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Student sheet 2.3.1 - Low risk driving skills

This sheet highlights some important skills for young drivers and identifies some techniques that can be used to help them become safer drivers.

Learner drivers should discuss this sheet with their supervising driver to seek their encouragement and support in developing the skills suggested.



There are many possible dangers in the traffic environment. These include hazards within the car and outside the car. A driver’s ability to react appropriately to hazards is an important part of low risk driving.

Effective braking technique involves:

  • checking mirrors
  • setting up to brake by moving your right foot off the accelerator and initially only applying light pressure on the brake pedal. This activates the brake lights and prepares the car for a controlled stop
  • squeezing the brakes progressively by a little pressure at first and then more as necessary.


Learner drivers tend to:

  • fixate their gaze on one thing and hold for a second or longer
  • look at the area close to the front of the car
  • concentrate on objects that are not moving rather than those that are moving
  • use mirrors irregularly.

Experienced drivers:

  • move their eyes around the whole of the driving scene
  • look well ahead of the vehicle
  • look at objects that are moving as well as other hazards in the surrounding area/s
  • use mirrors well
  • anticipate change/hazards.

Good scanning practices can be learnt and a driver appropriate set up of the steering wheel and seat will assist.


Crash avoidance space is a space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front. Generally this can be calculated by using the three second rule. This is: as the vehicle in front passes a particular point on the road, you should be able to count ‘one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three’ before reaching that same point.

Young drivers can develop their skill in determining crash avoidance space by practising observation skills as a passenger.

Crash avoidance space will need to be adjusted in poor weather and poor road conditions and when a vehicle moves into your crash avoidance space from an adjoining lane.


Prediction is critical in becoming a safer driver.

Low risk drivers look at least five seconds ahead when predicting what may happen in a road environment.

Predicting events image

Young drivers can develop prediction skills by experiencing good quality commentary driving.

Commentary driving is talking about an aspect of driving as you do it or simulate it. Commentaries are a powerful teaching tool because they help others in the vehicle know how that person is interpreting a situation. This is best done initially as a passenger with an experienced driver/supervisor.

When both parties are comfortable with the technique, the supervisor could provide some running commentary as the learner driver practices the skills. Caution here as it may also increase driver distraction.


Four key steps to hazard perception:

  • pick out places where a hazard might occur
  • recognise threats
  • make early adjustments to speed
  • respond appropriately.

Being familiar with common crash types can be useful for young drivers.

Passengers begin to develop an awareness of complex driving environments in their local area. This will allow them to think through their intended trip before they get into the vehicle, thereby planning a trip that minimises potential risk.

Refer to Road Users' Handbook regarding pedestrian risk.It can be found at:


Last update: 5th September 2016