As part of defensive driving, prudent drivers are advised to always be aware of what is going on ahead, behind and to the side of them. Good drivers pay special attention to vulnerable road users and are extra careful when encountering them. The following are examples of vulnerable road users you will always encounter on the road.
Be aware that pedestrians can be unpredictable, especially the young ones. Whenever you are likely to meet pedestrians, in residential areas for example, drive carefully and slowly. Take extra care when passing parked cars, as there is always the danger that a pedestrian could suddenly step out onto the road without even looking. Elderly people may have difficulty estimating the speed of traffic, and may overestimate their ability to cross the road. They do move more slowly and take longer to cross the road. Children are more likely to move quickly and run onto the road from nowhere. This is because small children do not have the developed ability to judge speed accurately, and may think they have plenty of time to cross the road when actually they don’t.
Motorcyclists are vulnerable because they are much ‘smaller’ than most other cars on the road. They are much more difficult to see. The fact that they travel at a fast pace, however, means they are more likely not to be spotted by the driver on time. When overtaking motorcyclists, try and leave as much space between your car and them as possible. In slow moving traffic, a motorcyclist may overtake you on your inside. Hence, make sure you check your left mirror before pulling into the kerb or turning left. At roundabouts, motorcyclists will often feel safer staying in the left hand lane when turning right. Give them the space and time to be safe. Never overtake a motorcyclist just before a left turn. If you see motorcyclists on your approach to a left turn reduce your speed and let them take the turn. Motorcyclists should have lights turned on at night and at dusk. However, some of them do not follow this rule. Constantly check for any motorcyclist by switching your lights to full beam momentarily, especially if the road is not properly lit.
Always understand that learners’ drivers need to be shown extra consideration. Their lack of experience makes them more vulnerable on the road. When driving close to them, be careful as they may hesitate at junctions, pull out too early, see hazards late and so react suddenly and dramatically, stall their car while changing gears or signal incorrectly. Often, learner drivers hold up the flow of traffic. So you must always show patience and understanding, being the experienced one of the lot. Showing courtesy on the road is a hallmark of good mannered people! It is what many will refer to as having good manners on the road.
Look out for animals on the road. In residential areas, you may come across pets running into the road. In rural areas, livestock can be a problem. In areas where animals are seen on the road, signs should give you advanced warning. You are not meant to do an emergency stop for animals, so the advice is, if an animal suddenly appears on the road, you should continue ahead. However, if you must slow down, take precautions and ensure that it is safe to do so. You can also hoot to try to scare the animal off the road.
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