Safe driving tips

Safe driving is a state of mind. Be alert for the unexpected and ready to take evasive action.

We’ve developed videos for the most commonly misunderstood road rules in Victoria. 

  • Giving way at intersections
  • Merging lanes 
  • Passing or overtaking trams 
  • Performing a hook turn 
  • Performing a u-turn

Looking regularly in the rear and side mirror lets you know what is happening behind and beside your vehicle. This is very important, especially for overtaking and changing lanes.

Before driving, adjust your driver’s seat and mirrors.

The side mirrors should be adjusted so that they just catch a view of the edge of your car. As a guide, you should be able to just see the rear door handle in the bottom corner of the side mirrors.

When adjusted correctly there will be an overlap between the view from your rear and side mirrors. (See image below).

Overlap between the view from inside and outside car mirrors

However, regardless of how well you set up your mirrors, there will be blind spots and you must remember to do a head check.

Side and rear mirrors don’t show everything around you. There are always blind spots, so it’s important that you always do a head check. This simple action could help you avoid a crash and save a life.

To carry out a head check you need to turn from your waist and quickly look over your shoulder to the left or right when:

  • changing lanes
  • pulling out from the kerb
  • turning 
  • temporarily entering a bicycle or bus lane.
Head checks are also important when you’re getting in and out of your car, especially when opening your car door.

Check out our on how to be more aware of cyclists when opening your car door.

Pedestrians, especially children and people using mobility scooters, can be difficult to see in your mirrors when you are reversing in a car park.

You need to do a head check to look over your left and right shoulders. If you have a passenger, ask them to look too.

Other road users can act unpredictably so be prepared to take evasive action if necessary.

Judging distance and speed can deteriorate with age and older people may take longer to react. So always keep a safe distance from the car in front.

Under normal conditions, on most roads and highways, you should try to have a two second gap between your car and the car in front where possible.

The way to work this out is to pick a solid object beside the road, and count two second from the time the car in front passes it. If you’ve reached the object within two seconds you’re too close.

The two second gap should be extended to four seconds in the following situations:

  • at night or in poor light
  • bad weather conditions such as rain or fog
  • when you are tired
  • when your vehicle is heavy and can’t stop as quickly
  • when you are towing
  • when you are unsure of the road.

If you’re waiting to turn into a driveway, side street, or at an intersection have your wheels pointing straight ahead. This way if your car is hit from behind you will go straight ahead.

If you have your wheels turned, you’re likely to go in that direction, possibly into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Always obey speed limits and remember to be aware of school speed zones. The speed limit is the maximum speed you can drive. Depending on the traffic, weather and your familiarity with the road, you may need to drive at a slower speed that is safe for the conditions. Always keep left unless you're overtaking.

Research shows that using headlights on low beam during the daytime reduces the risk of a crash because you can be seen more readily by others. Many newer cars have daytime running lights that automatically switch on when the car is started. Remember that low beam headlights must also be used in hazardous weather conditions that cause reduced visibility.

Avoid driving at dusk or at night. Night time driving can be dangerous on roads which have no street lighting. If it’s necessary to drive at night, try not to drive at those times when you would normally be asleep. Keep the journey as short as possible and travel on familiar roads.

Plan long distance travel well in advance and where possible share the driving responsibilities. Rest well before you leave and plan for frequent rest periods, at least every two hours.

You should avoid driving if you’re tired, upset or not feeling well. If you must drive make sure you:
  • plan to drive when there is less traffic
  • avoid driving in wet or poor light
  • be alert and avoid distractions (passengers, mobile phones, GPS and music players)
  • set devices like heaters and radio before you start driving
  • be aware of other drivers, especially on busy roads and intersections
  • always stay a safe distance from the car in front.

Reaction times and peripheral vision can decrease with age. We recommend older drivers take the followings steps when driving. 

  • Plan to drive down roads with less traffic
  • Plan your trips to use intersections with traffic lights
  • Choose a route where you can do left turns instead of right turns
  • Always look left and right at intersections, even intersections without traffic lights.

You can reduce the impact of driver aggression by driving in a courteous manner.

Try the following tips.

  • Don’t drive slowly in the passing lane
  • Don’t prevent other vehicles from overtaking
  • Avoid cutting in on others
  • Change lanes correctly when it’s safe to do so
  • Don’t block intersections
  • Give way to others when pulling out
  • Avoid following too closely to the vehicle in front
  • Use indicators to allow plenty of warning

Avoiding aggressive drivers confronting you

  • Acknowledge any mistakes you may make
  • Don’t retaliate against other drivers. If the other driver is ahead, increase the gap between you and the other car. If the other driver is tailgating you, maintain a steady speed or enable him or her to pass. If very concerned, drive to a police station.
  • Avoid verbal or direct eye contact
  • Ensure all your windows and doors are locked
  • Make a note of the registration details and report the matter to police

If you’re an anxious driver

  • Accept that anger will do nothing to get you out of irritating traffic situations
  • Recognise when you are becoming angry
  • Take deep breaths and try to regain calm 
  • Avoid the kind of traffic you know is likely to make you angry or apprehensive

Good drivers know that they cannot control traffic delays or aggressive drivers. What they can control is their reactions to these situations. Good drivers keep their cool.

For many of us, it’s a long time since we had any driving lessons. It’s a good idea to have a driving assessment and a refresher course if necessary. If you are an older driver, enquire if your selected driving instructor has a Level IV Certificate in older driver assessment.

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