Get as much supervised on-road experience as possible in a broad range of driving situations. Drivers under 21 must complete a minimum 120 hours of supervised experience before they can apply for a probationary licence.
Supervising drivers and driving instructors can help you to fine tune your hazard perception skills by using some of the techniques described in the Learner Kit.
You can also look at Drive Smart, which is a free CD-ROM training product that can help you become a better, safer driver.
Go to Drive Smart.
Hazard perception skills
New drivers are more likely to have a crash, particularly in the first 12 months of driving. This is because hazard perceptions skills take a long time to develop. It’s not about how well you can control the car. Experienced drivers scan the road better and are quicker to recognise that a hazardous situation is developing. They can then take action before a dangerous situation develops. This provides them with better safety margins and more time to react compared to new drivers.
So it’s important for you to learn to recognise and avoid hazards, to improve your safety and the safety of other road users.
What is a hazard?
A hazard is anything that increases your risk of having a crash. This includes anything that you have to react to so you avoid a crash. Important hazards or things to look for that could result in a hazard are:
- Vehicles stopping ahead of you.
- Other vehicles at intersections – whether you are turning or going straight ahead.
- Curves in the road or changing road surfaces.
- Vehicles with their indicators on.
- Motorcyclists – especially as they can appear when you are not expecting them.
- Pedestrians near buses or trams.
- Pedestrians stepping out from behind parked cars.
- Pedestrians crossing the road.
- Other traffic when turning.
- Vehicles merging or changing lanes.
- Slippery/gravel surfaces or rain/fog.
What is hazard perception?
Hazard perception is a complex mental skill where you are able to identify and avoid potential hazards.
Unfortunately, there are no short-cuts to becoming an experienced driver and developing good hazard perception skills. You can’t develop hazard perception skills from a book or DVD; you need lots of on-road experience.
Good hazard perception involves:
- Scanning for hazards all around your car – keep your eyes and head moving to look for potential hazards and changes in the road environment such as unexpected road users (e.g. motorcyclists, pedestrians).
- Recognising potential hazards.
- Planning well ahead.
- Anticipating potential hazards and reacting early.
- Keeping a safe distance from other vehicles. This will give you plenty of time to react to unexpected hazards. For example, keep at least a two second gap in front and keep plenty of space around your vehicle as a safety margin.
- Driving at a safe speed for the conditions.
- Slowing down and stopping if required.
- Making safe decisions while dealing with more than one potential hazard at a time.
This may seem like alot to do, but it will become easier as you get more driving experience.
Common crashes for inexperienced drivers
The most common types of crashes for new drivers are:
- Rear end crashes involving two vehicles travelling in the same direction.
- Crashes involving turning right in front of oncoming traffic.
- Being hit by right right turning traffic.
- Colliding with other vehicles coming from the opposite direction (head on crashes)
- Running off the road on a curve or bend, or on a straight section of the road, and hitting an object such as a tree or parked vehicle.These common crash types suggest that new drivers have problems detecting and avoiding hazards at intersections, on curves and in traffic.