Safe Driving Skills, the 7 Habits of a Pro Driver

by Rob Schermerhorn on July 6, 2011

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Drivers: Attention, Anticipation, Eyes, Posture, Community, Responsibility, Skill

Driving can be dangerous—you knew that. Did you know that 80% of crashes occur in dry weather—there were over 37,000 fatalities in 2008—driving is the leading cause of death for teens 15–20 years old, all according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You’re safety conscious, right?

It's not about what you drive, but HOW you drive it!

What can YOU do?

I have coached over 10,000 drivers in my career in performance driving and safe driver skills. The following are seven habits that if learned and practiced will substantially increase your opportunity for surviving an emergency driving situation:

  1. Attention

Avoid distraction; know what’s going on around you: situational awareness. This habit will pay off with an easy decision during accident avoidance requiring a lane change maneuver.

You wouldn’t drive with your eyes closed for three seconds would you? But you do when trying to compose a text message and missed seeing a football field length of potential threats (3 seconds at 70mph = 309 feet; yes, you’re covering over 100 feet every second while driving 70mph. That’s like traveling from one end of your house to the other as fast as you can blink.)

  1. Anticipation

Plan five to ten seconds into the future by scanning the road with your eyes; practice judging the necessary distance by choosing a fixed object ahead and counting the seconds until you reach that object. Anticipation of what’s to come is one of the most polished skills a pro-race driver (or pro skier, rollerblader, motorcycle rider) has for success and survival.

  1. Eyes

Also known as “the car goes where you look”. THE most difficult skill due to some ingrained need in humans to focus on something bad, like the tree you don’t want to hit; ironically, focusing upon the tree as you’re skidding virtually guarantees striking the tree. Always spend more time looking at the open lane five seconds ahead of you, just quick glances toward potential dangers and obstacles.

Virtually every driver is looking only two seconds ahead, dramatically increasing risk. Surprised by brake lights? You’re not looking far enough ahead. Don’t practice the corollary to “car goes where you look” which is “stare at the crash”.

  1. Posture

You know you cannot lift a heavy weight without proper posture, why drive a 4000 lb car without proper posture? Laid-back driving position guarantees a crash. Bend in your knees, bend in your elbows with palms resting about shoulder high and shoulder wide upon the steering wheel puts you in position to save your life.

Do you wear your seat belt under your armpit?—guarantees massive internal injuries.

See another driver with one had placed upon the top of the steering wheel and the other on the gear shift? He’s not prepared to take action to save his life.

  1. Community

Driving with a sense of community allows traffic to move efficiently and you to maintain peace within. Yes, this is the Golden Rule applied to driving and yes that just may be your grandmother three cars ahead. Relax; it’s just not worth it for a five minute gain.

  1. Responsibility

Driving is the most dangerous activity you do. Don’t make that drive home from the party the last thing you do in this world.

  1. Skill

Take pride in increasing your skill at driving; it’s an unnatural act and there is a right way or better solution to driving technique. Driving is a skill—like any other talent. Drivers receive little initial instruction and have never improved since; never felt the need to either (never one ticket or crash in 15 years, right?)—means nothing other than statistically your number is up today. This type of driver is lucky; the luck comes from driving below their ability and their car’s abilities, combined with years of lucky circumstances; that’s it.

Increase your survival abilities by practicing top driver’s skills.

If you knew for certain that today you will be placed in jeopardy by a dropped roll of steel on the interstate, that survival would require driving at the limit of your car’s ability, what would you do to prepare?

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