Are you really a good driver?

Stirling Moss, one of the best drivers ever, suggested that there were only two things you should never say to a man: that he was less than a good driver or that he was less than an outstanding sexual performer. He then went on to opine that most men would rather admit to being sexually inadequate than to being an average (or less than average) driver. Mind you, Sir Stirling also declared that women didn’t have the mental toughness to compete in Formula 1, so draw your own conclusions.

However, it is one of the great unexplained conundrums (or ‘conundra’ for the pedants) that 90 per cent of drivers think they are better than average.

Read more: Is your car in tip-top shape?

Now Toyota is putting us all on the spot. And no, not about our sexual prowess.

Do you know what percentage of brain resources are used if you talk on your phone while driving? How much space you should leave when passing a cyclist, or how much your braking distance increases, the faster you drive?

These are some of the questions Toyota put to three high profile Australians as part of The Big Fat Festive Safety Quiz social media campaign, developed in partnership with Road Safety Education Limited.

Australian Paralympic swimmer Ellie Cole, former Aussie Rules player and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes and Australian Rally Champion Harry Bates were all put under the microscope – and in front of the camera – to test their safe driving knowledge in a fun festive season-themed quiz.

Social media users can check out how they fared on Toyota’s Instagram and Facebook pages and then take the quiz for themselves here.

Road toll statistics list experienced drivers in the 30-70-year-old age group as the highest percentage of road fatalities.

Road Safety Education Limited program director Greg Rappo said that often older, more experienced drivers became more complacent on the roads and it was important that they refresh their skills and knowledge regularly. So, yes, we’re talking to you!

“People know how to drive but they may have passed their licence many years ago and since then road rules have changed, the driving environment has changed and the safety performance of cars has changed dramatically,” Mr Rappo said.

“So, in order to ensure they remain alert, concentrate and are aware of other road users, it is important that people keep abreast of changes to rules, conditions and their own driving skills,” he said.

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10 tips to stay safe

1. Safety starts with your car
Having your vehicle serviced and safety checked before any long-distance trip is always a good idea, however there are many things you can check yourself to ensure that you arrive safely at your destination. Always check that your tyres (including the spare) are in good condition with adequate tread and correct pressure. Also have a quick look to see that your headlights, flashers and brake lights are in working order and your wiper blades are in good condition.

2. Put the mobile phone away
The physical, visual and cognitive distraction of using a mobile phone significantly increases the odds of a crash. Each time a driver checks a text message, his or her eyes are off the road for an average of over four seconds, typically enough time to drive over 100 metres.

3. Always belt up
You’re 10 times more likely to be killed in a road crash if you’re not wearing a seat belt. Wearing a seat belt could mean the difference between getting a few bruises versus flying into the windscreen or being thrown out of the vehicle in a crash. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers are safely belted and don’t forget that any pets in the car should also be safely restrained.

4. Drive to the conditions
Speeding is one of the biggest killers on the road. Keep within the speed limit and always choose an appropriate speed for the driving conditions – in particular, slow down in wet weather. This will not only reduce the risk of a crash, but also help drivers avoid costly traffic fines and loss of demerit points.

5. Check your blind spot and don’t drive in someone else’s blind spot
Mirrors generally do a good job of showing what’s happening behind the vehicle, however they still leave areas big enough for other vehicles, bikes and people to hide in. Always check for blind spots with a good head over-the-shoulder look for others around you. Also avoid travelling in the blind spot of another car and especially heavy vehicles.

Read more: Right to drive at risk?

6. Don’t drink & drive
Even a small amount of alcohol in the bloodstream affects driving ability and increases the risk of a serious or fatal crash.

7. Don’t be a fatigued driver
Sleepiness impairs a person’s attention and coordination skills, all crucial for safe driving. Going without sleep for 18 hours has a similar impairment on driving ability as 0.05 alcohol and an estimated 20 per cent of fatal road crashes are caused by drivers being fatigued.

8. Leave a safe following distance
The most common road crash is a rear end collision – always leave a three-second gap between you and the vehicle ahead.

9. Plan your trip and allow extra time
The level of traffic at holiday time can be unpredictable, so allow plenty of time for your journey – avoid being a driver in a rush who makes bad decisions on the road.

10. Be a good role model
Your good driving can have a positive effect on other road users. Sharing the road, being patient and courteous, letting another driver into a line of traffic and thanking others with a wave (or, as I have started doing, a single flash of the hazard lights) can all help to make your journey safe and enjoyable.

Do you think you are a better-than-average driver? How did you fare on the test?

Paul Murrell is a motoring writer and creator of seniordriveraus.com, which specialises in “car advice for people whose age and IQ are both over 50”.

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Written by Paul Murrell



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