THE “SYSTEM” OF CAR CONTROL

The system of car control is a way of approaching and negotiating hazards that is methodical, safe and leaves nothing to chance. It involves careful observation, early anticipation and a systematic use of the controls to maintain your vehicles stability in all situations.                             “Roadcraft" (2007) Page 47
 

Hazard
A hazard is any thing or situation which is potentially dangerous. There are three main types of hazard:
• Physical Hazards like junctions, roundabouts, bends or hillcrests.
• Moving Hazards arising from the position or movement of other road users
• Environmental Hazards arising from variations of the road surface, weather conditions and visibility.
 
You must plan your approach to hazards ordering them in importance.
This will ensure that you are in the correct position, travelling at the correct speed in the correct gear at the right time to negotiate hazards safely and efficiently.
The plan is based on what you can see, what you cannot see and what you can reasonably expect to occur.
 
Phases of the system
There are five phases of the system of car control.
1. Information
2. Position
3. Speed
4. Gear
5. Acceleration
 
Information
During the information phase information is taken, used and given.

  • Taking information is by using your forward view, by scanning to the sides and through the use of mirrors. You can also use your other senses such as hearing to identify approaching emergency vehicles, smell to identify the likelihood of farm deposits on roads etc.
  • Use the information by planning your next actions.
  • Information is given by use of signals, lights, arm signals etc. Give information to other road users, not just car drivers but also pedestrians, cyclists etc.

Remember the information phase is used throughout the system as circumstances demand.

Position

There are usually six positions referred to with regards to systematic driving.
 

  • Nearside Position: This is approximately 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) from the kerb, edge line marking, or verge. (UK RHD Passenger side)
  • Central Position: This is equidistant between the nearside and offside positions.
  • Offside Position: This is approximately 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) from the centre line, or imaginary centre line. (UK RHD Drivers Side) 
  • Safety Position: This is ANY of the above positions which give the best view of the hazard, or road ahead, but always with primary regard for safety.
  • Following Position: On the open road, in dry conditions you should maintain a gap of at least 1metre (1yd) per MPH between your own and the vehicle in front. In urban areas where speeds are generally lower this may be reduced to 30cm (1ft) per MPH. These distances may be roughly checked by use of the “two second rule” where the preceding vehicle passes an identifiable feature, and two seconds elapse before your vehicle passes the same. In wet conditions, double these time/distances, and in icy or snowy conditions increase by 10times or more.
  • Overtaking Position: This position is closer than the following position, and reduces your time to react to changes in situation.. It should only be adopted if you can be reasonably sure that there are no hazards ahead which may cause the preceding vehicle to brake suddenly. It can inform the preceding driver that you wish to overtake. The overtaking position is approximately half (1sec gap) of the following position distance, and should only be held for very short periods. If the overtake cannot be made you should pull back to the following position.

 
The overriding consideration is always safety. As you approach a hazard you must be aware that risks can emerge from the sides of the road which you will have less time to react to. You should position yourself so that you can see as much of the road ahead as possible. You can position your vehicle to the nearside and offside of the road to improve your view.


Speed
You should reduce your speed using acceleration sense and/or braking. 
Changes to speed should be made smoothly and steadily before the hazard is reached. You may reduce speed using the gears to avoid skidding.

Gear
Once you have the correct speed the correct gear should be selected.
Gear changes should be smooth, it is permissible to omit gears when changing e.g. fourth to second on approaching a hazard, you should know the approximate maximum road speed of the gears.
Wherever practicable a brake gear overlap should be avoided.
Situations where brake gear overlap is permitted are at a sharp left hand junctions where the road turns back on itself; when following traffic is so close that you might be put in danger when you are turning left and finally when turning left on a downhill section of road.

Acceleration
Acceleration should be smooth and precise to ensure that tyre grip is maintained. The point at which you accelerate is determined by what is happening around you. Acceleration sense is used to control upwards and downwards speed changes and requires careful observation, full anticipation, sound judgement of speed and distance, driving experience and an awareness of a particular vehicles capabilities.