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Think you're a good driver? You might not be, and here is why | Opinion

We all think we’re The World’s Greatest Driver. Of course, we do. It’s human nature.

But the reality is we all have ingrained habits – good and bad – that affect our ability to drive safely.

Here are a few reasons why you might not be as good a driver as you think you are.

Overestimating your abilities

This ties in with human nature, in that everyone tends to overestimate their ability to do pretty much anything. Yes, you do. Admit it.

You think you have definite Formula One potential – you’re so polished an on-road performer – when in fact you’re more at the ‘still drinking baby formula’ end of the driving skills spectrum.

You believe you can drive really well at speed, your reflexes are finely tuned, your steering is laser-precise, your acceleration and braking techniques are smooth as butter, and you simply can't be bettered on the blacktop.

In fact, in terms of skills and experience, you’re likely somewhere comfortably near the middle of the road – not literally the middle of the road, mind you.

Taking things personally

Again, this is a little bit of human nature, a little bit of amateur psychology and a lot to do with insecurities.

People who actually become upset at real or even perceived injustices on the road – incidents that don’t involve injuries to humans or serious damage to vehicles – are likely to become enraged at anything or anyone that doesn’t fit in with their idea of what constitutes perfect day-to-day life.

Another driver cuts you off in traffic – you must catch up and pass them!

Another driver indicates to turn only after they’ve pulled up in front of you at the intersection. You must blast your horn angrily at them!

Another driver doesn’t give you a wave when you let them in – no, now you really must crush them!

Letting yourself get so worked up about such minor things is a fast way to stress out your family and friends and to give yourself a cardiac arrest. Take a chill pill!

The world is generally a chaotic place so the more Zen-like calm you can bring to everyone’s daily commute the better.

Be kind, be patient, take your time and… let people in. Don’t get involved in any of those petty on-road confrontations that, in the grand scheme of things, mean bugger all.

Think of all the cars around you as people pushing shopping trolleys; if someone pushing a shopping trolley cut you off in a supermarket aisle would you shout and gesticulate wildly at them?

Not looking ahead and anticipating

Circumstances and conditions are always changing on a road: at any moment you have to contend with different drivers, different vehicles, different weather, as well as motorcycles, cyclists, pedestrians, domesticated animals and wildlife. It can all end up becoming an obstacle on the road at any given moment.

The problem is, people don’t look ahead, don’t observe what’s happening around them and they certainly don’t anticipate what other drivers/motorcyclists/cyclists/pedestrians are going to do.

Here’s a tip: look around and use your rearview mirror and wing mirrors to constantly check on what’s happening all around you. Remember: if your head’s on a swivel you’ll be right to see or even anticipate changes in traffic or the road surface or the weather with plenty of time to spare.

Check your speed: make sure you’re travelling safely and comfortably within the legal speed limit for the stretch of road on which you’re driving.

Keep your distance from the vehicle in front, to give yourself ample braking distance in case an emergency stop is needed.

And drive to the conditions. Too many times I see people tailgating perilously close in the rain as if they really want to smash into the back of the car in front of them.

What I reckon

The road is definitely not the place for emotions – those will cause nothing but trouble when you’re driving.

When you’re steering a vehicle that’s upwards of two tonnes along the road, you need to be in control at all times, not distracted, not angry, not tired.

If you want to drive fast and aggressively, head to your nearest race track.

It’s not difficult to be a considerate and safe driver – be kind, be patient, stay alert, don’t rush and … let people in.

It’s not rocket science after all, it’s driving.