identifies the nature of three sets of potentially fatal hazards and how to avoid them.
Finally (s)he names the three legal (and the one further pragmatic) penalties arising from an imaginary driver markedly exceeding the speed limit.
For every doubling of speed, the impact energy quadruples. Equally, for every 10% increase in speed, the impact energy increases by 21%. It is the impact energy that the car’s design has to accomodate for in its (‘ANCAP’) safety rating. The inviolatable laws of physics dictate that there is an upper limit to the capacity of any car to absorb, safely, impact energy.
We consolidate traffic flow driving skills on a multi-laned road by encountering more multilaned roundabouts, traffic lights and changing lanes in increasingly heavier traffic densities.
4. HAZARD PERCEPTION AND AVOIDANCE
We turn off the multilaned road into a wider city block street. Having driven through a couple of wider but single laned roundabouts, we drive toward where it narrows. Therefore we slow from 35-40 kmh to more like 15-20 kmh. The street has parallel parked cars to the left. It also has central forward 45 degree angle parking on the right. Pedestrians abound. Some (particularly the three year olds) are potentially hidden by bushes and (especially larger) vehicles. Drivers doors open suddenly as we approach them. A single unbroken lane line to the right cannot be crossed unless necessary.
Low risk driving compels a slower speed!
We turn right at the next roundabout into an equally narrow single lane. This street has 90 degree angle parked cars on the right. Even more camouflage for suddenly-emerging pedestrians (not to mention cyclists, skateboardists and even wheelchair riders!). At the next roundabout, itself within 200m of four hotels and with a funeral-holding church on its opposite corner, the lane widens into two. The second is a right-turn-only lane.
We drive straight ahead by intensively keeping within the tight outer lane, past more frontal 45 degree angle parking on our right. Then, through two busy – and deceptively ‘open’ – multi-laned roundabouts, into a two-way entrance of a busy undercover supermarket car park.
Under the 10 kmh speed limit of the car park’s ‘shared zone’, we drive to a quiet area. I ask the applicant to reverse 90 degrees leftwards into a space between two parked cars. I encourage the client to estimate the best start-off position and, when necessary, to glance at the mirrors. (S)he does and successfully manouevers the car into a tight marked space by executing a 90 degree reverse angle park.
Challenging low risk driving!
HAZARDOUS CBD DRIVING
On our way back to the CBD we turn left into a busy and very wide bi-laned road from a ‘stop’ sign. Turning right at a multi-laned roundabout, the client checks as (s)he indicates her/his exit. (S)he repeats that procedure in turning right at the next single-lane roundabout and, again, going straight at the second of two roundabouts. We stop again to let a car in front of us reverse into a angle parking spot. Stopping at the “stop” sign at the next four-way intersection, the client, at the four way intersection after that, negotiates her/his way across it. (S)he then enters a one-way street with a row of angle parked cars either side of us. At slow speed we negotiate speed bumps. We prepare to turn right again into the wide bi-laned road.
Having negotiated passage through two multi-laned roundabouts, we again turn right. In passing through another roundabout we come to a stop to let pedestrians cross the ‘shared zone’ street we’re just entering. It is tempting to not keep the car’s speed to less than 10kmh. The car behind is all too close. We stop twice more for pedestrians (one on a skateboard) in a position to cross in front of us. And stopping again for approaching pedestrians before turning left at the next roundabout. We then head towards the Registry’s car park where a formal assessment will begin. (27).