Situational Awareness

Posted on 15 October 2017

In my work with parents I often reference various driving situations for them to focus on with their learners. Here are a few short videos courtesy of that I have commented on in the hope it assists learner driver development – as the old saying goes -- a picture paints a thousand words.

This first video provides parents and supervising drivers with an opportunity to discuss situational awareness with their learner. There is little doubt that the driver of the white car who crashed into the side of the Dash-Cam car is the "driver at fault" – however, could the other driver have done anything to avoid the collision?
The lesson for learners is to try and become a predictable driver and expect ALL other road-users to be unpredictable.

The white car does appear to initially indicate left, albeit briefly, BUT does it look like a vehicle that is committed to a left turn? Where is it facing? Why is it stationary in the intersection of a priority road at the turning point? An advanced driver may wonder if they're indecisive because they are perhaps looking for street names or house numbers. An inexperienced but nonetheless focused driver would have at least surmised that something didn't look quite right with that scene.

Overtaking a stationary vehicle in an intersection obviously involves risk, however given the driver did choose to proceed, could he have buffered further to the right when passing? Could a light tap of the horn on approach have helped alert the other driver of his presence? At no stage did the Dash-Cam driver appear to reduce speed or adjust road-position on approach to the intersection and potential hazard.

Ask your learner what options they can think of in this situation. When they drive do they conduct a risk analysis of the constantly changing scene and anticipate potential hazards? Do they plan a course of action in the event of their hunch becoming reality; and do they execute that plan?

I always go to great lengths to warn learner drivers about the perilous right turn at green lights without a turning arrow.

Regardless of whether the road user in this video was legally permitted in the bus lane, it is always VITAL that the turning driver only turns when they are 100% sure that a safe gap exists.

The kerbside lane is particularly dangerous with this manoeuvre as vision is often limited. No doubt the driver in the bus lane was travelling way too fast on approach to the intersection (situation); but isn't that what a low risk driver is always looking out for?

Even though the driver of the truck in this clip is being courteous, the driver of the white car takes it as an invitation to turn. The size of the truck creates a visual block-out for both the car driver and motorcyclist who is dangerously passing blindly in the left-turn only lane.

As with the previous video, you must see a safe gap before proceeding -- Remind your learner not to proceed unless they can see it's clear with their OWN eyes.

If you're finding it difficult to convince your learner to check for red-light-runners before heading out into the intersection, share this vision with them.

It's obvious who the "at fault driver" of the crash in this video is, however, I feel the vision provides an opportunity for parents and supervisors of learner drivers to discuss approaching the crest of hills; crash avoidance spaces; and how to communicate with vehicles travelling behind by using brake lights.

What's quite noticeable throughout the clip is the amount of heavy braking the Dash-Cam vehicle and the green car in front of it is required to do. Setting up and maintaining a three second gap with the vehicle in front prevents the need for this. In wet conditions it is safer to increase that distance by another second or two.

All vehicles appeared to approach the crest of that hill particularly fast – so if there are brake lights just on the other side -- how much distance will be available to stop?

There was very little the driver of the white car that was crashed into could do in this situation as there was nowhere to escape. When stopping or slowing in heavy traffic or in blind-spots (like just beyond the crest of a hill) encourage your learner to leave a couple of car lengths between them and the stationary vehicle in front to allow for road-users behind who don't stop in time. Even if those extra few metres you escape to don't prevent collision, they will at least lessen the impact.

Learner drivers generally think of the brake pedal solely as a tool to slow down and stop the vehicle, however, it's also of course a visual communication aid. The white car that was hit at no stage displayed brake lights. In a potential "sitting duck" position, lightly tapping the brake pedal may have enabled the negligent driver to determine sooner that the vehicle wasn't moving and at least brake a second or so earlier – reducing impact.

A lesson for young drivers is to not 'zone out' once stopped in traffic ... plan an 'escape' in advance; and continue to check mirrors whilst stationary.

This is a great clip for parents to share with their learner drivers. It helps explain speed management and scanning principals.

There is no question that it was the parked 4WD's responsibility to ensure it was safe before leaving the kerb and to stop and exchange details after the collision; BUT the dash-cam driver could have avoided the collision if they had of acknowledged the potential risks associated with parked vehicles relatively close to the corner. If they were travelling at a more appropriate speed for that situation they may have had more opportunity to recognise the outward turned tyre and had more time to react to the hazard.

Minimal driving experience, satellite navigation, night hours, and in this case, tight delivery schedules (the P plater was delivering pizza) can place teenagers at considerable risk. They are very easily distracted in this environment.

As is often the case, a more focused driver could have identified the red flags well before they collided with this distracted [P] plater and taken appropriate crash avoidance measures.

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