Safe Driver Checklist

February 18, 2014 at 10:00 AM


Safe driving is an attitude and a way of thinking. It is important for every driver to think of their own safety as well as the safety of their passengers and other drivers around them each time they get behind the wheel.

When a driver is alert they are a safer driver and can better avoid being involved in a collision either from their own mistakes or through the mistakes of others.
This safe driving checklist may help you to stay safe on the roads:
Following distance
For many new drivers the ability to judge the distance between their own vehicle and one in front of them has not yet been fully developed. In older drivers this skill deteriorates with age and reaction times can increase.

It is important to leave a safe distance between your own vehicle and the one you are following. A safe distance is at least two seconds in normal driving conditions, but when roads are wet or after dark it is advisable to leave at least a four second gap between vehicles.
You can judge the distance of the gap by choosing a roadside object ahead and once the car in front of you passes that object, begin counting the seconds (one thousand and one, one thousand and two) until you reach that same object.

If you reach that same object before you count two seconds then you are following too closely.
Larger gaps should be left if you are uncertain of the road ahead, the weather conditions are rainy or foggy, you feel tired or you have a heavy load in your vehicle or are towing something.
Hands Free
If you have a cellular phone, utilise a Bluetooth connection in your vehicle and make certain that you are hands free. Better still, don’t use a phone at all. In New Zealand it is illegal to hold a phone for calling or texting.
Be Cautious in Car Parks
When you are parked in a lot it can be difficult to see what is around you when you are backing out of your parking space. Look carefully around your vehicle and look in all of your mirrors as you back out.

You will need to be aware of pedestrians, children, mobility scooters and other hazards that you may not be able to see when you are backing up.If there is a passenger in your car, have them look around too. 
Use Your Headlights during the Day
Most new vehicles have a standard daytime running light setting where the headlights are on during the daytime.

A safe driver will turn on headlights in vehicles that do not have daytime running lights. Headlights reduce the risk of your involvement in a crash because you will be more visible to other drivers.
Observing the Speed Limit
Speed limits that are posted are the maximum speed that you can legally drive in that particular area. Ensure you always adhere to posted speed limits.

If driving conditions are not ideal, you should drive at a lower speed that is safer for the conditions.

It is also important to not drive too slowly because this can be a serious traffic hazard for other drivers on the road.

If you tend to drive at a slower pace, check your rear view mirror and if you see a build-up of traffic behind you, pull over when it is safe to do so in order to let those vehicles pass by.

If there is more than one lane, drive in the far left lane so that other drivers can easily move around you.
In school zones it is important to observe the posted speed limit because children can often run across the street without looking for traffic.

Be careful when passing school busses and make sure to slow down to 20km/h when passing a school bus that is taking on or letting off children.
Be Aware of what is Around You
A safe driver should regularly glance in rear and side view mirrors so that they know what is beside their vehicle and what is behind it.

This is extremely important when a driver is planning to change lanes or overtake another vehicle.
Adjusting your Mirrors
Before you begin driving, you will need to adjust your mirrors and ensure that your seat is in a comfortable position. The mirrors on the outside of the car need to be adjusted so that you can see the edge of your car and the road beside it.

When you adjust your outside mirrors you should see the area above the rear door handle in the bottom corner of your side mirror.
Even if your mirrors are adjusted perfectly, you will still have blind spots and these can only be dealt with by turning your head and conducting a head check.

A safe driver will view all mirrors regularly as they are driving so that they are aware of what is going on around them.
Approaching an Intersection
When you approach an intersection slow down if there are give way signs or a stop sign. If the intersection has no signs, use the give way rules. If there are no vehicles, slow down, stop and then proceed when clear.

It is never a good idea to continue into an intersection without stopping to take a look around. Other drivers can approach the same intersection without slowing down and drive right through.

The only time it is alright to continue through an intersection without stopping is if the light is green. If the light has just turned green, proceed with caution because drivers coming from opposite directions may be running the red light.
When you are entering onto a motorway or a road narrows from two lanes into one, you will need to merge. It can be difficult to see the traffic behind you when you are trying to merge, so have a good look at the traffic as you merge up the lane and look for any gaps that you can merge into.

Turn on your indicator to let the driver that is behind you know that you are going to merge and then make your move.

If you wait too long the driver behind you may close up the gap. Adjust your speed to match the speed of the traffic and then merge in. Try to give a friendly wave once you have merged to thank the driver behind you for letting you merge in.
Have a Clear View
The mirrors on your vehicle do not always show everything that is around you. Blind spots will prevent you from seeing smaller vehicles like bicycles or motorcycles. Always do a head check by turning your head to look before pulling into a road.
Driving at Night
If you plan to drive long distances or at night, pull over and rest if you feel tired. Falling asleep at the wheel can result in a fatal crash.  Simple.

Advanced driver training can really assist with your safety on the roads, and those around you.

Do you have any other tips for safe driving?  Add them below.

Make sure the vehicle you drive is in good working order and is regularly serviced. Check to make sure your lights are all working correctly especially when driving at night.

A basic vehicle check should include a walk around the vehicle to make sure no one has driven into your vehicle while it was parked and there is no obvious damage.

Do a visual check of the tyres and make sure the Warrant of Fitness and Registration are current.

Category: Driving Techniques