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Hazard Perception When Driving

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 25 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Hazard Perception Driving Test Accidents

On a daily basis, each of us will undertake some form of hazard perception - be it making sure that we can see that there are no children or animals playing the road before we drive along it, or deciding that it's safe to pull out of a junction because the car closest to us is a safe distance away. Some of these decisions will be made so automatically that we may not even be aware that we are making them, but they are there all the same.

Put into practice while driving, effective hazard perception can mean the difference between life and death.

Hazard Perception and The Driving Test

Since November 2002, hazard perception has formed a large part of the UK driving test, where examinees must watch fourteen one-minute clips filmed from the perspective of a car driver, and afterwards indicate (usually by clicking a mouse button or touching the screen) when they observe a developing hazard - which for the purposes of the test is defined as something that requires the driver to adjust his or her speed and/or direction.

As the amount of new drivers involved in accidents is disproportionate to the amount of people on the UK's roads, the hazard perception test was brought in by the government as part of their commitment to bringing down the number of people killed and injured on Britain's roads. It reduces the likelihood of drivers being involved in accidents by encouraging appropriate training in scanning the road and recognising at the first opportunity from the clues that a potentially dangerous situation might arise, and adopting a driving plan to reduce the risk.

So How Can I Improve my Hazard Perception?

First of all, make sure you can concentrate on your driving, and the road you are travelling on.

Safe driving needs concentration. Avoid distractions when driving such as:

  • Loud music (this can stop you hearing other warning sounds)
  • Map reading
  • Fiddling with an in car stereo or sat nav system.
  • Arguing with your passengers or other road users
  • Eating, drink and smoking.
This will allow you to concentrate fully on the road and assess any potential hazards effectively.

Really, good hazard perception just means being aware of what is going on around you, and more importantly, considering what could happen in the situation you are in.

Residential or 'Built up' Areas

For example, typical hazards to be expected in a residential or built up area would be:
  • vehicles emerging from junctions
  • vehicles moving off or coming out of driveways
  • car doors opening
  • pedestrians
  • children running out from between parked cars
  • animals (especially cats) hiding under parked cars
  • cyclists and motorcyclists
So in a residential area, you would drive slowly and carefully as there are likely to be pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars. In some areas a 20 mph maximum speed limit may be in force. As you are driving along rather than just looking straight down the middle of the road also look under the parked cars ahead and to the side of you as you can usually spot children's feet behind the car, or a cat crouching underneath it.

Country Lanes

On country lanes, the hazards will change. In this situation you can expect to come into contact with horses, cyclists and pedestrians and possibly farm animals. If the road is only wide enough for one vehicle, pull into a suitable passing place or wait opposite a passing place on your right. Give way to vehicles coming uphill and flash your lights to alert any drivers around bends to your presence. Tips for safe country driving include:
  • Take the road and traffic conditions into account. Be prepared for unexpected or difficult situations, for example, the road being blocked beyond a blind bend.
  • Be prepared to adjust your speed as a precaution
  • Where there are junctions, be prepared for vehicles emerging
  • In side roads and country lanes look out for unmarked junctions where nobody has priority
  • Try to anticipate what pedestrians and cyclists might do. If pedestrians, particularly children, are looking the other way, they may step out into the road without seeing you.
Of course you can't predict all the hazards that you will come into contact with - but part of hazard perception is keeping alert and focused on your driving, so that if unexpected should happen, you will be aware of it immediately and can use your driving skills to reduce the chances of it becoming a more serious incident.

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