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Hazard Perception Basics for Beginners

Hazard Perception - Dealing with Road Hazards in Residential Neighborhoods

On the road, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. After watching this video, you'll see that common driving dangers don't have to develop into road emergencies that take you by surprise! Join Instructor Matty as he points out residential hazards you could see in any neighborhood and shows you the steps you can take to keep POTENTIAL hazards from becoming REAL hazards!

Hazard Perception, Video Transcript

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, hazards are defined as a "source of danger" and as drivers everywhere know, there are plenty of potential dangers on the road. I'm driving instructor Matty and in the next jam-packed 10 minutes, we're going to break down the top 20 road hazards AND how to deal with them.

Road hazards are anything you encounter while driving that may be dangerous or have the potential to become dangerous. There are literally an infinite number of hazards out there. Even when you're 80 years old, you'll come across a new hazard you've never seen before. Fortunately, many of the hazards are common and can be dealt with calmly if you learn to recognize them early!

Before we talk about how to safely deal with potential hazards, let's list 20 residential neighborhood hazards I guarantee you'll see in your lifetime behind the wheel:

First, we have Vehicle Hazards to deal with, like:

  • A car running a stop sign
  • Oncoming cars driving on your side of the road
  • A car suddenly backing out of a driveway
  • A parked car door suddenly swinging open
  • A bicycle or scooter on the road or sidewalk
  • Double parked vehicles including delivery, garbage, and mail trucks
  • And large trucks on the road in front of us that block our forward view

Secondly, let's take a look at Pedestrian Hazards:

  • You've got children that can always be unpredictable
  • People walking their dogs in the street
  • Joggers, walkers, and skaters
  • Delivery people, gardeners, pool cleaners, mailpersons, and more

Next, take a second to consider hazards with the road itself:

  • There might be a curve in the road where you can't see what's around the bend
  • Maybe some slippery loose gravel or dirt
  • A huge pothole or uneven pavement
  • How about a dip or a bump in the road

The weather also presents a hazard to drivers:

  • Rain, ice, and snow can cause slippery roads
  • And be very careful when your visibility is limited by snow, rain, fog, and (especially here in sunny California) sun glare!

And finally, these other hazards will surely make an appearance during your driving life:

  • Animals running across the road, especially squirrels, cats, and dogs
  • Road debris like fallen tree branches, random boxes, piles of garbage, or maybe even an old mattress
  • And last but certainly not least: Construction Zones where you'll encounter triple-threats like orange cones, workers, and large vehicles all at the same time!

Now that we know the kinds of hazards to anticipate, how do we identify and avoid them? The answer is quite simple really:

  • Increase your visual lead time so that you can take in the big picture. Don't stare at the road directly in front of you, instead look further down the road at where you'll be in 10 - 15 seconds. This will magically alert you to many potential problems before they become an actual problem.
  • Keep those eyes constantly moving, always scanning the road and checking your mirrors to be aware of your surroundings -- both in front of and behind you. ALWAYS expect the unexpected and prepare for the worse.
  • When you do identify a POTENTIAL hazard, take your foot off the accelerator, cover your brake immediately and prepare to slow down.
  • Notice the emphasis on POTENTIAL hazard. That means, don't wait for something to become dangerous before reacting to it. Be proactive: as soon as you spot the potential danger, get your foot off the accelerator and ready for the brake be prepared to react accordingly.

While that sounds good in theory, let's look at two examples of how this might play out in real life.

First let's look at the example of "a car suddenly backing out of a driveway":

You see the car parked in the driveway ahead. Notice the brake lights are lit up? Maybe you even see someone sitting in the car? This is a classic potential hazard, so expect that car to back out of the driveway at any moment. Cover your brake, slow down a few miles per hour, and safely move your car over towards the middle of the lane to allow extra spacing, just in case that car does suddenly back out.

The same technique can be applied to many hazards, like a parked car door suddenly swinging open: be on the lookout for people sitting in cars, brake lights on, etc. When you identify the potential hazard, cover your brake pedal, create extra space, and be ready to react defensively if needed.

What should you do if a dog runs out into the street in front of you? This can be a tricky one, let's look at the WRONG way to handle this situation:

You spot a person walking their dog on the shoulder. You notice the dog is not on a leash. But you're not prepared for the unexpected, so you just keep cruising along normally. And wouldn't you know it, the dog runs out in front of your car. You hit the brakes hard to avoid the dog, but you didn't know there was a car tailgating behind you. This is the part where you get rear-ended. And you may have ended up hitting the dog anyway!

If you had been driving defensively, you would have covered the brake as soon as you saw the dog walker. You would have checked your rearview mirrors to know what was going on behind you. You would have slowed down 5 - 10 miles per hour so that if you had to stop, it could be smooth and not a sudden screeching halt. This time if the dog runs in front of you... all cars, humans and dogs go home safely!

The truth is, every possible hazardous situation will be a little different. The more aware and defensive you are driving, the better chance you'll have of being able to avoid the danger. What you don't want to ever do is slam hard on the brakes and get rear ended, or suddenly swerve and hit another vehicle or object.

Now that you know more about hazards, I challenge you to get out there and see how many hazards you can perceive during your next drive. If you keep count, you'll actually be amazed at the number of potential hazards you encounter, even on a short drive. Fortunately, most of the hazards won't become dangerous, and the ones that do... now you'll be ready for them!

From Matty and Drivers Ed Direct, thank you so much for watching. We appreciate your views, likes, and subscribes. You all really are the best. Until next time, please keep those eyes scanning for hazards and we'll be seeing you early and safely, about 10 - 15 seconds down the road!