The 7 Principles of Professional Driving

I want to set out here some principles for safe and professional driving. They apply for all driving, but I have given a commentary on them that is tilted towards driving instruction.

1. You are responsible for driving safely.

This is what we as driving instructors are here for. You might say that safety moves out in expanding circles.

  • Safety of self 
  • Safety of you and your vehicle
  • Safety of other road users 

Safety of self 

Are you:

  • Fit to drive
  • In a condition to drive
  • Prepared for your driving task that day
  • Prepared for driving generally
  • Able to practice the Drivers ABC (Always Be Checking)

Safety of you and your vehicle

Can you:

  • Be responsible for the vehicle, contents and occupants
  • Understand and use vehicle safety features
  • Practice the Drivers ABC (Always Be Checking)

 Safety of other road users 

Do you:

  • Practice these 7 Principles of Professional Driving
  • Practice the Drivers ABC (Always Be Checking)
  • Allow for the mistakes of others
  • One day it will be you making the mistake

2. Driving is safe until you forget it can be dangerous.

  • Practice safe driving. 
  • Use your driver’s ABC (Always Be Checking)
  • Generally keep out of trouble

This is all about the attitude that you bring to driving. If something happens and you are in a position of saying what else could I have done. You are probably in the clear. If you are blaming the other person, this normally means that there was something you could have done. 

Always checking and using the information that you get from that to keep out of trouble should keep you out of danger.

3. You cannot rely on others to make your driving safe.

Drive defensively. Treat the other person as an idiot until you know different. Most of the time they will be perfectly fine. But for the small amount of time when you meet idiot’s on the road. Defensive driving will come into its own.

4. Good driving habits are the hygiene of safe driving.

Practice safe driving. If you have a near miss and we are blaming the other person does this mean that there was nothing we could have done. If we are in a position of being able to say what else could I have done then maybe we can blame the other person. But what could we have done. Looked a bit earlier, maybe driven a bit slower maybe? 

Certainly as drivers we should think about our driving. I can remember a comment from one of my learners. “ I now realise  that my boyfriend isn’t the good driver I thought he was, however he is a confident one.” Most of the time he will get away with whatever he is doing. But eventually a price will be paid.

This is all about the power of habit. When you can do something without having to think about it you have working knowledge. Our learners mainly fail because they haven’t absorbed things well enough.

5. Drive in a disciplined and predictable way for the benefit of the other road users.

Think about how your driving affects others. If the other drivers know what you are doing they can deal with you safely. If you are driving too fast people have little time to react to you. Once people have passed their driving test they all too often start driving the way that they want rather than the way that they should.

We have an easy guide to help us with this: The Highway Code. You will always have someone who will point out that what they are doing is quite safe but maybe just a little different. But what we need to do is the most good for the greatest number of people, by doing the least harm to the fewest people. Or dare I say it: drive in a disciplined and predictable way!

 6. Courtesies are both given and acknowledged.

We are all aware of keyboard warriors who are separated from the consequences of what they are saying or in my case what I might be writing. But what about those people in cars who because they are surrounded by steel and glass behave in ways that they would not do normally. In a shop or a pub we don’t barge in. If someone lets us go in front most of us thank the person.

By giving and acknowledging courtesies we are training the other drivers. This good behaviour cascades out to others who are courteous to others in return. The world becomes a better place.

I must confess that if I am in a hurry, I don’t always let someone go. My reason is that I let them go. They let someone else go. And instead of one car extra in front I might have 4 or 5 and then miss a traffic light. Mostly I give myself plenty of time and all runs well. 

These courtesies cost nothing. You are probably polite and friendly out of the car. Be the same inside your car. Your left hand is better to thank people. The right one can be hidden by the pillars of the car. Be the nice person inside the car that you are outside of it.

 7. You, your driving and your car is a reflection of you and what you represent.

You will never get a second chance to make a first impression. Treat the outside of your car as your shop window. The inside as your office.

If your car is looking clean and tidy outside and in. The chances are that you will be organized. Most cars use reflective shiny paint. This is a safety feature which makes your vehicle more conspicuous to other road users.   

If your driving comes across as rude and ignorant don’t be surprised if people think you are rude and ignorant and unprofessional. If we can not drive the way we teach others to drive. It will be an uphill struggle trying to put safe driving across to someone who might be very aware that you are not practicing what you preach.

I always think it is a shocking indictment on our industry, when you see an instructor’s car with 2 people of similar age and gender standing alongside it.  That you can  guess which one is the instructor because they will be the scruffier one of the two.