Responsibly aware

DIA Insurance ADI News

For last month’s issue of Driver Trainer I provided a glossary relating to car control. In the introduction to the article I outlined my CAR model where C = Control, A = Awareness and R = Responsibility. Thirty-six terms relating to control were presented last month; this article will provide some terms for the second two aspects of the CAR model. The first section covers awareness.

A critical aspect of driving is to have 360 degree awareness around the vehicle at all times. It would be nice to be able to flick a switch and have the windows and mirrors all go blank and then ask a trainee what is in a specific spot. Unfortunately, this instant method testing of a driver’s awareness is not possible so a tactic to use would be to ask a trainee to describe something you have just passed (eg what can you tell me about the pedestrian who was close to the crossing that we have just passed?). As the most common contributory factor at collisions is observation it is not surprising that a large number of people who fail the practical test do so due to driver faults relating to awareness (eg move off – safety, mirrors – change direction, junctions – observation).


Black ice

Thin ice that allows the reflective surface underneath to shine through giving it the appearance of water. Clients should be advised to be aware of what their outside temperature gauge is saying as while people are inside a warm car they can lose track of how cold it is outside.

Blind spot

An area that a driver cannot normally see without moving their head. Typical examples are areas that the mirrors do not show, and a driver’s view being blocked by the vehicle itself (eg the windscreen pillars).

Cheshire railings

Fencing that is sometimes placed on bends to improve vision when negotiating corners on rural roads with hedges.

Dead ground

An area of the road surface that cannot be seen due to features such as a hillcrest, a hump bridge, or a dip in the road.

Developing hazard 

Another road user who causes you to change your speed or direction (eg a driver, rider, pedestrian, or animal).


Contains an element of actual or potential danger, there are three main types: physical features (eg a hillcrest), the position or movement of other road users, and variations in road surface and weather conditions (Roadcraft, 2013).

Looming effect

The expansion in size of an object as it approaches and the rate in which it occurs. Smaller vehicles, such as motorbikes, do not have the same rate of expansion as they approach – which is a factor that explains why drivers misjudge their speed while waiting to emerge from a junction. It is a useful concept for teaching topics such as observation at junctions, meeting approaching traffic or use of mirrors.

Lateral scanning

Looking across the scene ahead (also to the sides and behind), new drivers often miss information 

relevant to them as they are not looking to the sides enough, especially when speeds increase. Research has shown that it takes about three years to develop the scanning techniques of an experienced driver. To reduce the length of time this process takes was part of the rationale for introducing the hazard perception test, however, one does not need to do as much lateral scanning when viewing a computer screen compared to being out on the road so this is one of the reasons that the test doesn’t always translate well to what is required while driving.


Road surface or weather conditions that are different from the area surrounding it (eg frost taking longer to melt areas that are shaded compared to where sunlight is hitting the road surface).

Observation link 

Using a clue to predict what may be ahead (eg a railway line near the road can be used to expect congestion near a train station, level crossings, or sharp bends with a bridge).

Sign colours

Primary route direction signs are green, non-primary direction signs are white, information signs and motorway direction signs are blue, tourist direction signs are brown, and roadworks signs are red and yellow.

Sign shapes 

Circles are orders, triangles are normally warnings with the exception of the give-way sign which is an order (it is inverted and has the words ‘give way’ on it), rectangles give information or directions, stop signs are octagons, and signs for tram drivers are diamonds (you can also find passing place signs that are diamonds on Scottish single track roads).

Standing water

A lot of water can collect on the road surface when the amount of rainfall exceeds the camber of the road’s ability to drain and can also lead to floods. Water reflects more light than a damp road surface and is usually darker in colour. A driver should avoid standing water if possible and go slowly through it where they cannot. They also need to be especially careful on roads they do not know as the water can be much deeper than expected.


Using a vehicle carries with it a large responsibility for the driver or rider’s own safety, that of their passengers and other road users. In many ways, driving (and/or riding) is one of the first important adult roles that adolescents and young adults have when they acquire their full licences. With the concept of the responsibility for risk management now being a more formal part of driver training and the assessment of driver trainers, a selection of terms referring to this aspect of driving is especially useful. 

Balance of responsibility for managing risk

This refers to how independently a pupil is driving, the balance is only completely on their shoulders if their trainer does not need to say anything other than directions or give instructions (eg “This is the reverse park exercise. I would like you to draw alongside the car in front and then reverse park behind it ending up close to the kerb and within two car lengths”). If the trainer has to say anything else the responsibility for risk management is either shared or is completely with the trainer. A client should always know what the current balance for risk management is, or just has been if the trainer has had to say or do something. A good sentence to be aware of is “Who is driving the car?”.

Crumple zones

Areas of the car that are designed to crumple up and absorb energy in a collision. Often low speed impacts affect the crumple zone without a driver realising that the damage has occurred. If they are using a car with compromised protection there is more risk to themselves and their passengers.

Defensive driving

Having the mindset that other road users will always make mistakes, and that some drivers will deliberately flout the rules or cultural norms regarding using the roads, and allowing time for the worst outcome they can think of occurring. This approach to driving is an essential one to help keep our roads safe for all road users.

Driving hierarchy

Five different levels of the driving task: 

1) The bottom level – Control – is concerned with handling the car 

2) The second level – Rules and Traffic – the road user is aware of what they should be doing and how others behave on the roads

3) Strategic – aspects of driving such as route planning or deciding what driving style to use (it is this level that the independent driving section on the practical test is addressing)

4) General – what is often to referred to as individual differences in psychology with factors such as experience, personality, attitude, intelligence or innate ability 

5) Society – cultural norms that affect how we behave (eg a paramedic attending a call is aware of the expectation in our society that an ambulance will arrive quickly for an urgent call, such as a cardiac arrest). These levels are related and a change in one usually affects the demands on the others. 

Endorsable offences

These are offences that are deemed to be more serious so include a driving licence being endorsed with penalty points as well as a fine. Annex Five of the Highway Code lists some of the more common endorsable offences. 

In charge  

Being in possession of a vehicle, a person doesn’t have to be actually in the vehicle to be considered ‘in charge’, often having the keys is enough to be considered as being in charge of a motor vehicle. 

New Drivers Act (1995) 

A probationary period that lasts for two years once a person has passed their practical driving test. Once six penalty points are acquired their licence is revoked and they need to apply for a new provisional licence and resit the theory and practical tests. People who have their licences revoked often have the wrong attitude, hence the collection of penalty points. The average number of people who had their licences revoked in 2018 under this law was 33 (or 11,953 for the year).

Peer pressure

Direct pressure, or perceived pressure on a person from other members of their group. A person may not be aware that their attitudes or behaviour are being affected by peer pressure.


There is a large variation in the personalities that people have, and we need to be ready for the significant minority who have the wrong attitude towards using the roads. There are other personality types who have the right attitudes but can have other attributes that adversely affect their behaviour on the roads (eg an anxious driver who is excessively hesitant at junctions). A large part of being a responsible driver is keeping emotionally neutral to prevent performance being adversely affected.

Procedural violations 

These occur when a person intentionally does something that they are not meant to do (eg break the speed limit, drive while talking on a handheld mobile phone, run a red traffic light). As we are surrounded by strangers when driving we need methods of predicting behaviour. If people show a lower respect for risk a logical conclusion is that their driving style may be more aggressive. It is often an excellent way to promote learning during driver training by observing examples of these behaviours and what they lead to.

Safety margins 

Setting a level of risk based on use of speed and positioning while driving. Promote the concept of safety bubbles for clients to set around their own vehicle and around other road users. The aim is for a driving style that has a high margin for error and a low acceptance of risk.

Unit of alcohol

A unit of alcohol is 10ml of pure alcohol, drinks will vary, and bottles often will state how many units of alcohol is contained within it (eg a pint of beer that has an alcohol content of 6% will have around three units). A good calculation to remember is that it takes an hour for the alcohol to reach the liver and then an hour per unit after that for the alcohol to be processed and removed from the system.

The 25 terms outlined above are a sample of some I use with clients. There are many more and new ones to use or share with other clients crop up all the time, sometimes during conversations on lessons. 

A useful tactic is to make a written note just after such an occasion because if you wait until the end of the day or a quiet moment later in the week there’s a good chance you won’t be able to recall it and a useful way of capturing a concept has been missed.

The post Responsibly aware appeared first on Driver Trainer.

Source: ADI News

Why not share this post?