Sometimes, you would rather drive through than break

Sometimes emergency braking may lead to loss of control of the vehicle. PHOTO/Edgar Batte.

What you need to know:

The desire to save a life, be it yours or of another road user causes drivers to make some unprecedented moves. However, when push comes to shove, at times, you are better off driving on than applying the brakes

Drivers on the roads, should have some basics (call it defensive driving) that they should know other than the obvious; do not speed and buckle up to keep them from rolling.

At one time, a motorist tried to avoid hitting a bodaboda rider by applying emergency brakes only for him to roll and die on the spot. In all honesty, even when you meet a hump unexpectedly, you are better off, (there are some places where there are bumps without having a sign), you are better off flying over it instead of trying to apply emergency brakes.

Defensive driving was once optional, but the point we are at indicates that it may be compulsory to save us from ourselves.

I cannot shower accolades upon myself, but yes, I have driven all manner of vehicles on all manner of roads in all manner of traffic conditions over a period exceeding 15 years, so naturally, I do have tips and hints I can share.

Yes, we can also do better than how we sometimes behave on the road, as bodaboda riders. If you have flown in a commercial aircraft and listened to the safety briefing, what do they say about the oxygen masks? Secure yours first before helping others, it does not matter who “others” are. They could be your children, they could be your husband, they could be your blood.

You are more useful lucid, awake and oxygenated than woozy from suffocation trying to be a hero.

The same thing applies to road safety. Drive for yourself first, all other things come secondary.

That is why I would say, if you chance upon a speed bump (or any other road hazard for that matter), you are better of going through it than trying to evade it with potentially disastrous results.

Shock absorbers are much cheaper to replace than an entire vehicle, or God forbid, a life or two.

I will have to clarify this; sometimes emergency braking may lead to loss of control of the vehicle especially where the road surface is treacherous and/or Anti-lock Braking (ABS) is unreliable. You would rather smack the bump and break your shocks instead of wiping out and sliding broadside into the grille of a juggernaut trying to stop on a wet surface. However, this is not a universal rule and each situation calls for its own custom solution, meaning, sometimes it is better to brake anyway.

How does one make this judgment call?

This is where defensive driving comes in as it enables you to make snap decisions at critical driving moments for the best outcome. It is what I like to call a “soft landing”. However, even better, defensive driving is aimed at creating an awareness in the driver such that they never have to find themselves in a position where they have to make such difficult decisions in the first place.

It is not black and white. Sometimes you have to brake hard, sometimes you have to sacrifice car parts for the least painful outcome.

As we speak, I am designing a defensive driving curriculum based on my training and experience at the hands of several car manufacturers (Jaguar Land Rover allowed me to drift an F Type on a skid pan and wind an XJ up to 200km/h on a small piece of land while maintaining full control; among countless other experiences), coupled with various syllabi from all over the world (Sweden and Finland come to mind), my own observations on the road (I worked briefly for a large transport company back in my youth besides doing my various Great Runs and countless trips up and down the country’s roads, highways and thoroughfares), my road safety certification course from Baltimore under the tutelage of Johns Hopkins and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and of course the NTSA’s own driver’s handbook which I went through and decided needs a serious edit. It is a great undertaking but it will be done.

Defensive driving components

Preventing accidents is the main objective of defensive driving, and the best way to remain safe is by reducing distractions. This way, we can decrease the likelihood of being involved in a car accident, and it is actually quite simple to follow. All we need to do is put our cellphone away, do not put our GPS somewhere that impedes us from looking at the road, and reminding our passengers to talk to each other in a soft and calm way.

Avoiding aggressive drivers is always a good idea; one that defensive divers always tries to emphasis as much as possible. Road rage is, unfortunately, quite common to encounter, but engaging with this behaviour will definitely not fix the problem. Instead of engaging with them and fighting with this type of driver will not only not solve the problem, but get us in a dangerous and risky situation, too. So, the best course of action is to slow down and let them drive away.

Being knowledgeable and staying informed is another key element of defensive driving. Taking courses, reading updates online, and looking for safety tips and recommendations will help us become more aware of our own flaws while being able to help others understand the importance of defensive driving. After all, defensive driving prioritises the security of all drivers, ourselves and others, and having a road free of accidents benefits all of us.

In summary

Driving is a thinking task, and as you hit the road, there are several things to think about. For example,  you need to think about the road condition, the boda boda person trying to make use of the space between you and the car ahead, the traffic laws and its flow, the emergency ahead, if any, the pedestrain crossing the road as well as your time. Therefore, remaining focussed is the difference between making it to your destination safe or meeting an accident.

As long as you are behind the wheel, try as much as possibe to avoid distractions. It is not just the youth that will eat or pick up a call without a hands-free device as they drive.

You also need to ensure that you get ample sleep, steer clear of intoxicants; even medication when driving. That is because all that affects critical thinking and dents your alertness.